No. 82 Troy
When Troy athletics director Jeremy McClain announced a four-year extension for head coach Neal Brown in March, he said, "We’re excited about what he’s doing."
Seems like a fair assessment after the first 10-win season in the program's FBS history. And while Brown must reload an offensive line and replace the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, he does welcome back many experienced upperclassmen at nearly every position.
2016 Record: 10-3 (6-2, Sun Belt)
After winning seven total games in 2014-15 (lowest total in FBS program history), the Trojans bounced back with 10 victories in 2016.
The Trojans used an efficient and balanced offense to average 33.7 points per game (27.9 in 2015 and 21.8 in 2014). They nearly stunned Clemson in Week 2, beat Idaho handily and won the Dollar General Bowl over Ohio.
Head Coach: Neal Brown (3rd year, 14-11 overall)
You can learn about Neal Brown now or when he gets a Power Five coaching job in the next couple years.
Brown is a 37-year-old former receiver at Kentucky, where he first learned the air raid offense under head coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach. He later became offensive coordinator and perfected the NASCAR spread offense at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Brandon Silvers, RB Jordan Chunn, RB Jabir Frye, WR Emanuel Thompson, WR Deondre Douglas, WR Tevaris McCormick, WR John Johnson, G Steven Rowzee, C Deontae Crumitie
Three of Troy's four First-Team All-Sun Belt players return, led by quarterback Brandon Silvers. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder threw completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,180 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Silvers did, however, throw 12 interceptions, including two against Clemson in a game he otherwise played well in. But Neal Brown think he'll only continuing improving.
"As he's matured off the field, his game has gotten better," said Brown last December. "He's played really well this year. I think he's just now scratching the surface of what he could be."
The senior is joined in the backfield by Jordan Chunn, who put an injury-plagued 2015 season behind him and was the Trojans' workhorse back (279 carries). Also keep an eye on Jabir Frye, an electric return man but capable runner. Receiver Emanuel Thompson leads a group that returns its top seven targets. He, Deondre Douglas, Tevaris McCormick and John Johnson combined for 199 catches.
An offensive line that allowed an FBS-low nine sacks loses three starters but does return Steven Rowzee and Deontae Crumitie, both All-Sun Belt candidates.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Jamal Stadom, DT Baron Poole II, LB Zo Bridges, LB Sam Lebbie, CB Blace Brown, CB Kamryn Melton, S Kris Weatherspoon, S Cedarius Rookard, S Tyquae Russell
Troy allowed just 124 rushing yards per game on 3.4 yards per carry and they'll return two senior defensive tackles to ensure minimal drop-off. Jamal Stadom (6-foot-2, 266 pounds) and Baron Poole (6-foot-2, 275 pounds) are both undersized but they're stout and disruptive, combining for 17.5 tackles for loss.
Behind them, Zo Bridges and Sam Lebbie will assume bigger roles and a pile of experienced defensive backs also return. Corner Blace Brown converted from receiver and made an instant impact, tying for the Sun Belt lead with six interceptions. Former Auburn safety Kamryn Melton is back, as Tyquae Russell at the "spear" position.
"The guys we have here, they’re perfectly capable. They’ve just got to take the coaching and mature in a hurry,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning during spring camp. “Everybody’s got a different maturation process. We’re going as hard as we can, coaching as hard as we can, loving them as hard as we can.
Notable Player Losses
OT Antonio Garcia, OT Tyler Lassiter, DE Rashad Dillard, LB William Lloyd, CB Jalen Rountree,
Troy lost two studs on both sides of the ball in NFL draft pick Antonio Garcia and Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Rashad Dillard.
Garcia did not allow a sack in over 900 offensive snaps and had 70 knockdown blocks. The Atlanta native was selected by the Patriots in the third round. Dillard, meanwhile, led the Trojans in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (13).
Second-team all-conference tackle Tyler Lassiter is also gone, as are leading tackler William Lloyd corner Jalen Rountree, whose four interceptions were was second on the team.
Notable Player Additions
RB Jamarius Henderson, DE Rasool Clemons, DE Kelvin Lucky
Troy isn't in dire need of ball-carriers but the addition of Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson is a big one nonetheless. The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the Tigers in 2016 and can provide relief in the passing game.
“Jamarius is a guy that is going to be a factor for us,” said Neal Browns. “He can catch the ball out of the backfield. His running style is totally different than Chunn’s. That’s what I’m probably the most excited about.
“Chunn gets the difficult yards, but Jamarius is a slasher, a guy that can take it the distance. They’re going to be a real good combo.”
JUCO transfer Rasool Clemons and redshirt freshman Kelvin Lucky will try to replace Dillard's pass-rushing production. Clemons is a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who starred at East Mississippi Community College last year.
Troy's quest for back-to-back 10-win seasons begins with a cupcake trip to one of the most unstable programs in the Group of Five: Boise State.
The Trojans open the final season of non-divisional Sun Belt play with a Week 3 trip to New Mexico State. Other notable games include a Sept. 30 trip to LSU, Thursday night home game vs. Idaho on Nov. 2 and season finale at Arkansas State on Dec. 2.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||at Boise State|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Alabama State|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||at New Mexico State|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||vs. Akron|
|Saturday, Sept. 30||at LSU|
|Wednesday, Oct. 11||vs. South Alabama|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||at Georgia State|
|Saturday, Oct. 28||vs. Georgia Southern|
|Thursday, Nov. 2||vs. Idaho|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||at Coastal Carolina|
|Friday, Nov. 24||vs. Texas State|
|Saturday, Dec. 2||at Arkansas State|