2013 Troy football's 10 things to know: Train keeps a-rollin'

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, you can bounce back. See below for the Trojans' schedule, early depth chart, projections and much more.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Larry Blakeney keeps chugging right along

Two years ago in my 2011 Troy preview, I fawned a bit over Troy head coach Larry Blakeney:

He just celebrated 20 years as Troy's head coach. When he took over the Trojans, they were a Division II independent. He helped to transition them to the 1-AA level and won three Southland Conference titles, making the 1-AA playoffs seven times in their nine years at the level (and in the first year, they went 10-1 but weren't eligible for the playoffs).

After less than a decade at 1-AA, Blakeney helped to transition the Trojans to the 1-A level ... and he has won or shared five consecutive Sun Belt titles. Despite all the transition, despite all the movement, Blakeney has won 161 games, including at least eight in each of the last five years.

To put it another way, Blakeney won the All-American Football Foundation's Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 ... before he had even accomplished anything at the 1-A/FBS level. Since then, he's one-upped himself.

Blakeney is a tireless recruiter and brilliant representative of this small school in southern Alabama. (That he has one of the most beautiful Southern drawls imaginable is just a bonus.) He has won games, he has produced 18 NFL draft picks in his 20 years (four in the first or second round), and now he has potentially his most talented offensive player lining up for him for another two to three seasons. There is a lot to celebrate about Blakeney's career, one that has not even begun to approach the homestretch yet.

And then Troy went out and fell apart. The Trojans went 3-9 in 2011 and were four points from 1-11. After managing an average F/+ ranking of 54.5 from 2007-10, they fell to 107th in 2011. My 2012 preview, then, took on a different tone. Was this the end for Blakeney, or was a bounceback likely?

2. You can bounce back.

The record only improved a little bit (two games), but in 2012 Troy's on-field product improved rather dramatically considering all that went wrong the year before.

Suddenly, Troy could move the ball again. Quarterback Corey Robinson cut down on his mistakes, the run game improved from 110th in Rushing S&P+ to 67th, and while the defense was still rather vulnerable to big plays, it was quite a bit more efficient and aggressive. Without making a series of panic moves, Blakeney was able to navigate a solid level of improvement in an improving Sun Belt conference. For fans clamoring for mass firings at their school of choice because of one bad season, this should probably serve as a nice teaching point.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 8-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 78
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at UAB 39-29 W 31.7 - 29.1 W
8-Sep UL-Lafayette 24-37 L 27.1 - 23.7 W
15-Sep Mississippi State 24-30 L 38.3 - 31.4 W
22-Sep at North Texas 14-7 W 20.6 - 30.2 L
29-Sep at South Alabama 31-10 W 35.7 - 21.4 W
11-Oct Western Kentucky 26-31 L 28.9 - 26.6 W
20-Oct Florida International 38-37 W 26.1 - 34.9 L
27-Oct at Florida Atlantic 27-34 L 23.2 - 32.3 L
3-Nov at Tennessee 48-55 L 34.9 - 44.3 L
10-Nov Navy 41-31 W 39.0 - 34.9 W
17-Nov Arkansas State 34-41 L 44.2 - 31.0 W
24-Nov at Middle Tennessee 21-24 L 22.0 - 14.7 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 30.6 52 30.5 83
Adj. Points Per Game 31.0 43 29.5 78

3. Close games can break you.

Troy ranked 78th in the F/+ rankings, virtually even with Western Kentucky and ULM and 18 spots ahead of a Middle Tennessee team that finished 9-3. So how exactly did the Trojans finish 5-7 and miss a bowl for the second straight year?

They couldn't closet. They lost by seven to Tennessee, Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic, six to Mississippi State, five to Western Kentucky and three to Middle Tennessee. In all, they were 1-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, 1-4 in such games in conference play. Simply improving to 3-4 in such games would have probably earned Troy a bowl bid (then again, Middle Tennessee didn't get one at 8-4) and cast an entirely different impression on the 2012 season.

Now, make no mistake: Troy shouldn't have lost to Florida Atlantic. At the very least, that inexcusable loss kept them from reaching bowl eligibility. In that game, Troy allowed FAU to jump out to a 17-0 lead, then score the winning touchdown with 17 seconds left. There was plenty of blame to go around in this series of close loses, especially considering this was a pretty experienced team. Still, according to the data below, Troy was hindered by about 3.5 points per game of bad turnover luck, and if the Trojans had gotten a second chance at this 12-game slate, they very well could have finished 8-4 or better. This was a decent team, one that resembled 2007-10 Troy a lot more than 2011 Troy.

