Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday links/notes/video

Today's feature is on left guard Kyle Wilborn, who has battled injury after injury to play at a high level. You can read it HERE.

From The Birmingham News, HERE is a story that ran on Thursday on quarterback Jonathan Perry, who could get his first career start if current starter Bryan Ellis is unable to play because of a concussion.

HERE is the feature on John Robles.

This is also a recruiting weekend. Troy will have some unofficial visitors - just like last week's duo of wide receiver commits in Bobby Walker and Brandon Brooks. Troy could also have some official visitors, but I'm not sure who they are yet. If I find out, I'll pass it along.

It's my belief that Troy will need to sign some instant-impact defensive ends and linebackers for next year's class. Preferably ones that can get here for spring practice, like current commit Brandon Timmons (defensive end) can.

Finally, some video. Here is The Huddle, where Lance Griffin and I talk Troy football.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From the other side: UAB

A big thanks to Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News for his help in this week's Q and A with an opposing team's beat writer.

1. UAB's game looked close on the scoreboard at East Carolina. Is there reason to believe the Blazers are improved from a blowout loss at Tulane, or did ECU's 7 turnovers make it closer than it should have been?

UAB definitely played better against East Carolina than it did Tulane. I'm not sure if I'd use the word improved, I think they just simply showed up to play against ECU and didn't against Tulane. There is no simple way to explain how poorly they played against Tulane. I think the seven turnovers certainly helped against ECU but that's part of the game. I think the bigger question is how do you force seven turnovers and still lose the game?

2. What are some of the biggest reasons for UAB's early struggles?

I think a young defensive line has been a problem for the defense. UAB hasn't stopped the run at all and have pressured the quarterback very little, which has led to big yards. On offense, it's been a lack of execution. They've had chances but simply aren't making plays.

3. Troy fans know how Bryan Ellis torched them last year through the air. Do you think Ellis will play, and if not, what is to be expected out of the backup?

I don't know what to think about Ellis. After seeing the way he left the game last week, it's hard to imagine that he will play. But he has been at practice this week so you never know. Practices are closed so I don't know how much he's been practicing but Neil Callaway hasn't said that Ellis won't play. If he can't, I think Jonathan Perry showed he's is capable with the way he played in the final two drives against ECU. The kid is poised, I'll give him that, and he can beat a defense with his feet and his arm.

4. What are some keys to victory for UAB against Troy?

Tackle well, find a way to pressure Corey Robinson and don't waste offensive opportunities.

5. How do you see the game going?

I'm not into predicting scores or anything like that but I have a feeling it will be a close game. Maybe it will be Troy completing a Hail Mary pass to win it this season.

Thursday links

Looks like I was a bit of a UAB reporter today. I wrote THIS STORY on UAB receiver Jackie Williams, who was the guy who caught the winning pass in the 34-33 game last year.

Read more about that and his journey through life by clicking on the link. A few times a year, I'll write a story on an opposing player and this was one of those instances.

Troy recruited Williams some, to what extent I'm not sure of, but he was a late qualifier and didn't sign with UAB until a couple of months after Signing Day in 2010.

From The Birmingham News, go HERE for a story on how UAB players remember last year's game.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wednesday links/notes

Here, (photo by Max Oden) MTSU has burned Troy for its second touchdown to take a 14-7 lead. On this one, as best as I remember coach Larry Blakeney described it, normal starting cornerback Chris Pickett was lined up at the dime in Troy's 3-down set. That's an inside defensive back position. Pickett apparently made some mistake (coaches admitted they probably asked too much of Pickett in this case) and Sancho McDonald got past him for an easy TD. Not sure if the safety, Brynden Trawick, also got burned, or if he was just trying to play catch-up from another coverage spot.

But today's story is about the defense and how it has to get better. You can read it HERE.

While the defense is giving up some big plays (see MTSU, Clemson), the unit has also made some huge plays. Defense was the reason Troy was up 16-13 at halftime over Clemson. The defense has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games (most teams don't score 2 defensive TDs in a season), it made a huge 4th and short stop on the Troy 9-yard line when MTSU was trying to go up 21-7 after getting an interception, and obviously the INT to seal the win.

My thoughts are that the defense will get better, but it may have 2-3 more games where the opponents top the 500-yard mark offensively. As long as Troy wins, should be no problem, right? Guess we'll find out.

