Ashley Sulzby photo
Quarterback Sawyer Smith hands off to running back B.J. Smith under the eye of new head coach Chip Lindsey during spring practice.
Connecting to the student body is important for the head coach of a school’s flagship athletic program, and Troy’s new head football coach, Chip Lindsey, has no plans to make an exception.
“I enjoy going to events on campus,” Lindsey said in an interview. “I enjoy talking to people and getting to know people. I want our student body to feel like they know their head football coach, staff and players.”
Lindsey was hired following the departure of Neal Brown. Brown coached Troy during the last four seasons, guiding the Trojans to record-breaking results.
Troy won 31 games in the last three years, more than any Sun Belt Conference counterpart. The stretch included a school-record 11 wins in 2017 and three consecutive bowl wins.
Jeremy McClain, who was then Troy’s athletic director, made quick work selecting Brown’s successor, naming Lindsey as the new coach on Jan. 10, less than a week after Brown’s exit.
Gehrig Douglass, a secondary education history major from Marbury, Alabama, who was a junior in the spring, is cautiously optimistic about the immediate future of Troy football.
“I think the Troy hire is the right one at this time,” Douglass said. “I think he is going to be able to recruit well with his roots established here from his tenure in Auburn.”
But he said he worries about how long Lindsey will stay here because of Lindsey’s history of moving from job to job.
Douglass said the support from fans and students will remain as long as Lindsey continues Troy’s winning tradition.
“Chip is going to have to build his legacy and support here like Neal (Brown) did, and he’ll do that by winning games,” Douglass said.
Lindsey is tasked with a different challenge than Brown faced when he stepped on campus in December 2014. Brown established the “Rebuild the Wall” slogan and proceeded to do it.
Now, Lindsey is charged with not only maintaining that wall, but building onto it.
Lindsey came home
For Lindsey, this is a coming-home party. The Madison, Alabama, native coached high school football in north Alabama for over a decade before getting his first collegiate coaching job.
That job was quarterbacks coach at Troy University, where Lindsey coached quarterback Corey Robinson to the 2010 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year award.
Lindsey was later hired by Southern Mississippi as offensive coordinator. This is where he met McClain, who was then the deputy director of athletics at Southern Mississippi.
After leaving Southern Miss, Lindsey worked under Todd Graham, Gus Malzahn and Les Miles at three Power Five schools before returning to Troy in January.
While his experience working under those coaches was valuable, Lindsey hopes to create his own identity.
“You learn something from everybody,” Lindsey said. “But the most important thing is that you have to develop your own style and way of doing things.”
Lindsey is an offensive-minded coach who shares many qualities with his predecessor.
While at Southern Miss, he coached quarterback Nick Mullens, who threw for 4,476 yards in 2015 under Lindsey, including 38 touchdown passes.
Two years later, his Auburn offense amassed 451.6 yards per game. The Tigers were fourth in the SEC in rushing yards per game and fifth in passing yards.
Lindsey hopes to bring similar firepower to Troy. He’s got a full quarterback room, featuring five scholarship quarterbacks.
Offense and defense
Two of those quarterbacks, Kaleb Barker and Sawyer Smith, started at least six games each last season.
Lindsey will also have power running back B.J. Smith at his disposal. Smith became the third different running back in the last four years at Troy to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards when he tallied up 1,186 yards in 2018. Smith is a social science major from Cantonment, Florida, who was a junior in the spring.
B.J. Smith said he is confident in the new coach.
“I feel like he was the right person for this job,” he said. “A lot of guys feel like that, and we can’t wait to play for him. You’ve got to get the best players in space, and Coach Lindsey is going to do that.”
Brown’s teams were known for defense, as well, and Lindsey will have several key pieces back in 2019.
Sophomore linebacker Carleton Martial is back at mike (inside) linebacker after leading all Sun Belt freshmen with 76 tackles last season. He’s joined in the front seven by senior defensive linemen Jarvis Hayes and Antoine Barker, who combined for 20 tackles for loss in 2018.
To help with continuity and the transition from Brown’s offensive and defensive strategies, Lindsey retained several of Brown’s staffers.
Linebackers coach Bam Hardmon returns, while Brandon Hall was promoted to defensive coordinator. Brian Blackmon also received a promotion as the new special teams coordinator.
Shortly after putting his staff together, Lindsey put the finishing touches on the second-highest ranked recruiting class in the Sun Belt and highest-rated class in school history, according to 247sports.
Lindsey’s first game will be on Aug. 31 against the Campbell Camels in Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Playing Missouri in October
His first big game will come Oct. 5. Lindsey will try to continue the giant-slayer tradition Brown created when the Trojans head to Columbia, Missouri, to face the SEC’s Missouri Tigers.
“This is a program that has won championships,” Lindsey said. “Obviously, we have those aspirations, as well. The standard has been set, and a foundation has been laid. We’re going to build on that foundation and be as good as we can be.”
Freshmen can get involved with the upcoming football season in the annual Freshman Run. Before every home opener, freshmen are invited to run onto the field ahead of kickoff.
Every Troy football home game is free for students, as are the other athletic events on campus.
Besides football, there are six men’s sports: baseball, basketball, tennis, track and field, cross country, and golf.
There are eight women’s sports: basketball, softball, track and field, cross country, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and golf.