5 questions with Purdue football defensive coordinator Kevin Kane

Purdue football defensive coordinator Kevin Kane watches the teams warm up during the NCAA men’s basketball game against Michigan State, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Purdue football defensive coordinator Kevin Kane watches the teams warm up during the NCAA men’s basketball game against Michigan State, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.

WEST LAFAYETTE − When Ryan Walters was hired as Purdue's head football coach, he was adamant he would be in control of the Boilermaker defense.

He also would need a defensive coordinator he trusted who understood exactly what he was trying to do on that side of the ball.

Enter Kevin Kane, who at just 39 years old is one of the elder statesmen of Purdue's youthful coaching staff.

The former standout linebacker at Kansas has been a part of staffs at his alma mater, as well as Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, SMU and most recently Illinois, where he partnered with then defensive coordinator Walters to coach the Illini outside linebackers.

Now Kane makes the move across the state line to West Lafayette with a new title and looks to bring what made Illinois one of the country's top defenses last season to Ross-Ade Stadium.

More:5 questions with Purdue football associate head coach Cory Patterson

Q: Who have been some of the coaching influences in your career?

A: I played for a guy named Mark Mangino (former Kansas coach) and learned a lot from him as far as being demanding, not settling for no. No was not going to be an answer he stood for. He was going to find a way to get things done and hold you to a certain standard. I learned a lot from him as a GA (graduate assistant). Dave Doeren (current North Carolina State head coach) was my position coach in college. He actually brought me up to Wisconsin where I GA'd for coach (Bret) Bielema. A really big chunk of my coaching and where I learned how to coach was from that whole staff. There were four head coaches on that staff when I was a GA. Paul Chryst (former head coach at Pittsburgh and Wisconsin), Charlie Partridge (former head coach at Florida Atlantic), Chris Ash (former Rutgers head coach) and Dave Doeren and then obviously Bret Bielema is five.

Being able to learn under those guys and not only X's and O's, but how to deal with kids and parents, everybody has their own unique way of doing things. I incorporated that stuff into how I deal with people and X's and O's and coaching styles. ... I worked with Sonny Dykes (at SMU, current head coach at TCU). ... There's no cookie cutter way to have things done right. You hire good people to do their jobs and then hold them to a standard.

Q: What makes this defense Purdue will run effective?

A: The structure that we deal with, there’s five guys on the line of scrimmage every snap. Most offenses I know have the five offensive linemen out there, so every time they go out there, they have to be ready to protect. That’s five one-on-ones. It creates single blocks. It does a lot of things that gives us the advantage.

We may not have the biggest guys or the most athletic guys on the edges or inside, but it’s allowed them to be in a one-on-one versus on a double team. I think that’s kind of a unique aspect of this and then on the back end, everything is going to look the same. Then all the sudden, we’re going to give you a completely different picture post snap. I’d say that’s what gives people challenges. We want to take the game out of the coordinator’s hands and put on the quarterback and make him make the right decisions every time. With how we adjust and how we line up, it all looks the same and then on the snap, it’s a completely different picture.

Q: Who from Purdue stands out as someone that will thrive in this defensive scheme?

A: I’ve gotten to know pretty much all of them and watching how they work and how they organize themselves. Sannoussi Kane, Cam Allen, those are two guys who who have a lot of experience on the back end who are going to help us in the leadership realm. Guys like OC Brothers and Jake Wahlberg are two guys kind of intermediate core who are going to be able to help us. Up front you’ve got guys Nic Caraway is a guy we’re going to have a lot of hope for. Khordae Sydnor is another guy. Those are the guys you see in our packages, and I am missing a lot, but as you see these guys work and see their skillsets and what they’re going to be able to do, I think they’re going to be able to fit into this package really well and help us out.

Q: Coach Walters said he needed a coordinator who understood what he's trying to do with the defense. What's your relationship been like the past couple of years working together?

A: It’s been a fun last couple of years being in the same room as coach Walters and kind of building upon a defense that he kind of established when he was at Missouri and putting our own touches on it.

The room we had was a room full of great minds. We’ve been able to build this defense. Being there step by step all along the way with Ryan and being able to build this thing to where it’s at, it’s obviously given a lot of people problems and issues and we’re just going to continue to build upon it. With the staff we’ve assembled on the defensive side of the ball we have a lot of bright minds. We have a lot of experience and youth at the same time with great ideas.

Q: When did you realize Ryan Walters was going to be a head football coach someday?

A: Where I came from before, at SMU, I didn’t have to leave there. When I got to know Ryan when they were trying to bring me up to the last spot (Illinois), just getting around him, his personality, how he handles people, how he communicates with people, I joke with him that he is the king of tact. He knows what to say, when to say it, how to say it. Just seeing how he navigated through. He didn’t know anybody on the defensive side of the ball when he got hired. ... How he was able to adapt and put his stamp on everything and navigate things the way he wanted to do it.

Just how the players related to him right off the bat. Young, but at the same time, he is wise beyond his years. Our first few games he was in the box with me. When he transitioned to the sideline, calling the game from the sideline, I was like man this guy is special.

Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: 5 questions with Purdue football defensive coordinator Kevin Kane