Last season was a historic one for Troy, which won 10 games for the first time as a FBS program and made an appearance in the Top 25. The Trojans have plenty of pieces returning from that team, especially on offense, to try and accomplish the one piece of unfinished business – win the Sun Belt. There are few key players that certainly will be missed, but don’t be surprised if Troy’s 2017 season ends up looking a lot like ’16.
Previewing Troy Football’s Offense for 2017
Troy led the Sun Belt in scoring in 2016, with most of the damage coming from the right arm of quarterback Brandon Silvers. Although his overall stat line hardly budged from 2015 — his pass efficiency rating dipped slightly, in fact — Silvers was notably more consistent last year, posting a rating of 140 or better in seven games despite topping 300 passing yards just twice. Sun Belt coaches rewarded him with a first-team all-conference nod, an honor he’ll be favored to repeat as a senior.
The same goes for fellow seniors Jordan Chunn and Emanuel Thompson, first-team All-SBC picks at running back and wide receiver, respectively, as well as second-teamer Deondre Douglas, who (along with Thompson) will headline a fully intact receiving corps. The backfield depth is enviable, too: Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson adds one more option to the stable behind Chunn, but only if he can crack a rotation that returns seniors Josh Anderson and sophomores B.J. Smith and Jabir Frye.
That’s hardly the case up front, though, where the list of candidates to replace three departed starters doesn’t run nearly as deep. The most glaring vacancy is at left tackle, an afterthought for the past three years thanks to the reliable presence of Antonio Garcia; this year, the blind-side role will fall to sophomore Kirk Kelley or senior Johnathan Boring.
Previewing Troy Football’s Defense for 2017
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The defense wasn’t as decorated, but it more than held up its end of the bargain: The Trojans led the Sun Belt in rushing defense and takeaways, and also managed to hold Deshaun Watson to his worst statistical performance of the season in an early upset bid at Clemson.
The most notable departure from that unit was edge rusher Rashad Dillard, the SBC Defensive Player of the Year, but otherwise the front seven returns six players who started at least one game. The less familiar faces this spring included two of the most touted athletes on the roster, junior college transfer Rasool Clemons and sophomore Zo Bridges, the early favorite to replace Dillard’s pass-rushing production at Bandit.
The secondary is mostly intact as well, led by Auburn transfer Kamryn Melton at one corner and returning safeties Kris Weatherspoon and Cedarius Rookard. An intriguing possibility opposite Melton is junior Blace Brown, a former walk-on who a) shares bloodlines with Herschel Walker, a cousin; and b) tied for the SBC lead last year with six interceptions after converting from wide receiver.
Previewing Troy Football’s Specialists for 2017
Out is Ryan Kay, who handled every punt and field goal attempt in 2016; in are redshirt freshman Tyler Sumpter, the presumptive replacement at punter, and junior Bratcher Underwood, who hopes to add placekicking duties to his regular gig on kickoffs. Frye was an All-SBC pick as a kick returner as a true freshman.
It was a banner year for Troy, marking both its first 10-win season as an FBS program and its first-ever appearance in the AP Top 25. Given that Troy hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2010, it also confirmed coach Neal Brown as an up-and-comer in just his second year on the job.
On the other hand, letting the Sun Belt title slip from their grasp after a 5–0 start in conference play felt like a missed opportunity, one that may not come around again for a while once this senior class — and quite possibly its head coach — moves on next year. All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to finish what they started, including a forgiving SBC schedule that omits the league’s other preseason frontrunner, Appalachian State. If it all comes together, 2017 could be as good as Troy football gets.