The Troy football team is well into fall camp, and as it prepares for the much-anticipated 2017 season, fans can expect some new faces to make some noise this year.
Head Coach Neal Brown is entering his third year at the helm and has a notably talented group of newcomers to work with. Among those newcomers are brothers Kevin and Kyle Nixon of Fort Valley, Georgia. Kevin Nixon arrives in Troy as an outside linebacker, while Kyle Nixon plays safety.
In his senior year of high school, Kevin Nixon registered 65 tackles, with nine coming in the backfield. He used his 4.64-second 40-yard dash speed to bring down the quarterback six times.
Kyle Nixon had 80 tackles in his senior season to go along with six pass breakups and two interceptions. Kyle Nixon possesses excellent field vision and is a hard-hitting tackler for his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame.
The two signed with Troy with the intention of continuing to be teammates after high school.
“I feel like it’s easier playing with my brother,” Kyle Nixon told the Tropolitan. “Just like trusting my teammates, it’s trusting my brother on the field. It’s best for us to do something like this.”
Transitioning from high school football to Division I college football isn’t easy, but the Nixon brothers are taking the change in stride.
“It’s a lot faster, and there’s a lot more competition amongst the team,” Kyle Nixon said. “It’s nothing we weren’t ready for.”
Kyle Nixon has been learning behind arguably the best safety duo in the Sun Belt in Kris Weatherspoon and Cedarius Rookard, and the experience is wearing off on Kyle Nixon.
“It’s been good for me, learning behind Kris (Weatherspoon), just to get the knowledge they have, so if I get to go out there, I know exactly what I need to do,” Kyle Nixon said.
Unlike the secondary, the linebacker group was decimated by offseason graduation. Four linebackers with a total of 39 starts from last season have moved on.
With those spots open, Kevin Nixon is figured to be in the mix to break into Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning’s rotation.
“The competition has been tight because we bring the energy every day,” Kevin Nixon said. “I want to thank Tron (Folsom) and A.J. (Smiley) for them looking out for me. They taught me the playbook.”
With several marquee match-ups on Troy’s 2017 schedule, the Nixon brothers are looking forward to one specific late-October contest.
“I’m ready for the Georgia Southern game because when I chose schools, me and my brother had Georgia Southern in our top group,” said Kevin Nixon. “It’s a blessing to play against them.
“I want to see what it feels like, and I know it’s going to be a crazy crowd for homecoming.”
The Nixon brothers aren’t the only newcomers vying for playing time on defense, though. Sophomore Rasool Clemons arrives in Troy as one of the highest-rated defensive prospects the Trojans have ever signed.
Clemons was rated by 247sports.com as the third-best weak-side defensive end in junior college. He’s a physically gifted, prototypical pass rusher at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds who possesses raw potential.
Clemons played junior college ball at East Mississippi Community College and was originally committed to Ole Miss before switching to Troy. He credits that decision to the coaches that recruited him.
“Because of my relationship with coach (Jordan) Lesley and coach Vic (Koenning), who recruited me out of high school when he was at North Carolina, he said I would always have a home at Troy, and once they offered and I visited, I fell in love with the coaches,” said Clemons about his decision.
While Clemons has the benefit of being more experienced having played in junior college, he does note that there is a marked difference in strength and speed.
“There’s a lot of fast people and a lot of strong people here,” Clemons said. “At (junior college), it’s just freshmen and sophomores, but now at Division I, you’ve got people that have been here for five years.
“They know the game, and the IQ is different.”
One of those players is fellow defensive lineman and senior Seth Calloway, who has moved back to his natural position at defensive end and has acted as a mentor to Clemons.
“Seth has probably helped me the most,” Clemons stated. “Seth took me under his wing when I first got here and helped me with the playbook.”
Competition is growing within the team thanks to the infusion of talent Brown and company have brought in. Koenning will have his hands full with a deep personnel group, but any coach will tell you that that’s a good problem to have.
As to what we can expect from the team as a whole, Clemons summed it up well: “Expect excitement, clutch plays, interacting with the fans and a lot of spirit.”