CATCHING UP WITH BRANDON BROOKS: Recent Troy wide receiver commit Brandon Brooks from Jacksonville, Fla., returned my call tonight. He went to the Troy-MTSU game and came away so impressed that he committed after getting back home.

"I like how they throw the ball around and get all the receivers in on the action," Brooks said. "The facilities are nice and they're still building. The coaches are real nice."

Brooks held verbal offers from South Florida, FIU, Elon and Troy. He had a pretty good sophomore year at First Coast High School, but missed last year with an ankle injury. So far, according to a report, he has 9 catches for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Brooks, who is 6-foot and 180 pounds, is on a talented high school team. Current Troy commit Shaq Beverly is a star cornerback. Fellow wide receiver Chris Black has committed to Alabama, linebacker Reggie Northrup has committed to Miami, linebacker Joseph Jackson has committed to West Virginia and receiver Justin Osborne has committed to Elon.

Brooks said distance from home was a key factor in picking Troy.

"This way, I know my family can come see me," Brooks said. "It's not too far, but far enough. Kids want to get away from home, but at the same time, you still want to be able to see your family and get home."

This, I believe, would be highlights from Brooks' sophomore season

NEIL CALLAWAY ON TROY: Quotes sent out from UAB after its weekly press conference

On Troy

“They are a lot like East Carolina. They are a very good offensive football team and they have two running backs that I think are better than East Carolina’s. They do a nice job on defense bringing pressure. Troy is a very good football team. They just had a big win over Middle Tennessee. It’s an in-state rival that is good competition. Hopefully, we can go down there and play well and do some good things.

“I was fortunate enough to work with (Troy head coach) Larry (Blakeney) for about six or seven years at Auburn. He’s done a great job. I have to take my hat off to Larry because he’s a good man and a good football coach. We are looking forward to going down there, and we have to have a good week’s preparation. We are excited about our guys getting better and better every weekend.”

On last week’s game being a step in the right direction

“There is no question. We need to win a football game, but the guys played hard. All we can do is work hard to get better.”

On the quarterback situation with last week’s injury to Bryan Ellis

“We need to wait and see how Bryan comes out. The pecking order is Bryan Ellis, Jonathan Perry and Joe Bento.”

On Jonathan Perry’s performance on Saturday

“I thought Jonathan did a nice job. I thought in the first series he was a little anxious and got careless with the football, but I think when he settled in he did some good things. He made some good throws and made some good decisions.”

On the defense’s progress

“I think our safeties and linebackers have played well. I’m disappointed in our defensive line and cornerbacks. I think we need to be more combative in those areas. We are young in the defensive line. That’s where we have to continue to work and get better.”

DO YOU THINK THE SUN BELT AND WAC SHOULD MERGE? It's an interesting prospect. I regret not covering Troy until after Idaho and New Mexico State had moved out. Would have loved to cover a game at the Kibble Dome.

Our good friend Paul Myerberg, who runs the excellent blog PreSnapRead (follow him on twitter @PreSnapRead) takes a look at it HERE.

Troy-UAB on TV

In case you haven't heard by now, SportSouth has picked up the Troy-UAB game at 6 p.m. Saturday night.

Good for me, because I have Time Warner Cable in Dothan and can actually record it. I don't have CSS.

If you want to read some UAB notes from the Birmingham News, go HERE.

Tuesday links

I'll make this short since there's 2 stories in today's paper instead of just one

HERE - A feature on baby-faced freshman receiver Chandler Worthy, who can catch the ball and run really fast. I get the feeling you'll see a lot more of him as the season goes along.

HERE - Notebook leading with Troy players moving on from last year's loss, and some other notes.

I'll be on the radio with John and Barry this morning at 9:30 a.m. CST on 740 AM in Montgomery. You can listen online HERE.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday notes

Talked to players and coaches. Pretty much all of them said "if the referee ruled it a touchdown, it was a touchdown" in last year's 34-33 loss to UAB where there was a questionable catch at the buzzer down by the goal line.

It probably should have been ruled down at the 1, but Troy's side was more sick by the fact they let UAB come from behind 23-0. That was a game Troy should have run away with and they didn't.

It was clear that UAB WR Jackie Williams caught the ball, while on the ground, short of the end zone. But the questions came over when he had full control. Did he bobble it and not control it until he got across the end zone? That's where it got dicey.

