2014 CFN Preview - Troy Trojans
Troy RB Brandon Burks
Troy RB Brandon Burks
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 11, 2014


Preview 2014 - Eventually, this is going to work again. Troy might tweak its way to a title. (Getty Images)


Troy Trojans

Preview 2014
 

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By Pete Fiutak
 
- 2014 Troy Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players
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Head coach: Larry Blakeney
24th year: 175-104-1
Returning Lettermen
Off: 27, Def. 27, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Troy Players
1. OT Terrence Jones, Sr.
2. DE Tyler Roberts, Jr.
3. QB Brandon Silvers, RFr.
4. QB Dontreal Pruitt, Jr.
5. WR Bryan Holmes, Jr.
6. RB Jordan Chunn, Soph.
7. LB Mark Wilson, Sr.
8. RB Brandon Burks, Jr.
9. LB Wayland Coleman-Dancer, Sr.
10. WR Chandler Worthy, Sr. 
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 at UAB
Sep. 6 Duke
Sep. 13 Abilene Christian
Sep. 20 at Georgia
Sep. 27 at ULM
Oct. 4 OPEN DATE
Oct. 11 New Mexico State
Oct. 18 Appalachian State
Oct. 25 at South Alabama
Nov. 1 at Georgia Southern
Nov. 8 Georgia State
Nov. 15 at Idaho
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 29 Louisiana-Lafayette

Eventually, this is going to work again.

Troy has been a powerhouse in the Sun Belt under longtime head coach Larry Blakeney, but it’s been a little while. Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette have taken on a bigger role in the conference just as Troy started to slip, but last year there were signs of turning things back around after a few down seasons. While going 6-6 might not be the program’s idea of success after so many great years in the early to mid-2000s, it was a pull up out of the nosedive of two straight losing campaigns.

When Troy was really, really good, the defense was taking center stage, but the offense was mediocre. The passing game has been fun and exciting over the last few years, but the defense hasn’t helped the cause. This year, the potential is there for both sides to come together and for Troy to go back to being one of the league’s power players.

The offense that ripped teams up for 322 passing yards per game loses QB Corey Robinson and top target Eric Thomas, but eight starters are back and the gaps should be filled in from the JUCO ranks with Dontreal Pruitt in the mix for the starting quarterback job and Jarvis Bentley a three-star caliber receiver who’s ready to make an impact.

Unfortunately for Troy, it’s all about the defense and its improvement after getting ripped apart by anyone who attempted a forward pass allowing 483 total yards per game. Seven starters are back including four key parts in the secondary of the 4-2-5 alignment, and if they can just hold serve once in a while and not be totally awful –the D allowed 40 points or more five times – things might be different.

Blakeney is a legend, and after 23 years, he certainly knows how to run the Troy program. It won’t take much for 6-6 to turn into 8-4 – or better – and this team and this coaching staff might have the ability to do it.

What to watch for on offense: The running back rotation will be vital. The quarterback job will work itself out with a few good options fighting it out to replace Corey Robinson and Deon Anthony – the lack of overall experience won’t be that big a deal with a good line in front and good receivers to work with. The running game hasn’t exactly been an afterthought, but it’s been along for the offensive ride over the last few seasons. That might soon change with a deep and talented group led by starter Brandon Burks, the speedy Khary Franklin, and touchdown machine Jordan Chunn. With promising fullback options to get their chances from time to time, all of a sudden, Troy might be able to pound away a bit.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive line needs an overhaul. The last thing one of the nation’s worst defenses needs is to come up with several new parts and deal with the inexperience, but that’s what Troy is doing up front. The secondary is solid – at least in terms of veterans - and the linebacking corps gets both starters back, but three of the four starters have to be replaced on the D line with only star end Tyler Roberts back. The run defense wasn’t a prize, and it might take a little while before that comes together with the line not only losing starters, but key backups, too, in the rotation. As long as everyone is aggressive and getting into the backfield, there might be an improvement. That’s not a guarantee.