One problem: It was an experienced team, and now it has some holes to fill.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 11 62 51 64
RUSHING 57 67 51 76
PASSING 8 62 53 68
Standard Downs 71 57 76
Passing Downs 50 49 48
Redzone 103 94 107
Q1 Rk 82 1st Down Rk 57
Q2 Rk 61 2nd Down Rk 86
Q3 Rk 65 3rd Down Rk 36
Q4 Rk 37

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Corey Robinson 6'2, 209 Sr. ** (5.2) 257 389 3,121 66.1% 12 9 9 2.3% 7.7
Deon Anthony 6'0, 214 Sr. *** (5.5) 79 113 856 69.9% 9 3 6 5.0% 6.9
Dallas Tidwell 6'7, 223 So. ** (5.4) 0 3 0 0.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 0.0

4. Troy is loaded behind center.

As a sophomore, Corey Robinson was exciting and reckless. He threw for more than 3,400 yards, completed 21 touchdown passes ... and threw 15 interceptions and took 20 sacks. His junior season, however, was pretty much the blueprint for year-to-year improvement. In 2012, Robinson improved his completion percentage from 62 percent to 66, cut his interception rate from 3.0 percent to 2.3 percent, improved his sack rate (with obvious help from his line) from 3.8 percent to 2.3 percent, and improved his per-attempt pass yardage by 26 percent, from 6.1 yards to 7.7. That is fantastic.

He did have help, of course. An improved (and more frequent) run game took quite a bit of pressure off of his shoulders, and a line that entered the season with only one multi-year starter held up nicely. Still, a lot of Robinson's improvement can be credited directly to Robinson.

But Troy isn't "loaded behind center" simply because of Robinson. The Trojans actually enter 2013 with two interesting senior quarterbacks; Deon Anthony carved out a nice role as a run-first, change-of-pace guy. He was second on the team in rushing and actually completed a higher percentage of (shorter) passes than Robinson. That towering sophomore Dallas Tidwell is still a third-stringer heading into his sophomore season is a very good sign about Troy's overall depth.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Shawn Southward RB 194 1,012 5.2 4.8 10 +0.2
Deon Anthony QB 6'0, 214 Sr. *** (5.5) 76 422 5.6 5.0 8 +8.4
Justin Albert WR 70 303 4.3 4.6 2 -3.9
D.J. Taylor RB 64 259 4.0 1.9 1 -4.7
Corey Robinson QB 6'2, 209 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 20 1.7 3.7 1 -3.6
Chandler Worthy WR 5'9, 159 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 79 7.2 5.0 0 +2.4
Khary Franklin RB 5'8, 168 Sr. *** (5.5) 3 23 7.7 3.3 0 +1.0
Tim Longmire RB 6'0, 195 Fr. *** (5.5)



!
Jordan Chunn RB 6'0, 211 Fr. ** (5.4)





Julius McCall RB 5'9, 161 Fr. ** (5.4)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Chip Reeves WR 104 65 1050 62.5% 10.1 21.4% 72.1% 10.7 120.4
Eric Thomas WR 6'1, 209 Sr. *** (5.5) 86 55 667 64.0% 7.8 17.7% 65.1% 7.7 76.5
Chandler Worthy WR 5'9, 159 Jr. ** (5.2) 57 46 544 80.7% 9.5 11.8% 64.9% 9.5 62.4
Jaquon Robinson WR 56 30 405 53.6% 7.2 11.5% 62.5% 7.3 46.4
Corey Johnson (2011) WR 6'0, 186 Sr. *** (5.7) 58 43 440 74.1% 7.6 11.5% 63.8% N/A N/A
Shawn Southward RB 55 43 362 78.2% 6.6 11.3% 60.0% 6.6 41.5
Justin Albert WR 42 31 250 73.8% 6.0 8.7% 57.1% 6.0 28.7
B.J. Chitty WR 6'2, 197 Jr. *** (5.6) 27 20 222 74.1% 8.2 5.6% 81.5% 7.5 25.5
D.J. Taylor RB 20 17 145 85.0% 7.3 4.1% 30.0% 6.4 16.6
Chris Williams WR 5'11, 183 Sr. NR 10 8 127 80.0% 12.7 2.1% 60.0% 12.7 14.6
K.D. Edenfield WR 6'0, 184 So. NR 7 6 62 85.7% 8.9 1.4% 85.7% 9.8 7.1
Jarod Lee RB 6'0, 232 Sr. NR 6 6 63 100.0% 10.5 1.2% 83.3% 10.1 7.2
Brandon Brooks WR 6'0, 185 RSFr. *** (5.6)






Bobby Walker WR 6'0, 166 RSFr. *** (5.5)








Antonio Johnson WR 6'1, 201 Jr. ** (5.2)








Clark Quisenberry WR 6'3, 205 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. Mr. Robinson (and Mr. Anthony), meet your new arsenal.

