CFN preview: Troy

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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

With three straight Sun Belt titles, three straight years with eight wins or more, and good showings against some of the biggest programs in college football, Troy is no longer just another non-BCS team. It's starting to approach Boise State territory. Of course, there has to be even more production in conference play, double-digit win seasons, and several more years of success to get to the level the Broncos have earned, Troy has created a formula for success with a swarming defense that's been a bit of a pipeline the NFL, and an offense that's effective and explosive. It should be another year with the same success. There are only three concerns, and none of them are that big a deal. The two first-team All-Sun Belt tackles, Dion Small and Chris Jamison, are gone, three All-Sun Belt defensive backs (Terence Moore, Sherrod Martin, and Tavares Williams) are gone, and the starting defensive tackles need to be replaced. Troy is as good as anyone at finding JUCO transfers to not only come in and play right away, but come in and succeed. The same will go for this year. Emmanuel Dudley and Riley Flowers are two ready-made contributors for the defensive interior, and James Brown, Jimmie Arnold and Tyler Graves are all options to see time on the offensive line. The secondary is a different story with several players ready to step in after playing reserve roles last year. Everything else is in place for another Sun Belt title run. The talent level is impressive with an abundance of riches in key spots. There are several quarterbacks who could play just about anywhere in the Sun Belt, Boris Lee and Bear Woods form one of the nation's most productive returning linebacking tandems. Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield form one of the nation's best pass rushing duos, and the interior of the offensive line is a rock. There are playmakers on both sides of the ball, there's decent depth, and there are several options to work with. And then there's the coaching staff. Head man Larry Blakeney has taken the program from D-II to D-IAA to the FBS ranks where it can now step on a field with LSU and come close to pulling off a win. Going into his 19th year, he's not a household name in the college football world, but his program is getting more and more respect and his team keeps on winning. Barring a total disaster, Blakeney will come up with his 12th winning season, his team will either win another Sun Belt title or come in a disappointedly close second, and the machine will keep on rolling. What to watch on offense ... The quarterback situation. If Levi Brown is under center, the running game will revolve around DuJuan Harris and the running backs with Jerrel Jernigan getting work here and there. If Jamie Hampton is back and starting after he missed most of last year with a knee injury, the spread attack will take on a whole new look. It's possible the quarterbacks will rotate from time to time to mix things up.

10 best players

  • 1. LB Boris Lee, Sr.
  • 2. DE Brandon Lang, Sr.
  • 3. LB Bear Woods, Sr.
  • 4. WR Jerrel Jernigan, Jr.
  • 5. DE Cameron Sheffield, Sr.
  • 6. RB DuJuan Harris, Jr.
  • 7. C Danny Franks, Sr.
  • 8. QB Levi Brown, Sr.
  • 9. CB Jorrick Calvin, Sr.
  • 10. PK Sam Glusman, Sr.
What to watch on defense ... The alignment. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell likes to use five defensive backs as much as possible. With so many talented defenders in the secondary last year, LB David McDowell ended up redshirting because he wasn't going to get on the field. This year, McDowell will be a bigger part of the mix while the secondary has to replace five starters from last year's 4-2-5 alignment. Rowell will still use a nickelback, but it just might not be as often. The team will be far better if ... the passing game is a bit more efficient. The yards will be there, especially if Levi Brown is under center, but the efficiency has been a bit of a problem even though Brown completed 62% of his throws, tossed 15 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Troy had the seventh most efficient passing game in 2008. The Schedule: Compared to last year's nightmare, this year's slate appears tame. The Trojans had to play the two 2007 national title combatants last year, and gave Ohio State and LSU all they could handle, and this year they have to go to Florida early on. However, at Bowling Green, UAB, and at Arkansas isn't all that bad for non-conference play. The league schedule couldn't be better with Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee coming to Troy. There's a nice stretch of three home games in a four week span in October, but the Trojans go on the road three times in four weeks in October.

2009 schedule

    9/3 at Bowling Green
    9/12 at Florida
    9/19 UAB
    9/26 at Arkansas State
    10/6 Middle Tenn.
    10/10 OPEN DATE
    10/17 at FIU
    10/24 North Texas
    10/31 ULM
    11/7 at Western Kentucky
    11/14 at Arkansas
    11/21 Florida Atlantic
    11/28 at UL Lafayette
Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Jerrel Jernigan. He does it all. The team's leading receiver made 77 catches for 868 yards and five touchdowns, he was second on the team with 254 rushing yards, and he was a top kick and punt returner. Only 5-9 and 176 pounds, he's tough for his size with the quickness to make big plays any time he touches the ball. Think a smaller, poor man's Percy Harvin. Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Boris Lee. DE Brandon Lang is in the mix for the honor of being the Troy's best defensive player, but it's Lee who's the heart-and-soul of the tremendous defense. Always a bit undersized in the middle, he bulked up to over 230 pounds and should be even tougher. In his great career he has made 265 tackles and could finish around 400 if all goes well. Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Jorrick Calvin. Just about everything is in place for another big year except for the offensive tackles and the secondary. The tackles will be fine with several good prospects ready to step in, but the secondary has some huge replacements to make. Calvin is a strong corner and a possible all-star. Anything less than a fantastic season from Calvin could be a major problem with three, and potentially four new starters. The season will be a success if ... Troy wins the Sun Belt title. At this point, anything less than a championship is an utter failure. The program has become too good, and the team is too talented, to shoot for anything lower. Key game: Nov. 21 vs. Middle Tennessee. The showdown against Florida Atlantic is always vital in the Sun Belt race, that comes on October 10th, but Middle Tennessee is loaded and could end up being the biggest threat to the throne. It'll be the last home game of the year for the Trojans and it could be a must win to repeat as champions.

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