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UNDER THE RADAR: Saluting Purdue's Joe Tiller, Alabama's Back-Ups, Opportunistic Penn State

What You May Not Remember About Joe Tiller: It was with a truly heavy heart that I learned of the death of former Purdue Head Football Coach Joe Tiller. He was a good man, a great coach and instilled a fierce competitiveness in his teams that was beautiful to behold even if it made them tough to beat.

After he retired he came to Penn State for a football weekend. One suspects that given his love of fishing that part of the trip was really to scout the World-Class trout streams in and near Happy Valley. When you talked to Joe Paterno or any number of Big Ten Head Coaches, Joe Tiller was universally liked and more importantly respected by everyone. What he did at Purdue was nothing short of miraculous.

In the spirit of things that are “Under The Radar” there's a side of Joe Tiller’s coaching tenure that only those who coached against him really know. Joe Tiller is best known for a wide-open pass attack highlighting the skills of quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter. But the hidden strength of his Purdue teams was defense.

As a coach when you turned on the film to game plan their defense you had to be ready to face a complex and extremely aggressive blitz scheme. They came after your quarterback over and over again in a way that tested his toughness. They overloaded pass protection schemes and with linebackers, or corners or safeties and your quarterback had to be ready to throw the ball to his hot receivers in a hurry.

That blitz scheme also made Purdue one of the most effectively consistent run defenses in the conference. From 2001 through 2004 Purdue’s defense never allowed opponents to average more than 124 yards per game and yielded a stingy 3.05 yards per carry..

When they weren’t blitzing they had defensive ends that played with great leverage and gave relentless effort as pass rushers. Under Tiller Purdue recruited 10 defensive ends who were drafted and 4 who were Pro Bowl players.