What you need to know ... Troy has consistently cranked out
solid defenses and should be among the best in the Sun Belt once
again despite some major production losses. The biggest question
mark early on will be at linebacker after losing Bernard Davis
and Leverne Johnson. Marcus Richardson is an all-star caliber
playmaker on the strongside, but he'll need help. The safeties
and ends should be tremendous, and there's surprisingly good
depth just about everywhere for a team that needs to replace
Tackles: Sherrod Martin, 78
Several at 1
Interceptions: Sherrod Martin, 2
Star of the defense: Junior FS Sherrod Martin
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman LB Joe Baker
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Chris Bradwell
Best pro prospect: Bradwell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Martin, 2) DE Kenny
Mainor, 3) LB Marcus Richardson
Strength of the defense: Safety
Weakness of the defense:
Proven linebackers, second cornerback
Troy will be sensational up front again
despite losing three starters. Expect the new front four to be far
better at getting to the quarterback with Kenny Mainor a seasoned
sophomore and the ridiculously strong Shawn Todd appearing to be ready
for a big season. Junior Tagovailoa and former Florida State starter
Chris Bradwell will each find starting time somewhere. The tackles
aren't huge, but they're promising with Steve McLendon, Franklin Lloyd
and Baron Lemar all good enough to hold their own while the ends do
The key to the unit: Kenny Mainor and Junior Tagovailoa have to
live up to their potential on the ends. Depth has to be developed in the
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5
- DE Kenny Mainor, Soph. - 43 tackles, 3 TFL, 14
The bar has been set high for Mainor after being hailed as the team's
newest superstar pass rusher in the mold of Demarcus Ware. He didn't
exactly dominate like Ware, but it was still a strong redshirt freshman
season starting every game on the left side. He's a tall, thin 6-4, 216
pounds with phenomenal speed on the edge.
- DT Steve McLendon, Jr. - 16 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 quarterback
McLendon came on in his sophomore season turning into a good backup with
good pass rushing skills. He's a good athlete with nice size at 6-4 and
280 pounds taking over David Tremble's starting spot.
Franklin Lloyd, Sr. - 31 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2
While Lloyd never materialized as the starter he was expected to be on
the nose thanks to the emergence of Torre Lankford, he did have his
second straight strong season in the rotation. He's a short, stocky 6-0
and 283 pounds with the experience to be a key starter now that the job
- DE Shawn Todd, Jr. - 15 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 quarterback hurries
Pound for pound, the 6-3, 245-pound junior might be the team's strongest
player. He has tackle strength in the body of an end, and now it all has
to come together as the new starter in plays of Larry Brown on the right
- DT Baron Lemar, Jr. - 7 tackles, 1 TFL
The former JUCO transfer didn't make much of an impact last year, but
he's expected to push hard for a starting spot at one of the tackle
spots. He's an aggressive 6-5 and 273 pounds starting out rotating with
- DE Junior Tagovailoa, Jr. - 4 tackles, 1
A superstar JUCO recruit last year, Tagovailoa got hurt in spring ball
and was never right all season long seeing time in only eight games. He
came up with 36 tackles for loss in one season at Coffeyville CC and
should be a major factor behind Shawn Todd at right end.
- DE Chris Bradwell, Jr.
Is he the team's new defensive star? The former starter at Florida State
is 6-5 and 280 pounds with tremendous pass rushing skills. He spent last
year at NE Mississippi CC where he made 70 tackles and 10 TFL.
The loss of the leadership and production of Bernard Davis
and Leverne Johnson will hurt right away, and then all the new talent
will shine through. Marcus Richardson is on the verge of big things on
the strongside, while there are several very quick, very small options
at the other two spots. Redshirt freshman Joe Baker will get the first
look in the middle and Josh Maxwell appears ready for a big year on the
weakside, but they'll have to battle to keep their jobs.
The key to the unit: The overall speed and quickness
needs to overcome the lack of size against bigger running teams. A good
rotation will be needed to keep all the defensive back-sized linebackers
Linebacker Rating: 5
- Marcus Richardson, Jr. - 59 tackles, 7 TFL, 5 broken up
passes, 6 quarterback hurries
Richardson came up with a nice sophomore season finishing sixth on the
team in tackles. The former defensive back more than held his own as an
undersized strongside linebacker, but now the 6-3, 214-pound speedster
should be on the verge of All-Sun Belt honors. He's one of the league's
best linebackers against the pass and there are few better all-around
athletes with 4.4 speed and great leaping ability.
