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2008 Troy Preview - Defense
Troy DT Dion Gales
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Troy Trojan Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Troy
2008 Troy Offense
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2008 Troy Depth
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What you need to know: The defense bounced back in a big way
after a mediocre 2006, but it failed when it had to in the
season finale against Florida Atlantic. This year's group will
be strong up front and in the middle of the back seven, but will
be suspect on the outside. Ends Kenny Mainor and Brandon Lang,
along with tackle Dion Gales, lead a scary-good front four
that'll be better with the addition of three key JUCO transfers
(Rashad Roussell, Tim Lamb and Mario Addison). MLB Boris Lee
could be the Sun Belt's best defensive player, and he'll have to
play like it as the outside linebackers need to get their feet
wet. All-star corners Leodis McKelvin and Elbert Mack are gone,
but the safeties, Sherrod Martin, Terence Moore, in a nickel
role, and Tavares Williams, will be fantastic.
Tackles: Boris Lee, 82
Kenny Mainor, 5
Interceptions: Boris Lee, 2
Star of the defense: Junior LB Boris Lee
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Cameron Sheffield
Best pro prospect: Lee (as a safety)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lee, 2) FS Sherrod
Martin, 3) DE Kenny Mainor
Strength of the defense: Safeties,
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, outside linebacker
Projected Starters: While senior Kenny Mainor
didn't have the monster breakout year expected, he wasn't all that
bad finishing with 40 tackles, five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in
ten games (he was suspended for two games). A regular in the backfield,
he's still learning how to close on the quarterback and finish off
pressures with sacks. Undersized at 6-4 and 227 pounds, he's quick off
the ball and is active at chasing down ball-carriers. If he bulks up a
little more and bumps of the sack total a bit, he could be an
interesting NFL prospect.
On the other side will be junior Brandon Lang, a 6-4, 238-pound
veteran who started out the season with four tackles in three games
before getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury. Originally a
Georgia Bulldog, he ended up going the prep school route before joining
Troy, and he came through big as a freshman making 26 tackles and 4.5
sacks. Extremely promising, he'll be an all-star once he's 100% healthy.
Back as the anchor is 6-5, 285-pound senior Dion Gales, a former
JUCO transfer who plugged things up on the nose making 30 tackles with
three sacks and eight tackles for loss. While he's best at clogging up
the run, he's excellent at generating pressure from the inside with
excellent strength and good quickness off the ball.
The one new starter to the mix will be 6-4, 280-pound senior Steve
McLendon, a decent reserve so far making 15 tackles with a tackle
for loss last season. He has a little bit of starting experience from
2006 and will be more than just serviceable. He's a good athlete, but
he's not going to generate too much pressure inside.
Projected Top Reserves: Coming out of spring ball,
Lang and Mainor were combining on the left side, and 6-3, 237-pound
junior Cameron Sheffield was working on the right. After stepping
in when Lang went down, Sheffield had a decent season finishing with 27
tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. At the very least he'll be
a part of a rotation, but while he's good, he's not the pass rusher Lang
and Mainor are.
JUCO transfer Rashad Roussell will provide a bit of a push for
the starting defensive tackle job. At 6-2 and 267 pounds he's not all
that big, but he's quick with decent upside.
6-4, 245-pound Mario Addison comes over from the JUCO ranks after
making 45 tackles with 21.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year for
Northeast Mississippi CC. A phenomenal blur into the backfield, he'll
have to fight to get into the rotation on the left side, and he could
end up playing on the right.
Adding more size to the mix will be 6-3, 300-pound junior Tim Lamb,
who comes from Hargrave Military Academy after initially signing with
Auburn. He was wanted out of high school by everyone including Clemson,
Miami, Alabama and Nebraska, and now he should be a huge presence on the
inside. He's a fantastic pass rusher and could quickly become the anchor
Watch Out For ... the new guys. There's a chance
Roussell, Addison and Lamb will all be in the starting lineup at the
same time this year. The projected starting foursome the Trojans have in
place is solid, but the new guys should make the line something special.