While Robinson's improvement was obvious, he got a lot of help from a corps of skill position players quite a bit deeper than your normal mid-major. Running back Shawn Southward was steady and solid after a poor junior season, and a deep receiving corps saw six players targeted at least 40 times. Senior Chip Reeves, who missed 2011 with academic problems, returned and thrived in the No. 1 spot.

The obvious problem for 2013: Southward is gone, as is primary backup D.J. Taylor, and four of those six high-volume targets have also used up their eligibility. The leading returning running back, Khary Franklin, carried three times last year, and while receivers Eric Thomas, Chandler Worthy and B.J. Chitty were all relatively proficient last year, they were used mostly in efficiency roles. The same goes for Corey Johnson, who filled a similar role in 2011 before missing 2012 with injury. Reeves was the big-play guy and will be missed.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 98.8 2.90 3.58 40.3% 53.2% 17.4% 146.6 1.9% 4.6%
Rank 75 76 27 48 118 37 24 15 32
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Kyle Wilborn C 47 career starts, 2012 1st All-Sun Belt
Jarred Fleming LT 20 career starts
Terrence Jones RT 6'3, 306 Jr. ** (5.3) 17 career starts
Cody Woodiel LG 12 career starts
Zach Johnson RG 6'3, 320 Jr. *** (5.5) 8 career starts
Andrew Phillips LG 7 career starts
Jimmie Arnold RG 6'1, 276 Sr. ** (4.9) 5 career starts
Tyler Lassiter LT 6'5, 298 So. ** (5.3)
Caleb Carbine LG 6'1, 271 Jr. NR
Dalton Bennett RT 6'3, 293 So. ** (5.4)
Taylor Edwards OL 6'4, 290 Fr. ** (5.4)
Xavier Fields OL 6'4, 345 Fr. ** (5.4)
David Gross OL 6'6, 295 Fr. ** (5.4)

6. The line loses a lot.

Last year's Troy line returned only one player with more than eight career starts, but there were still quite a few juniors and seniors involved. In 2013, the Troy line is quite a bit thinner in the experience department. Terrence Jones has been a starter for most of two years, but the line's 30 career starts will be one of the lower numbers in the country this year. Throw in a new offensive line coach (Jim Dye), and you've got a huge wildcard for 2013.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 96 76 42 90
RUSHING 82 68 61 80
PASSING 94 73 32 89
Standard Downs 87 46 97
Passing Downs 66 44 73
Redzone 73 38 103
Q1 Rk 103 1st Down Rk 88
Q2 Rk 81 2nd Down Rk 60
Q3 Rk 55 3rd Down Rk 48
Q4 Rk 40

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 98.9 3.01 2.63 35.7% 68.3% 19.1% 68.4 2.5% 3.8%
Rank 65 80 17 27 64 68 107 112 107
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tony Davis DE 12 34.0 4.8% 9 3 0 1 2 1
Tyler Roberts BAN 6'1, 215 So. ** (5.4) 12 30.0 4.3% 6.5 2 0 0 1 0
Kyle Lucas DE 12 22.5 3.2% 4 1 0 0 1 0
Marty Stadom DE 6'1, 237 Sr. ** (5.4) 12 18.5 2.6% 4 2 0 0 0 0
Jacoby Thomas BAN 11 17.5 2.5% 4 2 0 2 0 1
Derrek Upshaw DT 6'2, 287 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 13.5 1.9% 2.5 1 0 1 0 1
Shermane TeArt DT 6'1, 279 Sr. ** (4.9) 5 8.5 1.2% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Williams DT 6'4, 270 Sr. ** (5.2) 11 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Xavier Melton DT 6'3, 310 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 5.5 0.8% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Lonnie Gosha (2011) DT 6'2, 277 So. *** (5.7) 4 4.5 0.6% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Deon Lee DE 6'3, 233 So. *** (5.6) 3 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
D.J. Johnson DT 6'3, 294 So. ** (5.2)
Arie Anderson DT 6'1, 275 Fr. *** (5.5)
Bryan Slater DE 6'1, 268 Fr. ** (5.4)
Taylor Driggers DE 6'2, 255 Fr. ** (5.4)






7. A remade defensive line held up (against the run, at least).

Only two of Troy's top eight defensive linemen returned from 2011, but a mix of junior college transfers and returnees combined to ensure there wasn't an extreme drop-off. Well, sort of. The line was stellar at hemming in run plays, but only one lineman managed more than two sacks, and considering a passive linebacking corps, one built more for run support and pass coverage than blitzing, didn't generate any sort of consistent pressure. When you add Arkansas transfer Lonnie Gosha and some interesting freshmen, you see a pretty solid, interesting line. But without its star (Tony Davis), it's hard to imagine the pass rush somehow improving.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kanorris Davis SLB 11 76.5 10.9% 3 0 0 1 2 1
Brannon Bryan MLB 12 67.5 9.6% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Mark Wilson WLB 6'0, 234 Jr. *** (5.6) 10 40.0 5.7% 2 0 0 1 0 1
Dimitri Miles WLB 6'1, 209 Jr. NR 12 39.0 5.6% 2 1 0 1 0 1
De'Von Terry SLB 12 31.0 4.4% 0 0 1 2 0 2
Eli Canton MLB 6'1, 238 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 1 1 0
Shaq Beverly SLB 5'8, 200 So. *** (5.5) 8 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wayland Coleman-Dancer WLB 6'0, 203 Sr. ** (5.3)
Brach Bessant MLB 6'1, 246 Jr. ** (5.3)
Sam Lebbie LB 6'2, 240 Fr. *** (5.6)






