***** NCAA Football Preview - Troy Trojans *****
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: After recording five straight campaigns with eight or
more wins, the Troy Trojans endured their worst season in head coach Larry
Blakeney's 21-year reign as head coach in 2011.
Troy's season opened with losses on the road to Clemson (43-19) and No. 13
Arkansas (38-28), but then it seemed to get back on track, registering home
wins against Middle Tennessee (38-35) and UAB (24-23) to even its record at
That would be the high-point of the season for the Trojans however, as they
finished the campaign losing seven of their final eight games, their lone win
coming against last-place Florida Atlantic (34-7).
The 3-9 overall record and 2-6 mark in the Sun Belt ended the team's five-year
run of claiming at least a share of the conference championship.
OFFENSE: Historically, Troy possesses a high-powered offense capable of
outscoring anyone in the Sun Belt, but it struggled to put points on the board
in 2011, which helped contribute to the poor record. The yardage output was
there (380 ypg, fifth in the Sun Belt), but it only managed 22.4 points per
game, ranking above only Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee in the
Though the unit under-performed a year ago, the good news is that eight
starters return on offense, led by star quarterback Corey Robinson. After an
outstanding freshman campaign (3,726 yards, 28 TDs), he regressed a bit last
season with 3,411 yards, 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Despite the downtick in production, Robinson is still one of the school's most
decorated quarterbacks. His 637 completions is already a school-record, and he
needs just 551 yards to set the passing yardage mark, but he doesn't let
accolades get in the way of his ultimate goal.
"I really don't think about much besides winning and getting back to a bowl
game," Robinson said.
Accompanying Robinson this year will be three of his top receiving targets.
Eric Thomas emerged as one of the Sun Belt's best last season, finishing fourth
in both receptions (67) and yards (875), while leading the conference in
receiving touchdowns (9). Corey Johnson (43 catches, 440 yards) is effective
in moving the chains and Chandler Worth (22 catches, 392 yards, 4 TDs) is a
threat every time he touches the ball.
The running game often takes a back seat to the passing attack, but the squad
returns a trio of solid backs in Shawn Southward, D.J. Taylor and Chris
Anderson, all of whom combined for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011.
DEFENSE: As poorly as the offense played at times, it was no where near as bad
as the team's defensive performance. The unit surrendered 33.7 points per game
and was vulnerable to the big play, allowing a league-high 465 yards per game
to its opponents.
To make matters worse, the Trojans come into this season after losing many of
their best players along the defensive line, including Jonathan Massaquoi (10.5
tackles for loss, 6 sacks), who is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Tackle
Tony Davis (six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) is the only
returning starter up front.
Despite the loss of Xavier Lamb (88 tackles), the unit's strength appears to be
its linebacking corps, which returns Brannon Bryan (82 tackles) and Kanorris
Davis (60 tackles, 2 forced fumbles), both of whom were among the team's top
performers a year ago.
Safety Brynden Trawick made the most of his many opportunities, recording a
team-high 123 tackles. Continued solid play out of him will be key to a
secondary that got burned multiple times a game last year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Trojans will have some new players taking over at both
kicking positions, with Ryan Kay entering his first year as the placekicker and
Will Scott taking over as the team's punter.
The return game was underwhelming last season, but Worthy (23.5 yards per kick
return) has the breakaway speed to be a game-changer on special teams.
OUTLOOK: 2011 was an unexpected bump in the road for this perennial Sun Belt
power. Blakeney knows that a change in focus is needed for the upcoming season,
and he likes what he has seen so far in camp.
"I'm impressed with the energy that has carried over from the offseason and
from spring ball," Blakeney said. "We have a lot of guys that retained a lot
and know what to do and it should be that way. I challenged each individual
player to come out here every day ready to get better as an individual and
therefore the team gets better."
With Robinson back for his third year as the starter, the offense should be
able to rebound to once again be one of the top units in the conference. There
remains huge question marks on the defensive side of the ball, but the unit
performed so poorly last year that an infusion of new blood can only help.
Troy should expect an improvement upon last year's three-win season, but with
so many other teams in the league improving, it's going to be difficult for it
to return to the Sun Belt's upper-crust. It may be able to climb out of the
cellar, but a trip back to a bowl game will be a bigger challenge.
08/21 11:44:16 ET