For the first time since 1990, someone other than Larry Blakeney will coach Troy. Blakeney’s tenure, which coincided with the Trojans’ move to major college football, included five Sun Belt titles and five bowl games. He’ll be tough to replace, but Troy turns to a familiar face to replace Blakeney and — the Trojans hope — revitalize the program.
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Previewing Troy’s Offense for 2015
Old habits die hard, so it will come as little surprise that first-year Troy coach Neal Brown, a former offensive coordinator for the Trojans before moving on to the same job at Texas Tech and Kentucky, plans to continue calling plays in his new role. The offense will have his stamp on it, which means an emphasis on a faster pace of play and less rotation of players.
Brown’s task won’t be easy. While there are several starters returning, there are also holes that must be filled and, more important, consistency that must be established. The Trojans were 10th in the Sun Belt in both scoring offense and total offense last year.
Brown appears to have his quarterback in place, which is a nice start. Brandon Silvers set the NCAA record for pass completion percentage (70.5) by a freshman, but he was up and down. One positive: He threw only three interceptions in 271 attempts. Dallas Tidwell and perhaps incoming freshman Gardner Minshew will try to impress the new staff in the fall, but the job appears to be Silvers’ to lose.
Running back is perhaps the deepest position on the offense, though Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn combined to barely top 1,000 yards rushing in 2014. Josh Anderson, a 260-pound fullback, should have an impact.
Bryan Holmes, K.D. Edenfield and Teddy Ruben return to the receiving corps, and if Brown has his way, the group should be far more productive this fall.
The offensive line will be led by Antonio Garcia and Dalton Bennett, but improvement is needed there as well. This group will have to adjust to the faster pace of play that Brown intends to implement.
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Previewing Troy’s Defense for 2015
In effect, the Trojans’ defense is being rebuilt from scratch. Brown hired Vic Koenning as defensive coordinator, a position he held at the school from 2003-04. The Trojans ranked near the bottom of the league in most key defensive categories in 2014, and they gave up at least 40 points five times in 12 games.
Koenning will technically run a 4-2-5 alignment but will often switch the alignments in an effort to catch the opponent off guard. The aim is to use a swarming attack that takes advantage of speed and quickness off the edge.
Up front, Troy has Tyler Roberts and former Arkansas Razorback Lonnie Gosha leading the way, with some expected added talent also set to contribute. At linebacker, junior college signees William Lloyd and Justin Lucas are expected to step in and play big roles right away. In the secondary, newcomers Jalen Rountree and LaMarcus Farmer should add experience and talent. Troy ranked a respectable fifth in the Sun Belt in passing defense last season.
Previewing Troy’s Specialists for 2015
The placekicking duties are wide open, and the competition will continue right up until the start of the season. Ryan Kay will return as the team’s punter. The Trojans were average at best in the return game last season.
In many ways, this is a complete rebuild for Brown and his coaching staff. The once-proud Troy program had fallen on hard times in recent years; the Trojans have missed a bowl in four straight seasons after playing in the postseason four times from 2006-10.
A bowl game isn’t likely this fall, either. The Trojans have a difficult non-conference schedule that includes trips to NC State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State, and they play Sun Belt heavyweights Appalachian State and UL-Lafayette on the road.
Anything close to six wins should be considered a big success in Year 1 of the Brown era.