Of course, on 3rd and 10 from UAB's 1 and in the end zone, a bad holding call where UAB guy was pulling on Tony Davis was missed. You can see that on the video.

Some defensive notes:

Head coach Larry Blakeney said the big problem is coming from guys not getting the plays in. All 11 guys on the field get the call at once, but some aren't paying attention.

"(Messing) around and not getting the call," Blakeney said. "Looking at their shoes or looking at the stands or whatever. You’ve got to be locked in and we’ve got some guys who are young enough where they’ve got to learn to be locked in all the time."

He didn't name names

"You sit there and watch a game, you can figure it out."

More from Blakeney:

"We have got to understand that it is vitally important to get the call, get lined up, carry out your initial assignment and then run. Overlap and try to help your buddy out. Everything is spread horizontally. After the snap, they try to spread you out vertically, so there is a lot of grass where guys may catch a ball or may run the ball. Somehow we’ve got to get better at tackling 1-on-1 in the grass and/or getting more people to the party that are following their read from the front four or the linebacker position."

Blakeney and defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell agreed, though, that MTSU's first score, an 85-yard tunnel screen to the pass, caught Troy in a bad call. Troy lined up in a zero-blitz, zero-man coverage (basically 11 on 11, no zone).

"I had a couple of bad calls versus the best call they had and they got us," Rowell said. "They had the little tunnel screen on the (right) receiver side. They motion and got the safety across and we were in zero blitz, zero man. There’s not a worse call you can have. Not one. Unless you just wasn’t covering somebody. They got us."

"There was nobody over there other than Jimmie (Anderson), who had three O-linemen coming at him and he couldn’t filter through to make a play. Bad call by me, great call by them, it worked in their favor.

"They guessed right or they had the right play called and I had the wrong play called. Obviously I don’t know what they’re going to have called. Versus a zero blitz, having a screen called, we’ve been hit by that a few times before. FAU a couple of years ago, it’s being unlucky when you call it a little bit.

"We’ve got to stay within our confines and do what we’re supposed to do. That’s why I say us is a bigger concern than them. We’ve got to get better than us."

The other touchdowns, for the most part, came on busts - probably tied back to players not getting the right calls or overcompensating for initial mistakes.

Troy adds another 3-star WR

Troy has picked up a commitment from Brandon Brooks, a 3-star WR from Jacksonville (First Coast) Fla. Brooks confirmed it to me, but he's about to head to football practice and I'll talk to him later.

HERE is his profile.

Troy has 3 3-star commitments from Jacksonville recruited by Jeff Beckles now.

Pickett honored by Sun Belt

Troy cornerback Chris Pickett was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week

From the league office...

Sophomore cornerback Chris Pickett teamed up with defensive ends Jonathan Massaquoi and John Robles to give the Trojans their second defensive touchdown in as many weeks. After a first quarter that resulted in three punts and an interception offensively, the Trojans trailed MTSU for the first time since 2006 and were on the verge of falling further behind with the Blue Raiders marching deep into Troy territory. On a third down pass play, Massaquoi grabbed MTSU QB Logan Kilgore around the legs while Robles stripped the ball loose. Pickett scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 63 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Pickett finished the game with seven total tackles, including one for loss, and also broke up a pass to go with his fumble return.

Other players who won the awards were UL-Lafayette quarterback Blaine Gautier and Arkansas State kicker Brian David

Receiver commits to Troy

Troy running backs coach Jeff Beckles has been a machine getting some high-rated guys in the Jacksonville area.

Add 3-star wide receiver Bobby Walker to the list.

He committed to Troy over the weekend.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Late Sunday night thoughts

Finally got around to posting some thoughts on the 38-35 win over Middle Tennessee

***MTSU looked sharp early on and well-prepared after 2 weeks off. Troy looked off sorts early but came around late. Get used to it - your favorite team in any sport isn't going to bring its A+ game each time out. Troy didn't have it last night, but it still won. Remember last year in the ULL and Arkansas games? Didn't have it there, but still found a way to make the big plays and win.

***Defense is what it is. I think it's better than last year but the biggest problem is that the defensive tackles don't seem to get off their blocks well (a former player told me that so it's not something I randomly came up with). This group is scrappy, but on a talent level, it's nowhere near to the level of the 2009 group (Kevin Dixon, Eugene Kinlaw) or 2008 (Steve McLendon, Dion Gales - both guys who are in the NFL now). There are other things to point out early - corners can cover but the top 3 guys are skinny guys that have to give 100% on every tackle. Safeties are physical against the run but bite on some fakes.