- Joe Baker, RFr.
It'll be up to the 210-pound Baker to replace Leverne Johnson in the
middle. He's not big, but he's a great hitter with enough range to make
tackles all over the field if he can play in space.
- Josh Maxwell, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries
A part-time starter in the middle, it'll be up to the 204-pound junior
to take over for heart-and-soul defender Bernard Davis on the weakside.
He has cornerback athleticism and should be one of the team's leading
- Romanique Lewis, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Lewis ended up losing out to Marcus Richardson in the battle for the
starting job on the strongside last year, but now he'll be a key player
on the weakside adding more size than Josh Maxwell. He's one of the
biggest hitters in the corps.
- Ryan Babb, Sr. - 5 tackles
The former running back spent last year on special teams and now will
see time on the strongside behind Marcus Richardson. The former Alabama
transfer is only 5-11 and 198 pounds, but he can move.
- Andre Morgan, Sr. - 14 tackles, 2.5 TFL
The former safety turned in a nice season as a backup linebacker. He's a
good hitting 204 pounds with good range in the middle.
This could be a problem early on with star corners Adrian
Ghent and Johnny Faulk needing to be replaced. Fortunately, safeties
Sherrod Martin and Brannon Condren are All-Sun Belt caliber talents
who'll be good enough to carry things for a while. Leodis McKelvin is an
experienced corner who has to prove he can handle the full-time role,
while JUCO transfer Derrius Jackson will be a key reserve if Henry Chubb
The key to the unit: Pick off more passes. The
Trojans did a great job against the pass last season, but they only came
up with five interceptions.
Secondary Rating: 5.5
- CB Leodis McKelvin, Jr. - 30 tackles, 1 sack, 5 broken
McKelvin takes over on the left side after spending last year as a
backup and a nickel back. He has the experience and more than enough
speed to become a top coverman, but he'll have to prove he can be as
steady as Adrian Ghent was.
- FS Sherrod Martin, Jr. - 78 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2
interceptions, 11 broken up passes
Versatile enough to play either safety position, Martin is back for what
should be an All-Sun Belt season with 146 career tackles and 16 broken
up passes under his belt. He was all over the field last season playing
like an experienced, savvy defender, and now he needs to be the leader
and tone setter with so many new starters to the defense.
- SS Brannon Condren, Sr. - 58 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 broken up passes
Finally able to get through a season healthy, Condren became one of the
team's top tacklers as well as a good special teamer. He's a sure
tackler who plays like a free safety when the ball is in the air.
- CB Henry Chubb, Soph. - 10 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The top high school quarterback appears to have made the successful
transition to corner after spending last year as a good reserve. He'll
take over on the right side for all-star Johnny Faulk; there won't be a
huge drop in overall production.
- CB Derrius Jackson, Jr.
At 6-1 and 180 pounds, the JUCO transfer is one of the team's bigger
corners. He spent last year at Chabot Community College where he made 60
tackles and eight interceptions last season. He can be a kick returner
- FS Tavares Williams, Soph. - 11 tackles
A true free safety, the 6-1, 190-pound Williams is a phenomenal athlete
who'll see more time as a nickel back and behind Sherrod Martin. He
might be groomed to also play a little strong safety.
- SS Terence Moore, Soph. - 8 tackles
Moore saw a little time as a true freshman and now will be a key backup
behind Brannon Condren at strong safety. He's 6-3 and 195 pounds with
room to get a little bigger.
The Trojan special teams will be among the best in the Sun
Belt if new starting punter Jason Wright can be above average. Greg
Whibbs is an excellent field goal kicker inside 40 yards. Leodis
McKelvin averaged 12.6 yards per punt return and and 25.8 yards per kick
return and will see time doing both again. JUCO transfer Elbert Mack
will start out returning kicks.
The key to the unit: More range from PK Greg Whibbs
and better play from the coverage teams after allowing 22.5 yards per
kickoff and ten yards per punt return.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Greg Whibbs, Jr. - 11-20 FGs, 19-19 extra points
One of the nation's better field goal kickers, Whibbs followed up a
12-of-14 season with a decent campaign. Three of his kicks were blocked
and he only went one of six from beyond 40 yards, but he should be as
reliable as they come with two years of experience.
- P Jason Wright, Sr.
Wright has to replace all-star Thomas Olmsted, who averaged 40.4 yards
per kick last season and put 22 inside the 20. Wright has a stronger leg
than Olmsted, but he has to prove he can be as consistent.