The team will be far better if… the secondary can come up with a pick. Out of all of the team’s issues – last year penalties, third down stops, turnover margin, kickoff returns, and pass defense were all problems – coming up with interceptions has been the main issue for the Trojans. There was some improvement last year with one in each of the last three games, but there were only nine picks on the season and never more than one in any game. The pass defense wasn’t as miserable in 2012, but again, interceptions were lacking with just six on the season and eight in 2011.

The Schedule: It’s set up well to make a run for the Sun Belt title, but there can’t be any misfires and it’ll take two key wins – South Alabama and ULL – to get it done. There’s an interesting non-conference shootout with Duke early on at home – the Blue Devils won 38-31 last season – and there’s a paycheck date with Georgia, but UAB and Abilene Christian are winnable games before diving into a Sun Belt slate that’s not all that bad. Missing Arkansas State is fantastic, and getting Louisiana-Lafayette a home will help, but going to South Alabama will be a problem and a stretch of three road games in four with dates at ULM, USA and Georgia Southern wrapped around the Georgia State free space.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Terrence Jones. The line did a fantastic job last season in pass protection and was solid – for the most part – for a running game that came up with 23 touchdowns and was decent at times. This season, the line might be the team’s biggest strength, and that starts with the team’s best player, Jones. A First Team All-Star, the 6-3, 320-pound right tackle might not have the height the NFL types would like, and he’s not really a left tackle, but he more than holds his own on the right side as the team’s toughest run blocker and most consistent producer – he doesn’t make mistakes.

Best defensive player: Junior DE Tyler Roberts. The line wasn’t bad at getting into the backfield last season, but it wasn’t stellar. This season, with so much turnover up front and so many concerns finding the right rotation, Roberts has to be ready to shine as the line returning starter and the one everyone will key on. He’s not all that big, but he’s a flash off the ball. While he’s fine against the run and makes plenty of stops, his real worth is as the team’s best pass rusher. If he can get around eight sacks and be a beast when it comes to applying pressure, he’ll be exactly what the team really needs.

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman QB Brandon Silvers and/or junior QB Dontreal Pruitt. There were great options in Corey Robinson and Deon Anthony to work with last year, and while the idea will be to settle on one guy under center this season, the big question will be who can take over the reins and hang on. JUCO transfer Connor Bravard will also be in the mix, but Pruitt is the one who might be the most dynamic option after earning NJCAA All-America honors last year. However, Silvers might be the better quarterback to develop. A phenomenal get for the program, Silvers has the tools to put up huge numbers – but so does Pruitt. Either way, considering the shootouts Troy will be in, the quarterback has to carry the load.

The season will be a success if ... Troy wins the Sun Belt title. That’s a really, really lofty goal for a team that doesn’t play defense, but considering the schedule works out relatively well, and with the talent on offense including a great line, there’s no reason to not be right in the mix until the regular season ender against Louisiana-Lafayette at home. The Trojans can afford a loss at South Alabama as long as they win everything else, and if they beat the Jaguars, the narrative to the 2014 Sun Belt season will change.

Key game: Oct. 25 at South Alabama. Kicking off the Sun Belt season at ULM is big – the Trojans need the win – but it’s a dead-even matchup. If the goal is to think big and to think title, there can’t be any slips against teams like Appalachian State or New Mexico, it’s going to take a win at Georgia Southern, and biggest of all, coming away from South Alabama with a win is a must. The Trojans won a 34-33 thriller last year at home, but USA is better this year with one of the league’s strongest defenses. Win this, and the spotlight will be on the regular season finale with ULL.

2013 Fun Stats:
- 4th Down Conversions: Troy 14-of-21 (67%) – Opponents 8-of-19 (42%)
- Penalty Yards: Troy 895 (on 88 penalties) – Opponents 666 yards (on 81 penalties)
- Interceptions Thrown: Troy 9 (in 483 attempts) - Opponents 6 (in 397 attempts)

- 2014 Troy Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players