Cleat Geeks

Troy Trojans 2018 College Football Preview

A new season comes to a new opportunity for many College Football teams starting this Fall. Last year, the Troy Trojans had the best season they have ever had in their FCB career by accounting for an 11-2 record. This includes a 24-21 win over the LSU Tigers on September 30th and a 50-30 victory in the New Orleans Bowl over the North Texas Mean Green. The Trojans were Sun Belt conference co-champs with the Appalachian State Mountaineers as they have both only had one conference loss.

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This season, the Sun Belt Conference Championship game and a divisional setting of East vs. West will be enacted to avoid the title of co-champs again. The Trojans will be in the Eastern Division with Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, and Coastal Carolina. The Western division will be composed of Arkansas State, Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and their in-state conference rivals in the South Alabama Jaguars.


A new Quarterback and Running Back must be ready to lead the helm

The Trojans have a total of 7 starters from last year’s team that will be returning for the upcoming 2018 College Football season. Troy, though, must replace a large selection of leaders and talented players who made Neal Brown’s transition of Head Coach much easier. Former Gulf Shores Dolphin and long-time Trojans Quarterback Brandon Silvers will no longer lead the Trojans into a fall session. At the same time, the Trojans highly established Running Back in Jordan Chunn. Despite the heavy losses of talent and leadership, the Trojans are expected to recover quickly for the Fall. Kaleb Barker is expected to take over as the starting Quarterback for the Trojans after Silvers had led them for 4 seasons. Barker does not have a lot of playing experience, as he only threw for 143 yards and a touchdown on 8 completions (out of 13 attempts) last season. At the Running Back position, Jamarius Henderson is looking to secure the top spot as the starter. The Trojans might initiate a double tandem at the Running Back position with Henderson and B.J. Smith, however.

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Whoever will start at the Quarterback position, they will be comfortable knowing that the Trojans have an experienced Offensive Line with 4 returners. All four of these returners have been combined 72 career starts with the Trojans. The only position where the Trojans needed a new starter was at the Right Tackle position where James Peach has pretty much locked down the starting position. Last season, the Trojans Offensive Line were tied for 12th in the nation in fewest of sacks allowed all season with only 15 total sacks. The Trojans return two of their top Receivers from last season in Deondre Douglas (48 receptions for 628 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Damion Willis (42 receptions for 620 yards and 3 touchdowns). While the Trojans are looking for two more starters, they are confident with their selections in Sam Letton and former Louisville Cardinals Wide Out in Traveon Samuel. In his 3 seasons with Louisville, he has accounted for at least 18 receptions each season including multiple seasons with 2016 Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the helm.


New players; same defensive format for Trojans

The defense for the Trojans was very efficient last season in stopping opposing offenses in the red zone from scoring. They were ranked 7th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (105.7) and were tied for 8th (with Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, and TCU) in sacks accounted for with 42 total sacks. This was due to their ability to make efficient reads on the opposing offenses and relied on the star playing ability of their Defensive Line. This season, they will not have DE Jamal Stardom and DT Baron Poole to create heavy pressure on the opposing Quarterback. This will be a big concern as they rely on their Defensive Line as a huge part of their defensive philosophy.

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Photo by; Dothan Eagle

The Trojans will return OLB Hunter Reese to lead the Trojans defense as last season he accounted for 34 total tackles, 18 solo tackles, and 10.5 tackles for loss. His leadership and versatility as a Linebacker and a down Defensive Linemen will be a huge asset for a defense that relies on creating chaos to an opposing offense. Another huge philosophy for Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning is the defensive reading they do to match every systematic that the opposing offense inserts. Therefore, the Trojans defense was so efficient in the Red Zone and how they were ranked 11th in the nation in points allowed per game (18.5).

The Trojans are having to recover with losing their main Defensive Linemen, OLB Sam Lebbie, and CB Tyquae Russell. They do return their two tacklers in LB Tron Folsom (80 total tackles) and 8.5 tackles for loss and FS Cedarius Rookard (74 total tackles). In the main 5 Defensive Back setting on their defense, they must replace 3 of their starters but one of those new starters is CB Marcus Jones. He had a fantastic Freshman season last season as he accounted for 49 total tackles (5th highest on the team), 2 interceptions, and 6 pass deflections (tied for highest on the team). Last season, Jones was named the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the year due to his contributions as an efficient reserve in the Defensive Back units. He was also the 2017 ESPN Freshman All-American Kickoff Returner as he accounted for 3 kickoff touchdown returns. CB Blace Brown will be returning for his Senior season and will lead the Trojans highly-talented Defensive Back unit. Last season, Brown accounted for 33 total tackles, 23 solo tackles, 6 pass deflections, and 5 interceptions.


Expectations of the Trojans this season / Neal Brown’s ultimate test

Athlon Sports has predicted that the Troy Trojans will certainly face some turmoil this season but will finish with an 8-5 record. They also said that the Trojans will finish 2nd in the Eastern division behind Appalachian State. There are many that the Trojans will recover quickly from their loss of players and starters to make a run for the Sun Belt conference championship title. For the Trojans to continue success by accounting for at least 8 wins or more after coming through an offseason of replacing a Quarterback, Running Back, and their top Defensive Line shows that they are a powerhouse in the Sun Belt conference. This will be an impressive task for Coach Neal Brown to complete as he is one of the hottest coaches to take over a Head Coach position for a top division 1 football program.


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