Come to think of it, this isn't 2005 any more. Offenses don't suck like they used to. Troy dominated folks offensively in 2006 and 2007, but now more teams run the spread. Middle Tennessee was deep and experienced at WR, RB and OL and had a QB that has been in its system for nearly a few years and even started 3 games last year and they somehow finagled a medical redshirt out of him. Really good player, though.

But defensive coordinators all around -- good ones -- are having other teams put up upwards of 500 yards. Go look at LSU's box score against West Virginia. LSU has a defense full of guys who will play in the NFL. West Virginia probably doesn't have the same type of offense. But it's easier to draw up innovative offensive plays than try to stop them. LSU, like Troy, still won.

We'll see what kind of improvements are made - on both sides of the ball - this week.

***Offensively, it was good to see Jaquon Robinson step up and get some balls his way. Maybe you missed this, but he made a huge block to spring Justin Albert for a gain in the red zone on a third down play. I think that was the same drive that led to Robinson catching a TD pass - either that, or the field goal drive.

***Has a guy fallen off the face of the earth faster than Bryan Willis? Guy was, what I thought, a pretty good cornerback as a starter in 2009 when he had to start as a redshirt freshmen. Now, the top 3 corners are Jimmie Anderson, Chris Pickett and now Ethan Davis - who has only been with the team since fall camp. Davis is a tall guy, 6-1 compared to Willis' 5-9, but Willis' downfall has been hard for me to figure out because I always thought he was a good player.

***Each year, when a team is picked to win the league ahead of Troy, I get the feeling that it won't pan out. It didn't in 2008 with FAU and last year with MTSU. I really thought it would with FIU and that the Golden Panthers. I like Cristobal and they can easily get talent in south Florida. But, the dream of 12-0 came to an end with a big upset loss at home to UL-Lafayette.

So what if T.Y. Hilton was hurt and starting QB Wes Carroll got hurt early? The way I look at it, if ULL doesn't suffer a similar type of hangover against FAU next week, it's gonna be pretty wild in Lafayette on Oct. 8

***Troy could be facing UAB without QB Bryan Ellis, the guy who led the comeback that probably shouldn't have been. He suffered a concussion last week at East Carolina.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Postgame links/video

I've got a game story and a notebook, plus 4 videos. Videos posted as they get uploaded. With these videos, turn the sound up on your computer.

Game story CLICK HERE


Video 1 - Quarterback Corey Robinson

Video 2 - Wide receiver Eric Thomas

Video 3 - Cornerback Chris Pickett

Video 4 - Wide receiver Chandler Worthy

Here at Larry Blakeney Field

This is what one corner of the field looks like, as today the field is officially being renamed Larry Blakeney Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. This is on the home side close to the open end zone. There is another Larry Blakeney Field spelled out in front of the student section, but minus the Sun Belt logo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

GAMEDAY: Middle Tenn. at Troy

This has been my favorite Sun Belt game to cover each year. It always seems like there's a lot on the line, something strange has happened or it's on ESPN.

2005 - MTSU coach Andy McCollum has been fired, so he's coaching his final 2 games. Troy has 7 players suspended for curfew violations, including the starting QB. Trojans get 1st and goal at the 1, probably get in on 2nd and 3rd down, but no replay cameras on the goal line at that time. MTSU wins 17-7 as the Carl Meadows era at QB mercifully comes to an end (for what it's worth, I was always pulling for Carl to succeed. Stand-up guy, just not in a good situation).

2006 - Easily the most memorable game I've covered on this beat. MTSU gets a couple of trick plays to score some touchdowns. Both teams kick a couple of field goals. Troy can't get anything going. Omar Haugabook is stopped on 4th and goal at the 1. Play of the game you don't remember is Brannon Condren's open field tackle of a MTSU running back on third down, forcing a punt. Troy scores a quick TD, recovers the onside kick, converts a 4th and 17, then scores again. Troy wins 21-20, then beats FIU for the first of its five straight outright or shared titles.