8. Who gets in the way?

Troy's defense was confusing in 2013. Solid success rates combined with poor PPP (explosiveness) figures usually suggests a defense that takes risks, racks up the tackles for loss, and gives up a lot of big plays in the process. Instead, Troy made almost no disruptive plays whatsoever but still made a lot of stops short of the first-down marker ... and allowed a lot of big plays. Without Tony Davis, Troy might need a stripped-down linebacking corps to do a little more in the disruption department. Can it?

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brynden Trawick S 12 68.5 9.8% 5.5 0 3 4 0 0
Chris Pickett S 5'11, 200 Sr. ** (5.2) 11 53.5 7.6% 0.5 0 0 2 3 0
Camren Hudson S 5'10, 195 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 41.5 5.9% 1 0 0 1 2 2
Zach Miller CB 5'9, 175 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 27.0 3.8% 0 0 0 4 2 0
Bryan Willis CB 10 20.5 2.9% 0 0 1 6 0 1
T.J. Bryant CB 10 19.5 2.8% 1 0 0 3 0 2
Chris Davis CB 5'8, 161 So. ** (5.2) 12 17.5 2.5% 1 0 0 5 0 0
Barry Valcin S 5 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Montres Kitchens S 5'11, 172 So. ** (5.2) 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ethan Davis CB 5'10, 177 Jr. ** (5.2) 6 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dionte Ponder CB 5'11, 172 Jr. *** (5.5)

Joe Lofton S 6'0, 186 So. ** (5.2)
Keoin Payne DB 5'10, 175 Jr. ** (5.2)
Dondrell Harris DB 5'11, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)
Jevius Terry DB 5'9, 160 Fr. ** (5.4)
Montavious Smoke DB 6'1, 182 Fr. ** (5.4)

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Will Scott 5'11, 192 Sr. 54 41.0 2 9 18 50.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Jed Solomon 5'7, 152 So. 41 57.5 11 26.8%
Will Scott 5'11, 192 Sr. 30 61.1 12 40.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Will Scott 5'11, 192 Sr. 40-42 12-14 85.7% 5-7 71.4%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Chandler Worthy KR 5'9, 159 Jr. 23 22.0 0
Daron White KR 5'9, 176 So. 8 15.9 0
Zach Miller KR 5'9, 175 Sr. 3 16.7 0
Justin Albert PR 18 7.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 81
Net Punting 45
Net Kickoffs 25
Touchback Pct 76
Field Goal Pct 23
Kick Returns Avg 112
Punt Returns Avg 74

9. Nice legs

This was a hit-or-miss special teams unit in 2012. The return game was pretty iffy, but the legs were strong. Will Scott made five of seven field goals over 40 yards, booted a high number of touchbacks, and prevented returns in the punting game. Scott returns, so at worst this unit shouldn't be any worse than last year's. We'll see if the return game improves.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug UAB 105
7-Sep Savannah State NR
21-Sep at Mississippi State 51
16-Nov at Ole Miss 29
? at Duke 77
? Arkansas State 64
? Georgia State 125
? South Alabama 119
? Texas State 107
? UL-Lafayette 78
? UL-Monroe 86
? Western Kentucky 94
Five-Year F/+ Rk 74
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 93
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -6 / +2.5
TO Luck/Game -3.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (5, 6)
Yds/Pt Margin** +1.8

10. Was 2012 a wasted opportunity?

Troy improved significantly in 2012, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But as with 2011, the Trojans are now facing a serious rebuilding job among the skill positions, and the offensive line is green. And on defense, Troy must replace its best lineman, two best linebackers and best safety. Even if Troy's awful 2012 luck turns around, will it matter, or will it simply offset another dropoff in overall product?

Larry Blakeney didn't dip heavily into the JUCO pool with his 2013 recruiting class, which at least indirectly suggests he's not too tremendously worried about his talent pool at hand. But in 2013, a relatively young Troy squad will have to figure out how to both tread water in terms of production and close games better if the Trojans are to avoid a three-year no-bowl streak. A diluted Sun Belt could help, but Troy still has a lot of questions to answer.

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