2012 Troy Preview

Posted Aug 11, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Troy Trojans

Troy Trojans

Preview 2012

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Larry Blakeney
22nd year: 164-91-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off: 27, Def. 20, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Troy Players
1. QB Corey Robinson, Jr.
2. S Brynden Trawick, Sr.
3. WR Eric Thomas, Jr.
4. OG Kyle Wilborn, Sr.
5. DE Tony Davis, Sr.
6. RB Shawn Southward, Sr.
7. LB Kanorris Davis, Sr.
8. LB Brannon Bryan, Sr.
9. CB Barry Valcin, Sr.
10. WR Chip Reeves, Sr.

Unit Rankings
QB - 6
RB - 5
WR - 6
OL - 5.5
DL - 5
LB - 5
DB - 4.5
ST - 5
2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 at UAB
Sept. 8 Louisiana
Sept. 15 Mississippi St
Sept. 22 at North Texas
Sept. 29 at South Alabama
Oct. 11 WKU
Oct. 20 FIU
Oct. 27 at Florida Atlantic
Nov. 3 at Tennessee
Nov. 10 Navy
Nov. 17 Arkansas State
Dec. 24 at Middle Tenn.
It’s one thing for one side of the ball to stink – Troy proved over the years that it can get by without a defense – but it’s hard to win football games when both the offense and defense aren’t very good. That’s about to change.

Gone are the days when the Trojans had one of the Sun Belt’s most fearsome defenses, giving up a ton of points in 2009 and 2010. However, that didn’t matter and the team ended up going bowling thanks to a high-octane attack that cranked up the passing game and put up yards and points in bunches. Last year, the yards were there but there were too many mistakes and nothing to rely on week after week.

The Trojans were able to put up 380 yards per game but there was no running game and turnovers were killers. No matter what happened in the 3-9 disaster, it was enough to inspire a major change in attitude in how head coach Larry Blakeney and the team does their business.

Blakeney can obviously coach, with 21 years of service at Troy under his belt, and succeeding means adapting. His team needed more of an offense, so he changed things up for a spread attack that started to crank out big yards through the air a year ago. However, now he wants his team to get far more physical and far tougher up front to be more than just a passing game.

The call went out that play time was over. The offseason was brutal with a bigger emphasis on hitting, getting nastier, and not accepting the production from an O line that couldn’t get a push or a D line that was blown over by a soft breeze. While Troy won’t change up much, it’ll be a meaner team that should get back on track in a hurry.

Corey Robinson is a good veteran quarterback who gets back a slew of key targets to make the offense more consistent. There are rushing weapons to start balancing things out, and the line has a nice base with three returning starters and good depth.

JUCO transfer will be a big part of the defensive push to help out the six returning starters. The overall talent level might be lacking, but if the D can just do something slightly positive, the results should be back to normal.

Blakeney knows what he’s doing, and while one bad year is no reason to panic, the changes should mean a shot at winning a Sun Belt title. The team needed tweaking, not an overhaul, and it should show right away.

What To Watch For On …

Offense: The defense has been Troy’s biggest problem for the last few years, but the offense didn’t hold up its part of the bargain last season with too many giveaways and an inefficient passing game that put up a ton of yards but didn’t make enough things happen down the field. Nine starters return including veteran quarterback Corey Robinson, who needs to be better at keeping the big mistakes to a minimum or else he’ll have to worry about JUCO transfer Deon Anthony. The running game didn’t work, but Shawn Southward leads a deep group that should be able to stay fresh in a good rotation. The entire receiving corps is back with Chip Reeves returning to one spot after being ineligible all of last season to join Eric Thomas, B.J. Chitty and former Auburn Tiger Justin Albert to keep the passing production going. The two lost starters are on the line, but the three returning veterans are excellent with Zach Johnson about to be a star at right guard.

Defense: After finishing 113th in the nation in total defense, 105th against the run and 101st against the pass, the Sun Belt’s worst defense has to find something that works. It all needs to start up front with more out of the line that didn’t get into the backfield often enough. JUCO transfer Xavier Melton has to shine on the inside and Tony Davis has to be an all-star again on the outside. Strong safety Brynden Trawick came in from Michigan State and paid off right away earning all-Sun Belt honors as the team’s leading tackler, but the rest of the secondary is a problem needing to come up with more big plays. Brannon Bryan and Kanorris Davis are veteran linebackers who know what they’re doing, and that means they have to be stronger against the run and more consistent or they’ll be pushed aside by a slew of JUCO transfers.