2007 - When it comes to dominance in the league, I think this team was that much better than everybody else, and it showed in a 45-7 win over MTSU (plus several other league blowouts). But the Trojans had one really bad quarter against FAU and lost, finishing the year at 8-4 and not going to a bowl. When I think of a well-oiled machine in the Tony Franklin System, it was this year's offense.

2008 - Fun game in Murfreesboro as it was the season opener and the starting QB debut of Jamie Hampton, but it was DuJuan Harris who stole the show, running for around 150 and scoring 3 touchdowns in Troy's 31-17 win.

2009 - The return of Tony Franklin to Troy as MTSU's offensive coordinator, which he held for 1 year, isn't a good one. Backup quarterback Dantavious Parker has a couple of big second-half runs, R.J. Roberts blocks a punt and A. Stacy Long makes it on ESPN (well, his work). Troy wins 31-7.

2010 - If there was a year it looked like the streak would end, maybe it was this one. Tuesday night ESPN at Murfreesboro. But MTSU QB Dwight Dasher had been suspended for the first four games for a gambling issue, and it was clear early on that he wasn't sharp, and it was Troy's night. Corey Robinson threw for 3 TDs exactly a year to the date after his mom passed away and Troy won big 42-13.

2011 - What happens here? Most people think Troy wins easily. My final score begs to differ. I think it's a game that Troy is ahead for most, and never really in doubt, but MTSU gets a late score. Let's go with a Troy 31-MTSU 27 final.

Follow my twitter updates during the game @dothaneagletroy

From the other side: MTSU

A big thanks to Middle Tennessee beat writer Adam Sparks for his help

1. Is the fact that Troy has won 5 straight in the MTSU coaches & players heads, or do you really think they just approach it as another game?

It probably wouldn’t make as much of a difference if reporters like you and me didn’t remind and asked them about it. It’s varies for different players. Some fifth-year seniors are 0-4 against Troy already and know plenty about the curse of the 2006 game that has yet to be lifted. But the feelings shouldn’t be as prevalent this year. After all, QB Logan Kilgore has never played Troy. And there are nine new starters on defense, which mostly has second-year players (redshirt freshmen, second-year JuCo transfers, etc.)

2. How is QB Logan Kilgore alike or different from QBs of recent years past such as Dwight Dasher and Joe Craddock?

Nothing like Dwight Dasher. A lot like Joe Craddock, only about four inches taller. Kilgore is not a dual-threat guy like Dasher. He can tuck it and pick up a first down with 10-yard run or so, but he’s not going to break a 70-yarder like Dasher. That being said, Kilgore has a really live arm and he’s usually accurate. He runs the offense well. I think he’ll eventually be an all-conference caliber QB. Maybe this year, maybe not. But he’s got a bright future. He’s only a redshirt sophomore.

3. Who/what are some other offensive strengths and weaknesses?

Running back Benny Cunningham is kind of like last year’s starter, Phillip Tanner. Very smart, complete player. He plays a lot on special teams and returns kicks. Cunningham runs well, catches the ball well. He’s an exceptional pass blocker, and a team leader. Fellow RB D.D. Kyles is more of a big-play threat, but he’s been hampered by a hamstring. May be close to 100 percent for this game, though. Senior WRs Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald are seasoned pass-catchers.

4. Is MTSU as bad of a run defense as the Georgia Tech game showed? How would you describe this Blue Raider defense?

No. They’re not that bad. They are undersized, as usual. Their big DT suffered a season-ending injury in a July workout. The defense is young, inexperienced and athletic. This is probably Rick Stockstill’s fastest defense, but it’s also his least experienced. The DEs and LBs can really run, but they are almost all new starters. I wonder if Troy just tries to overpower MTSU up front. MTSU still blitzes a lot.

5. How do you see the game going?

Similar to past years. I think Troy has the obvious psychological advantage. I don’t think this will be a runaway like the last few meetings, but Troy still wins. I see it something like: Troy 31, MTSU 20.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Friday links: Taylor tries to move on

As I watch a DVR of the season 8 "The Office" first show, figure it's time to update the blog.

Troy kicker Michael Taylor has been pretty solid over his career, but he's missed 3 easy kicks - a 31 yard FG, a 33 yard FG and an extra point - in the first two games. HERE is Friday's story on how he's putting it behind him. Regardless, the only way he'd lose his job is if he got hurt. He's pretty good, but I think the dropoff from him to the backups is pretty steep.