Strength: Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Mainor,
Sheffield, Gales and Lang, when healthy, will all camp out in opposing
backfields. It'll be a complete and utter shock if the Trojans don't
lead the Sun Belt in sacks.
Weakness: Run defense. For such a tremendous
amount of talent up front, it didn't do much of anything against the run
allowing 195 yards per game. The experience has to translate into more
Outlook: While there might not be a Demarcus Ware
or Osi Umenyiora up front, there are several all-star candidates, a few
fringe pro prospects, and more on the way. This should be the Sun Belt's
best line when it comes to getting into the backfield, but Gales,
McLendon, Roussell and Lamb have to form a brick wall against the run.
Projected Starters: If junior Boris Lee
isn't the best defensive player in the Sun Belt, he's in the top three.
The 6-0, 212-pound junior made 82 tackles, two interceptions and a
tackle for loss as the man in the middle of the Trojan defense. A great
all-around playmaker who's all over the field against both the run and
the pass, the first-team All-Sun Belt performer is a disruptive force
who does a little of everything for the defense. He's always, always
around the ball.
Working on the strongside is senior David McDowell, a former JUCO
transfer who originally started out working in the middle and now will
get his chance to shine on the outside. Extremely productive at the JUCO
level, he's 6-1, 259-pounds, and fast. While he only made 15 tackles
last season, he should be one of the team's leading producers this year.
Stepping in for Marcus Richardson on the weakside will be senior Bear
Woods, a 6-0, 216-pound veteran who made 21 tackles and a sack with
two broken up passes. Built like a safety, he covers like one with the
speed to be used in the backfield more. He'll have to prove he can hold
up against the run on a regular basis.
Projected Top Reserves: It'll be up to three
redshirt freshmen to provide the depth. 6-0, 215-pound Donnell Golden
will backup McDowell on the strongside, 5-9, 224-pound Xavier
Lamb will work in the middle, and 6-1, 208-pound Lennie
Richardson will be on the weakside. Call this an audition year for
these three as the two outside spots will be open next year around Lee.
Golden is a phenomenal athlete having spent most of his high school
career at running back while setting Georgia track records in the
400-meter dash. Lamb is a mauler who might be a big short, but is built
to become a major-league hitter in the middle. Richardson is a fantastic
athlete who might be better suited for the secondary or a nickelback
role, but he should be decent early on behind Woods.
Watch Out For ... McDowell. Fine, so it was at the
JUCO level, but McDowell made 120 tackles, three sacks, and 12 tackles
for loss and two interceptions in one year at Butler CC. He'll produce
at this level, too.
Strength: Lee. He has such good range and such
strong instincts that he'll make up for the problems on the outside.
He's great at cleaning up everyone else's mess.
Weakness: Everyone other than Lee. McDowell will
be good and Woods will be fine, but it's not a plus to be counting on
three redshirt freshmen to provide the depth.
Outlook: The linebackers were supposed to be an
issue last year, and outside of Lee, they were, so it's not a total loss
to replace almost everyone. This will be a decent group as the season
goes on, and Lee will do almost everything by himself at times, but the
corps needs to be better against the run and more disruptive overall.
Projected Starters: Forget about replacing the
talent of corners Leodis McKelvin and Elbert Mack. It can't be done.
Ready to fill the enormous shoes are sophomores Chris Bowens and
Trevor Ford, and while they're not Mack and McKelvin, they're not
Bowens was considered the star
of the future going into last year, but he wasn't able to see
much playing time behind McKelvin, a first round draft pick. At
6-0 and 185 pounds, Bowens has good size to go along with his
decent speed, but he only made six tackles and a tackle for loss
in a limited role. It might take a year, but he'll be strong.
The 6-0, 182-pound Ford originally signed with Florida State and
was expected to push hard for a starting spot last year after
walking on to the team. He made 13 tackles for for the Seminoles
and came up with five stops last year for the Trojans. Now he's
about to become a major factor. One of the fastest players in
the Sun Belt, he'll be tough to beat deep.
