By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Although Troy's 5-7 record in 2012 marked a two-game improvement from 2011, the program was still an afterthought in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing a mere 3-5 in league play. Its performance in the past couple of years is a far cry from its dominance in the recent past, as it won at least a share of the Sun Belt title every season from 2006-2010.
The Trojans only won back-to-back games only once in 2012, taking down North Texas (14-7) and South Alabama (31-10) in late September. They closed out the campaign by losing four of five, including the finale at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 24, 24-21.
Head coach Larry Blakeney is entering his 23rd season at the helm for Troy, having seen the program through the transitions from Division II to I-AA and finally to the FBS. At 168-99-1 (70-65 in FBS), he is the third-winningest active coach in college football behind Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech and Bill Snyder of Kansas State.
OFFENSE: In terms of moving the ball down the field, no Sun Belt team was better than Troy a year ago, as it averaged nearly 500 ypg, but while its 30.6 ppg was respectable, it was simply a middle-of-the-road number in the conference.
Corey Robinson is back for his senior year and is already the most accomplished quarterback in Troy history, throwing for more than 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons with a career completion percentage of .638. Although he threw a career-low nine interceptions in 2012, his touchdown total (12) was also a his lowest output yet.
Robinson missed a game and a half in mid-October with a shoulder injury, which paved the way for Deon Anthony to show what he's capable of. After an outstanding start versus FIU (29-of-41, 245 yards, 115 rushing yards, five total TDs), he earned a timeshare under center even when Robinson returned healthy, finishing with 856 passing yards, 390 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Trojans plan to split the signal-caller's time once again in 2013, a strategy that Robinson is on board with.
"I enjoy doing it (sharing time with Anthony), I honestly do," Robinson said. "It's hard for people to believe that I do. It takes a lot of pressure off both of us and a lot of pressure off the offense. He brings totally different things that I bring. We can run completely different kind of plays. He's a great player. We definitely enjoy having him and wouldn't give him up."
At receiver, Chip Reeves (65 rec, 1050 yards, six TDs) has graduated, but Eric Thomas (55 rec, 667 yards, seven TDs) has proven enough to take over as the club's go-to guy. Chandler Worthy (46 rec, 544 yards, two TDs) is also likely to see increased looks.
The production at running back remains a big question mark, as Khary Franklin, Daron White and Brandon Burks combined for just 12 touches last year.
DEFENSE: Often finding themselves a part of shootouts, the Trojans' biggest downfall in 2012 was their inability to hold off their opponents, surrendering 30.5 ppg and 443.6 ypg. Only four starters return to the defense, which might be more of a positive than a negative considering the unit's relative ineffectiveness last year.
Chris Pickett is the top returning tackler, making 61 stops to go along with three forced fumbles at the safety position. Linebacker Mark Wilson (44 tackles), defensive end Tyler Roberts (6.5 TFL, two sacks) and safety Camren Hudson (50 tackles) are also back.
Cornerbacks Keion Payne and Chris Davis are among the many first-year starters for the Trojans. A pair of junior college transfers -- Marty Stadom and Wayland Coleman-Dancer -- will get their shots at cracking the starting lineup in the front seven.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Once again, Will Scott will serve as both the team's kicker and punter a year after making good on 17-of-21 field goal attempts (with a long of 52 yards) and averaging 41.0 yards per punt.
Chandler Worthy piled up 507 yards on kickoff returns last season, although with an increased role in the offense expected, his special teams opportunities could be limited.
OUTLOOK: Troy has become an afterthought in the Sun Belt just a few years removed from being the conference's top dog year in and year out. Robinson, who led the Trojans to a bowl bid as a freshman in 2010, is anxious to get his team back on top in his final season.
"We're just trying to get some wins," Robinson said."We've put up the numbers. We've put up the yards. (Wins are) all I can really hope for ... to get us back to a bowl game."
Few teams are as explosive offensively as Troy, and if Blakeney can pull all the right strings with his two dynamic quarterbacks, the Trojans should be a fun team to watch in 2013. However, if the defense fails to make strides from a disappointing 2012 campaign, the squad will be in for a similar fate this season as it struggles to break free from the middle of the pack.