WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) — A smile creased George Karlaftis' face. Why not? This was the big day in front of family and friends. This was the big day for a hometown hero to make a dream come true. This was the big day when the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end officially became a Purdue Boilermaker.
"This was what I always wanted to do," Karlaftis said. "It's special."
With one flick of the pen, the bow-tie-wearing, quarterback-sacking man-child from West Lafayette High School forever changed the trajectory of a fast-rising Purdue program. At the least, Karlaftis' signature changes the perception of Purdue. It's now a big-time place for big-time athletes. And none are more big-time than Karlaftis.
Of course, the work isn't complete yet. This was just the early-signing period. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm has a chance to put a cherry or two on top of this class when the final signing day arrives Feb. 6.
The current collection of 23 signees is being hailed by recruiting pundits, as Brohm continues to flip the script at Purdue. How good is it? 247Sports.com rated Purdue's current haul No. 25 in the nation as the sun set Wednesday.
"This is set to go down as one of the highest-ranked Purdue classes in the internet era," 247Sports.com recruiting analyst Allen Trieu said. "We felt like last year was a great first class for coach Brohm and his staff, and this one will be ranked 25 or a few spots higher."
For perspective, Brohm's first class at Purdue in 2017 ranked 72nd in the nation and last in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.com. Last year, Purdue had the No. 51 class in America and 11th-best in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.com.
You have to go back to 2005 when Joe Tiller was coach to find the last time Purdue had a class higher than No. 30, when the Boilermakers had the No. 27 class (sixth in the Big Ten), according to 247Sports.com. The highest-rated class for Purdue in the Internet era? It was in 2004, when the program was No. 17 in the nation and fifth in the Big Ten.
No doubt, this only fuels the excitement around the program, as Brohm puts the finishing touches on his second season at Purdue (6-6 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) with a trip to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 28 and points toward a promising tomorrow.
This class teems with star power and includes four four-star and 20 three-star players. Ten positions have been filled in this class with the most abundant being offensive line, defensive line and defensive back, with four players signed for each spot. Brohm signed players from 10 states, with Ohio leading the way with seven signees.
Karlaftis leads the blue-chip parade. He is just a few 40-yard dashes away from Ross-Ade Stadium from his high school. Karlaftis was a pied piper in this class, committing to Brohm as a junior back in October of 2017 and then selling other recruits on the idea to join him in this class. It worked. Karlaftis plans to enroll early and go through spring drills in hopes of injecting much-needed pass rush ability into the defense.
"George Karlaftis has been a great advocate for our program," Brohm said. "He has a great family behind him that wants to watch and see him succeed. He's going to work extremely hard. Without question, he can play right away. He can be a difference-maker on defense. He's a guy that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of toughness."
Karlaftis isn't the only player slated to arrive for spring drills. Safety Jalen Graham (Detroit), quarterback Paul Piferi (Villa Park, Calif.) and offensive lineman Spencer Holstege (Grand Rapids, Mich.) also will arrive early.
The other touted signees with four-stars by their name are receiver Milton Wright (Louisville, Ky.), safety Marvin Grant (Detroit) and defensive tackle Steven Faucheux (West Chester, Ohio).
The position with the most potential looks to be wide receiver with four prospects signed, led by Wright, who is joined by Mershawn Rice (Reynoldsburg, Ohio) and T.J. Sheffield (Thompson's Station, Tenn.). The safety tandem of Graham and Grant also has pundits excited.
"We expected offensive recruits to be interested with coach Brohm's resume and the very visible success of Rondale Moore, but while there is more firepower coming in, the work of the defensive staff in landing some great players on that side of the ball needs to be recognized, as well," Trieu said.
It's going to be fun to watch Brohm mold this talent in coming years. No doubt, the best is yet to come.