Troy: Looking to Get Back Among the League’s Elite
(This is the third in a series previewing Sun Belt and UL non-conference opponents. Today: Troy. The Cajuns and Trojans close the season Nov. 29th at Veterans Memorial Stadium/Larry Blakeney Field.)
For five years, from 2006-10, Troy was the standard for football in the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans won or shared five straight conference titles and averaged more than eight wins per season. Their conference record was a sparkling 32-5.
But the last three years have been very...well...un-Troy like.
Larry Blakeney's squad is 14-22, 9-14 in the Sun Belt over those last three seasons. And, that's been with the SBC's all-time leading passer at the controls.
And, he's gone.
But the Trojans have plenty of returning players and believe they've got a chance to be a lot better. But there's a huge question mark on this club. And, that's behind center.
Troy entered fall camp with four different players vying for the starting job. Two of them, redshirt freshman Brandon Silvers and JUCO transfer Dontreal Pruitt have appeared to separate themselves. Whoever wins the job has some big shoes to fill. Corey Robinson threw for over 10,000 yards while at Troy. Those are pretty big shoes to fill.
But whoever fills them will have plenty of weapons. The Trojans lost All-SBC wideout Eric Thomas, but they'll still have a deep and talented receiving corps, led by Chandler Worthy and Bryan Holmes, who combined for 70 catches and more than 1,000 yards a season ago. Their top two running backs, Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn, are back. Chunn scored 14 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Up front the Trojans struggled somewhat a year ago, but should be better in 2014. Ole Miss transfer Ethan Hutson will help that unit.
Offense hasn't been the problem at Troy, however. Between 2006-08, the Trojans allowed fewer than 300 points per season. The last three seasons, they've given up an average of 400 points..and, in most cases, playing one fewer game. Troy has several players that are currently in the NFL, but none have gotten there recently. They're hoping an influx of junior college transfers will offer help, especially in the defensive line. All of their linebackers return, which will provide some stability. More junior college help is coming at the safety spots. One of the biggest issues for Troy last year was their inability to force turnovers. The Trojans had only eleven as a team last year.
Troy also will be new in the kicking department with the departure of all-conference performer Will Scott. They'll have newcomers in the return game as well.
Troy has a manageable non conference slate. They have an important opener on the road against UAB, they get Duke and Abilene Christian at home and travel to Georgia. In the league, they avoid Texas State and Arkansas State, which will give them an edge over quite a few league teams. They have to travel to South Alabama and UL Monroe. They get the Cajuns at home.
OUTLOOK: Regardless of who the quarterback is, Troy is going to score points. And, they'll probably score a bunch of them. There's lots of talent and depth at WR and RB. But none of that is going to matter in the grand scheme of things unless they're a lot better defensively. Last year they couldn't stop anyone and couldn't turn anyone over. They have to be a lot better there if they're going to improve their win-loss record. The Trojans will win their share of games in 2014 and should easily reach bowl eligibility. But if they aren't a lot better defensively, it's going to be another middle of the pack season for the Trojans.