COREY'S BIG RUN: Quarterback Corey Robinson pulled it down on the draw and ran 28 yards against Arkansas before sliding down. The next play was a 32-yard touchdown pass to Justin Albert.

"I was glad to see him do that," offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said. "That was the read, and he pulled it down and did a nice of job of getting what he could and getting down. It will make those guys have to wait around a little bit and not fly to the ball as quick. That's been in every year I've been here, even with Levi. We just rarely ever get it. … People for some reason don't play it where they have to pull it much."

It just reminded me of this flashback QB run 2 years ago

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thursday links: Madden a playmaker

I tried to find a youtube clip of LaDarrius Madden's INT return for a score against Arkansas. If you have access, you can view highlights of the game. He stepped in front of a pass, got some good blocks and snuck in inside the pylon (when I saw it live, I thought he'd get knocked out about the 5). Give Jonathan Massaquoi credit for his pancake block of Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.

HERE is a feature I wrote on Madden for the Thursday Dothan Eagle.

At 5-foot-9, Madden is smaller than most safeties. You take a look at other Troy defensive backs like Brynden Trawick (6-3, 210) and Chris Pickett (6-1), both who have NFL size, and Madden's not the guy who looks like he'd be a big-time playmaker.

"I don't think it matters," Troy defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell said. "He's bigger than (backup safety) Camren Hudson, but he's not as big as Trawick. There are safeties in all sizes and shapes. It depends on a little bit what people look for. Some people want big, tall guys like Trawick. Some people want athletic guys, corner-style. Depending on what they do with them. We try to find the best football player we can find and put them out there.

"Realistically, you're not going to pick out Madden out a three-man crew and say I want him to play safety. He's not bad looking, but you put him and Trawick and Pickett over there, and you're not going to pick Madden. You'll pick Trawick and Pickett. But he's a heck of a football player."

BASKETBALL SCHEDULES RELEASED: Troy released its men's basketball schedule for the upcoming season. The good thing is that it includes several more non-conference home games than in years past for what's supposed to be the final season of Sartain Hall. Hate that I'll miss the Miami of Ohio game because it's on the same day as Troy's road game at Arkansas State. But, there are many more opportunities for fans to see the Trojans.

Better get a good look at them, because if you look at the roster, it's a ton of new faces.

The last 3 new names on the roster that you might not have been aware of are forwards Ray Chambers, Westley Hinton and Sidki Muwallif.

Chambers was actually a guy that scored nearly 20 ppg and had about 10 rpg in JUCO, so I'm thinking he will contribute immediately. Hinton's JUCO stats were slightly better than that of Tim Owens, so he's probably a guy that's going to be there to alter shots on defense.

Muwallif is a pretty lanky guy as well, but he, like spring signee Breon Dixon, give Troy something that it hasn't had since Brandon Hazzard and Bernard Toombs were true freshmen: a true freshman on the roster. This is a pretty significant development in the story of Troy basketball.

As far as the other guys, junior Will Weathers is a high-level point guard. I'm guessing Troy hopes to have a bunch of hidden gems in the recruiting class because there's not many guys from last year's team left.

The women's basketball schedule is HERE.

REMEMBER DAN PARKER? Everybody's favorite backup quarterback in 2008 and 2009 eventually transferred to Texas Southern after the 2010 spring when it was clear he wouldn't ever have a chance for the starting job at Troy. He sat out last year and won the TSU starting QB job this year.

He just had knee surgery, but is expected back this season.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE: Over in Murfreesboro, THIS STORY on how Troy's defensive end combo of John Robles and Jonathan Massaquoi could give MTSU trouble.

VIDEO: Corey Robinson

Here is some video with Troy QB Corey Robinson this week. At the end, we talk about his long run vs. Arkansas. I figured it would be better to just leave the entire conversation in about that.

The Huddle: Troy vs. Middle Tennessee

Here, David Mundee and I talk Troy for the week

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wednesday links and notes

Today's story is on senior center Zach Swindall, who walked on and eventually earned a scholarship. Now, he's finally a starter. He played his high school ball at Charles Henderson, which is right down the street and plays its home games at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

He hasn't started a game on that field since 2006, but he'll get his first home start as a Troy Trojan on Saturday. You can read the story HERE.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE: HERE is a link from our friend Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal about the week kicking off for the Blue Raiders.