What to watch for on offense: The improvement in the receiving corps. The Trojans are loaded at receiver and it should show with the offense about to explode through the air. Robinson is a good passer who did what he could completing 62% of his passes for 3,411 yards even though his receivers weren’t up to snuff after Chip Reeves and Jamel Johnson were given the heave-ho last spring. Now those two are back with Reeves certain to be one of the Sun Belt’s most dangerous targets after averaging 17.2 yards per catch two years ago. Ten of the team’s top 11 pass catchers from last season are back led by Eric Thomas, a big, talented target who came up with 67 catches for 875 yards and nine scores. There will be hints of the ground game now and then, but the passing game will be too good not to crank up.

What to watch for on defense: A move to a 3-4. It’s not like the 4-3 was working over the last few years, and it’s not like the coaching staff is scrapping the old system entirely, but now there will be a hybrid Bandit on the outside who’ll serve like more of an outside linebacker than a true end. Senior Jacoby Thomas will be used mostly as a pure pass rusher in the spot with 6-1, 215-pound speedster Tyler Roberts and 6-0, 237-pound Juwan Jones getting their chances to be turned loose as part of the rotation. Will the move help out a run defense that got ripped apart way too easily? No, but it might mean a return to the days when Troy was camped out in the backfield on a regular basis.

The team will be far better if … the turnovers slow down to a crawl. The offense didn’t give the team much of a chance with 15 interceptions and 16 fumbles giving the ball away at least twice in every game but the loss to Arkansas and giving it up more than twice in seven games. Every team puts the ball on the ground, but the Trojans always seemed to lose the battle when it came time to getting it. Robinson had to press a bit with the passing game and there were 531 attempts as a team, but there were still too many interceptions. It would also help if the secondary could do more to pick the ball off with just eight interceptions.

The schedule: It’s manageable. The two tough non-conference games aren’t sure-thing losses with Mississippi State coming to Troy and the date at Tennessee coming in the thick of the SEC season. The big break comes in Sun Belt play with Louisiana, WKU, FIU and Arkansas State all home games and the toughest conference road game coming against Middle Tennessee to close out the regular season. There isn’t a tough stretch of road games like most Sun Belt teams have to deal with, but three of the last five games are away from home and there are back-to-back road games at North Texas and South Alabama before getting a week off to prepare for WKU.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Corey Robinson. The veteran came out roaring with a big 2010 season throwing for 3,726 yards and 28 touchdowns, and while he stepped back a bit last year with 3,411 yards and 21 scores, he was still a bomber. Interceptions are a huge problem throwing 30 in his first two years and only going six games without giving one away, but that’s partly because he has had to be the offense. Only 6-2 and 209 pounds, he’s not all that big but he has a live arm and can throw with a nice touch on his deep passes and decent accuracy. Kentucky’s former Mr. Football is smart, tough, and he makes things happen on the move. Last season he hit the 300-yard mark seven times highlighted by a 396-yard, three score day against FAU to close out the year strong, but the mistakes have to slow down. With a loaded receiving corps returning, 4,000 yards won’t be out of the question.

Best defensive player: Senior SS Brynden Trawick. The former JUCO transfer was one of the lone bright spots for a D that gave up yards in bunches. The 6-2, 221-pound former Michigan State Spartan led the team with 123 tackles with two broken up passes, but he didn’t do enough against the pass without any interceptions. The goal will be to get more big plays out of him when the ball is in the air while hoping for the defensive front to do its job more against the run, but he’s a good last line of defense to count on.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE/LB Jacoby Thomas. The key to the changes on the D will be the new Bandit spot with Thomas needing to be a disruptive force who camps out in opposing backfields. At 5-11 and 248 pounds he has decent size and nice quickness with the ability to play any linebacker position. He made 19 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss in a reserve role, but now he’ll have to do far more.

The season will be a success if … the Trojans are in the hunt for the Sun Belt title and get back to a bowl game. After going to three straight bowls from 2008 to 2010 and four in a five year span, going 8-4 in the season without a bowl, it’s time to get back to eight wins and to matter again. Starting out with a win over UAB would be nice and taking care of early Sun Belt road games at North Texas and South Alabama is a must. The conference schedule couldn’t work out better and the team is experienced enough to make a winning season a given.

Key game: Oct. 11 vs. WKU. Troy is better than North Texas and South Alabama and must win the two road games to kick off Sun Belt play. With a week off to prepare, the Trojans have to make a statement on a Thursday night against the Hilltoppers to set up a showdown with FIU the week after.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Troy 1st Quarter Scoring: 30 – Troy 2nd Quarter Scoring: 92
- Penalties: Troy 80 for 636 yards – Opponents 60 for 506 yards
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:52 – Troy 26:08
- 2012 Troy Depth Chart