The star of the secondary will be senior Sherrod Martin,
an all-star free safety who was out of the limelight taken be
the corners last year. Shoulder problems gave him problems two
years ago, but he was finally healthy for most of last year and
made 52 tackles with three sacks and nine tackles for loss. At
6-1 and 193 pounds he has good size and unlimited range, but he
has to stay healthy and he has to make more plays when the ball
is in the air.
Moving over to strong safety will be senior Tavares Williams,
a free safety by trade who'll move over with Martin moving back
into his job, and now the 6-0, 221-pounder should be an even
bigger factor against the run after finishing third on the team
with 60 tackles with two tackles for loss. A fantastic
all-around athlete, he has all-star potential.
While not technically a starting position, Troy likes to keep a
nickelback on the field to roam and make plays like a fourth
linebacker at times or a third safety. Martin filled the job
last year, and this season it'll be linebacker Terence Moore
taking over the job. The 6-2, 216-pound senior was second on
the team with 64 tackles to go along with an interception, and
now he should be even more dangerous with more room to roam. He
could step in and play either safety spot or move to weakside
linebacker if needed.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 190-pound junior
Michael Ricks, arguably, was the team's top recruit coming
in from NE Mississippi CC after an all-star two-year career at
safety. Fast enough to play corner if needed, he'll push Bowens
for a spot, but he's a natural free safety who might have to
wait in the wings playing behind Martin.
Also pushing for a starting job will be 6-0, 200-pound JUCO
transfer Jorrick Calvin. A physical, tough corner, he'll
play behind Bowens to start out but could quickly be shifted to
the other side. A good recruit, he'll be on the field in some
capacity early on.
Watch Out For ... the drop-off to not be that major.
No, the secondary won't just go on as is without McKelvin and
Mack, but it'll be productive thanks to the fantastic safeties
and the good prospects on the outside.
Strength: Safety. If you throw Moore into the
safety mix, the the Trojans have three of the better safeties in
the league. If Ricks becomes a safety and not a corner, the
talent level goes up that much more.
Weakness: Corner experience. For good and bad,
McKelvin and Mack were too good and too durable to ever come off
the field, and the depth wasn't exactly developed. No, Troy
isn't starting from scratch, but there will be some growing
Outlook: The coaching staff has liked to go into a
nickel defense as much as possible to get all the good defensive
backs on the field, and there should be more of the same this
year. Even without McKelvin and Mack, the secondary will be a
strength with so many good safeties and so many promising
athletes at corner.
Projected Starters: Gone is do-it-all
kicker/punter Greg Whibbs, who was great on field goals, hitting 16 of
18, and phenomenal at directional punting putting 19 inside the 20. Now
it'll be up to redshirt freshman Wil Goggans to take over at
punter A high school all star, he has a big leg and should be able to
air it out more consistently than Whibbs.
The plackekicking issues is a bit tougher to nail down as redshirt
freshman Michael Taylor will likely be the main option early on,
even though he didn't grab the job by the horns in a battle with junior
Sam Glusman, who had off the field issues with the law this
Replacing Leodis McKelvin as a kick and punt returner will be tough.
All the star corner did was average 23.2 yards per kickoff return and a
ridiculous 17.4 yards per punt return with three scores. WR Jerrel
Jernigan will handle the return duties after averaging 11.5 yards on
the two punt returns he got last year.
Watch Out For ... Jernigan to be solid. He's not
going to be McKelvin, but the strong Trojan return game shouldn't take
too big a tumble.
Strength: Uhhhhhhhh, hope? There isn't a
sure-thing to count on as the entire special teams are undergoing an
Weakness: Coverage teams. Along with all the
uncertainty in the kicking game, the big issue could be the coverage
units that allowed 23.9 yards per kickoff return and 10.5 yards per punt
return. They were great in the past and need to bounce back quickly.
Outlook: The Sun Belt's best special teams will be
starting from scratch. The kickers aren't going to be Whibbs, and
Jernigan isn't going to be as good as McKelvin, but they all have to be
consistent, while the coverage teams have to go back to being effective.