1. Troy is coming off a 10-win season under Neal Brown -- is this a team that will be one of the top mid-majors again in 2017, or a bit of a rebuild?
All expectations coming from Troy's campus are that this team is gunning for a Sun Belt championship and another double-digit win season. Troy returns all of its firepower on offense from last season including All-Sun Belt QB Brandon Silvers, leading rusher Jordan Chunn, and all of its receiving production. Add in the fact that Troy has been very solid in Vic Koenning's scheme ever since he arrived and there is a lot of buzz about this program. A lot of people nationally seem to think that this will be Brown's last season at Troy as he has proven to be a solid offensive mind, a quick rebuilder, and a very competent recruiter at the young coaching age of 37.
2. How has spring practice gone?
Spring practice has been somewhat boring, but that's what you should expect from a team that has a conference championship in its sights. Quarterback Brandon Silvers missed this spring due to some type of surgery on his throwing hand, so it gave a chance for Troy to somewhat build for the future. Silvers is expected to be 100 percent for fall camp, but sophomores Kaleb Barker and Sawyer Smith got all of the first-team reps during the spring. Judging by the spring game, the job could be Smith's to lose starting in 2018. We also got to see the emergence of Memphis transfer RB Jamarius Henderson. Henderson had, arguably, the best play of the spring as busted out with an electrifying run during Troy's T-Day spring game. Henderson's addition gives Troy a chance to be the best offense in the G5.
3. What can you tell us about the Trojan offense?
The Troy offense is stacked and on paper is the easy pick as the best offense in the Fun Belt. Neal Brown comes from the Air Raid coaching tree, most learning under Tony Franklin, and the Troy offense certainly carries on the proud tradition of high octane offenses. Brown relies on a quick rhythm passing attack that tries to get defenses stretched just enough to burn them deep a couple times a game. However, Brown has proven to not be afraid to run the ball and the Trojans had one of the best running attacks in the Sun Belt last season. Jordan Chunn could leave Troy as the program's leading rusher and the senior bulldozer (6'1" 240 lbs.) will still be the bell cow after running for 1,288 yards and 16 scores last fall. However, Silvers is the straw that stirs the drink and the senior is a four-year starter behind center. The Orange Beach, Alabama native has thrown for 54 scores in his career and has improved in yards per game each season. 300 per game is not out of the question in 2017. The receiving group is stacked and this bunch had everything but a thousand yard receiver last year. I'd look for senior Emanuel Thompson or junior Deondre Douglas to accomplish that feat this coming season. Left tackle Antonio Garcia is gone to the NFL and is projected to come off the board before the end of the third round. This area will be the biggest weakness for Troy as Silvers will no longer have the old reliable vet protecting his blindside. All in all, Brown has an absolutely loaded offense in year three.
4. How about the defense?
On the other hand, the defense has a few more holes that need to be plugged. At the line of scrimmage, I believe Troy feels pretty confident that they will have a pretty competent defensive line. Tackle Seth Calloway has all-conference potential, Baron Poole II has a legit chance to be an NFL draft pick, and Jamal Stadom recorded 9.5 tackles for loss last fall. Then in the back four, Troy looks like they could be really solid as safeties Cedarius Rookard and Kris Weatherspoon each return after they combined for 104 tackles, 8.5 TFL, and 4 INTs in 2016. Add in junior corner Blace Brown and his 6 picks and the front, back end of this Troy defense could be as good as anyone in the G5. However, the middle is where the questions are as Troy must replace their three best linebackers from last season. However, the spring did not give us a solid answer as to who will replace that production and we really won't know what Koenning has in the cupboard until Troy opens up the season in Boise. I think the expectation for this unit should be a top 50-60 defense, as Troy had the 45th best unit according to S/P+ last year after debuting at 78 in the first year in the Neal Brown era. The potent offense should give Troy a lot of opportunities to produce negative plays and force turnovers. Pass- rush will be something to look out for as Troy lost end Rashad Dillard and his 7.5 sacks. The hope is that JUCO Rasool Clemons can come in and immediately help fill the void left by Dillard.
5. Troy has been a proud program for the better part of the 21st century and pulled off some big wins, including a narrow defeat against LSU a few years back. How is this year's matchup with the Tigers viewed by folks around the program?
I think the program and fan base, right now, feels pretty confident about the upcoming trip to Death Valley. Troy is coming off a ten-win season that included an impressive performance against Clemson where they gave the eventual national champions all they could handle at the other Death Valley. The Troy defense put up one of the better performances by any defense against that potent Clemson offense and the Troy running game was able to produce some explosive plays while Silvers and the passing game began to get going late. The passing game struggled early simply because Troy had a hard time protecting and their young receivers were finding it difficult to get open against a talented Clemson secondary. Now a lot of this game will have to do with how well Troy is playing and what momentum they can bring into this game. If the Trojans can spring an upset over Boise State, they likely enter this contest at 4-0 and catch the Tigers a week before the road trip to Florida. Derrius Guice will get his against the Troy front seven, but if Silvers can get the protection he could do just enough to give the LSU faithful a scare heading into the fourth quarter.