Saturday, July 22, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Troy Trojans
Neal Brown took Troy from a four win team in his first season, to a 10 win team in year two. He is ahead of the progression curve as it sits now for the Trojans, and it could get even better in year three. Brown returns his best weapons on offense, and the defense has talent at all three levels. Could this be the year that the Trojans make a move and win the Sun Belt title overall?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Brandon Silvers returns at QB, and could be one of the better trigger men in the nation this fall. He passed for 3180 yards and 23 TDs against 12 INTs. He also managed to complete 63.7% of his passes, and may be poised to have his best season yet. He also added four more scores on the ground, but expect him to stay within the pocket this season and let it fly.
Jordan Chunn is also back at RB after rushing for 16 TDs last season for the Trojans. He rushed for 1288 yards, but is also capable of eclipsing that total in 2017. Teams really keyed in on him last fall, but with an active passing game that could be improved over last season, they may not be able to key on him nearly as much this season. Look for Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson to give Chunn a credible partner in the run game that he did not have a year ago.
All three starting receivers and the starting TE will return this season for Troy. Emanuel Thompson, Tevaris McCormick, and DeAndre Douglas all return at WR, while Gabe Hill is back at TE. Thompson caught 80 passes last season, while Douglas caught 60. McCormick caught 35 passes, while fourth receiver John Johnson, who is also back, added another 24 receptions. The overall depth chart goes 11 deep at receiver this fall, making this one of the deepest receiving groups anywhere in FBS football.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Only one starter returns on the line in LG Steven Rowzee. Antonio Garcia, arguably the best lineman in Troy history, is off to the NFL, and that unit of last season allowed the fewest sacks in FBS football. That is a ton of talent to replace, but there is talent to be found. THe issue is getting it all to gel before the season starts at Boise State on 9/2.
The PK position will be looking for a new starter a swell for the Trojans, as Ryan Kay has departed after an 18 FG effort in 2016. RS junior Bratcher Underwood is the leading candidate there.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Despite some major departures, the Trojans should be very good up the middle on the line, as both NG Travon Sanders and DT Jamal Stadom will return. Stadom finished with 9.5 TFLs and will try to be the guy to replace the production of the departed Sun Belt Defensive POY in Rashad Dillard.
The secondary should be solid, especially against the deep ball, as both Safeties return in Kris Weatherspoon and Cedarius Rookard. NB Tyquan Russell also returns. Weatherspoon and Rookard combined for 12 PBUs at Safety last fall, while combining for 104 tackles. Russell finished with 36 tackles while primarily covering the Slot. CB Kamryn Melton also returns for his senior season after finishing last fall with eight PBUs. Blace Brown returns at CB as well after leading the team with six INTs. Rookard and Melton combined for another five INTs last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There could be some issues at LB for the Trojans in 2017. They are completely hitting reset there with Sam Lebbie looking like the lock at the BAN position. AJ Smiley could move to the SPEAR position and battle Tyquan Russell there, with Zo Bridges moving to the MLB spot. This will all have to be ironed out in fall camp.
The Punter will be new as well, as Ryan Kay departs. RS freshman Tyler Sumpter has the inside track there.
9/2 at Boise State, 9/9 Alabama State, 9/16 at New Mexico State, 9/23 Akron, 9/30 at LSU, 01/11 South Alabama, 10/21 at Georgia State, 10/28 Georgia Southern, 11/2 Idaho, 11/11 at Coastal Carolina, 11/24 Texas State, 12/2 at Arkansas State
Despite some questions on defense, especially at DE and LB, the Trojans will likely have enough talent to really push hard and deliver that Sun Belt title under Neal Brown this season. The Boise State trip in the opener will be very tough, and they also get LSU later in the season, but the rest of the schedule is manageable, so I would not be shocked to see the Trojans make another major run at double digit victories, or close to that. Another bowl is a lock right now, and then the issue will be retaining Brown, because if this season goes like I think it will, there will be some schools that will be trying to pluck him away. It should be a fun ride this season.