By: chalifour.eric | 5/5/12, 3:55 PM EDT
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You can read the entire Troy preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 National magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
Sun Belt PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Larry Blakeney, 164-91-1 (21 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Kenny Edenfield | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jeremy Rowell
When things went bad for the Troy Trojans, they went bad in a hurry. A program that won or shared the previous five Sun Belt titles sank from eight wins in 2010 to a 30-year-worst 3–9 season in ’11, losing its last two Sun Belt games by a combined 54 points.
The Trojans’ offense took the heat for the sudden nosedive, despite the fact that quarterback Corey Robinson nearly matched his solid numbers from his freshman year. The 2011 unit ranked next-to-last nationally in red zone offense and saw its scoring average drop by nearly 12 points per game, even though Robinson threw for 3,411 yards and 21 scores. A league-high 31 turnovers didn’t help.
The receiving corps should be solid. Junior Eric Thomas, who led the team with 67 catches and 875 yards, headlines a unit that returns three players who caught at least 40 passes. Chip Reeves is back after missing last season due to academics.
Troy was last in the league in rushing (88.7 ypg) last season and will have to get more out of the senior tandem of Shawn Southward and D.J. Taylor. They combined for 923 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
Senior guard Kyle Wilborn and sophomores Zach Johnson (guard) and Terrence Jones (tackle), both of whom broke into the lineup midway through the 2011 season, will form the nucleus of what should be a solid offensive line.
The Trojans’ defense struggled last season, as a formerly proud unit ranked 113th nationally and last in the Sun Belt. Only four players started all 12 games, due to injuries and inconsistency. But with four junior college signees now on board, a quick turnaround is possible.
Brynden Trawick had way too many tackles last year (75 solo, 123 overall) for a safety playing in a 4-3 scheme. Trawick and corner Bryan Willis will lead a secondary that likely will have some new faces.
That 4-3 will have new wrinkles, with veteran linebacker Jacoby Thomas becoming a hybrid end/linebacker and Tony Davis making the move from tackle, where he was undersized, to defensive end. But the front wall is still hugely thin on experience, even if Arkansas transfer Lonnie Gosha receives a hardship waiver.
The linebacker corps should be a strength, with senior Brannon Bryan as the anchor and Kanorris Davis returning from an injury-marred season.
Troy’s kicking game will be all new, which should be a good thing. Punter Will Scott ranked third nationally in junior college last year and is also the frontrunner in a wide-open race for placekicking duties. Smallish receivers Justin Albert and Chandler Worthy will handle the return duties.
A lot of Trojan faithful want to either forget 2011 or cast it aside as an anomaly. Troy won at least eight games in the five seasons before last year’s collapse, and with a skilled offense and an influx of new talent on defense, there’s little doubt the Trojans should be improved in 2012.
Improvement, however, might not be enough to make a big jump in the Sun Belt standings. The league is better than ever, with Arkansas State, FIU and UL Lafayette expected to contend for the conference title. A realistic goal for Troy, in the short term, should be to beat out the likes of UL Monroe, Western Kentucky and North Texas for fourth place.