The 2017 football season is upon us as the Troy Trojans get set to take on a high level of expectations following a historic 2016 season.
Head Coach Neal Brown enters his third year at the helm and faces a brand new challenge, one that no previous coach has gone up against.
While Troy enjoyed success in the 2000s, it had only reached nine wins in a season once.
After the program’s first FBS 10-win season last year, Brown and his staff will have to guide the team through the Sun Belt with a target on their backs.
Troy will get the best shot of every team it faces, but the Trojans are well-equipped to withstand the blows.
Returning as the senior leader is quarterback Brandon Silvers. Following a career season in 2016, Silvers is beginning to catch the eyes of scouts with his velocity and pinpoint accuracy on short to intermediate throws.
Silvers has reached second in school history in nearly every passing category, only sitting behind Corey Robinson. While most of Robinson’s records are out of reach, Silvers is closing in on a big one.
Robinson holds the Troy record for wins with 21, with Silvers right on his heels at a current 17. Silvers should surpass that number easily this year, especially considering the offensive weapons around him.
Fellow senior Jordan Chunn returns behind Silvers after finishing second in the Sun Belt in rushing yards last season. His primary reliever, Josh Anderson, also returns as Troy’s bruiser back.
In addition to the usual suspects, the Trojans will have the services of former Memphis Tiger running back Jamarius Henderson. As a senior at Dale County High School in Midland City, he set the state record for rushing yards in a season with 3,483.
He followed that up by earning 60 carries as a true freshman at Memphis. Henderson sat out last season after transferring and is set to make an impact this season.
At receiver, Troy returns the top wide receiver duo in the conference in Emanuel Thompson and Deondre Douglas. The two combined for 140 receptions and over 1,500 receiving yards a year ago. They lead a deep group that returns another 165 total receptions.
The receiver group also
gains an extra playmaker in junior college transfer Damion Willis. A long target at 6-foot-4, Willis has caught the attention of his coaches throughout fall camp and will be a name Troy fans will know by the end of the year.
On defense, the Trojans will be without the 2016 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Rashad Dillard and much of their linebacker production from last season.
Zo Bridges will fill Dillard’s spot at the bandit position, while Tyquae Russell returns to his spear spot from last year.
Senior Sam Lebbie will bring senior experience in the middle of the linebacker group. A number of new faces will be in the linebacker rotation as well.
However, the Trojans do boast an experienced and talented defensive line. After leading the conference in rush defense last year, expect much of the same with defensive tackles Baron Poole and Jamal Stadom returning.
The secondary is poised for another big year after picking off a conference-best 22 passes last year. Opposing quarterbacks will shy away from Blace Brown’s side of the field, especially after the junior cornerback intercepted six passes last season.
The Trojans have nearly rebuilt their wall after just two seasons, but are missing a couple more bricks. Troy is seeking a key piece in 2017, a brick with the words “Conference Champion” engraved on the side.