IS THE WORD OUT?: Troy senior receiver Stanley Arukwe figures the scouting report is out on him after he caught 4 passes for 84 yards against Arkansas. Arukwe excelled at the X-receiver spot, making some tough catches on some go routes.

But he's probably no longer Troy's secret weapon. The scouting report may be on the former track star.

"I think it might be," Arukwe said Monday. "I think so. I think Middle Tennessee’s really going to key on that."

Arukwe and Eric Thomas rotated at the X and were Corey Robinson's go-to receivers. Thomas caught six balls for 81 yards and he's Troy's leading receiver with 9 catches for 144 yards and 3 TDs. The 3 TDs are tied for first in the league and the 72 yards per game is fourth.

"They put their best corner on that side," Arukwe said. "That’s what Arkansas did. They switched 6 and No. 21 and had him playing on me and Eric Thomas’ side.

"(It was) a real good compliment. When I dropped one of the go balls, Coach (Bobby) Petrino was on the sidelines saying guard him, guard him, but it didn’t work. I ended up dropping the ball, so it didn’t matter."

Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said Arukwe had a couple of unbelievable catches.

"I don’t know if they were unbelievable," Arukwe said. "They were thrown to me and I was doing my job, which was catching the ball. One catch, I don’t know how I caught it, because it was thrown right into the lights. It was at the end of the half, my fourth catch. I just turned and it fell right into my hands."

DROPS: Edenfield said the coaching staff counted 7 balls that should have been caught in the game against Arkansas.

"I'd say we had a few drops," Edenfield said. "The thing about it is they made some great plays. Some of the easier catches they dropped. We've just got to keep working on it. It wasn't one guy in particular. It was a couple of guys, mostly new guys. Guys getting into the game for the first time. we just have to keep working on it. The funny thing about it, (Shayne) Wasden and I were talking about it, those guys rarely do it at all. They got into the game, they have to crunch down and make a play when they get a chance. There were a couple of them that really hurt us, could have helped us. We have to keep working on it."

On the other side, some players, such as Thomas and Arukwe, made some tremendous catches.

"If anybody got to see the game, there were at least seven, if not more, unbelievable catches," Edenfield said. "They kind of wash each other out. You tend to focus on the negative because if you could eliminate those negative plays and make just half of those catches. But there were some really phenomenal catches. Stanley Arukwe made three unbelievable catches. Eric Thomas made two or three unbelievable catches.

"There were a lot of guys making catches with guys on them and getting by guys. We just have to keep building on that. We can do it. We've shown we can do it. Let's just eliminate the bad plays."

GROUNDED: The team that runs the ball better has won this game. For the past 5 years, it's been Troy. For the past 4 years, it's been Troy by a long shot. Read HERE for more.

A GLANCE AT LOGAN KILGORE: Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore is more of a drop-back passer than last year's starter Dwight Dasher. Or is he?

"They're really no different," Troy defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell said. Everybody always wanted to talk about Dasher because of, why?, he had the (big run and pass numbers against) Southern Miss at the bowl game (2009 New Orleans Bowl).

"Everybody thought he was always a running quarterback. He wasn't. They ran the same stuff, they still run the same stuff. They had a couple of things they did with him, but this guy can throw it, he's a good player. The wideouts are good. Their scheme is very similar to ours. We're going to line it down and get it on Saturday."

Through two games at Purdue and at home against Georgia Tech, Kilgore is 43-of-73 for 444 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The 222 yards per game is third in the league. Corey Robinson is first at 315.5 yards per game.

WKU QB OUT FOR THE YEAR: Redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty of Western Kentucky had overtaken Kawaun Jakes as the starting quarterback, starting the Tops' 44-16 loss to Indiana State.

Now, he and top receiver Marcus Vasquez are out for the year with knee injuries.

Tough break. But I'm also reminded that WKU coach Willie Taggart picked his own team to win the Sun Belt.

That made the Sun Belt preseason Coaches' Poll a farce, because WKU was bad last year, and apparently still is bad after getting punked by an FCS school at home.

Having said that, I still do believe Taggart will do some good things at WKU. But I also think that Coaches should rank all the teams in the preseason poll and exclude their own.

Middle Tennessee's Stockstill on Troy

Quotes sent from the MT Sports Information office after coach Rick Stockstill's press conference today. I think the second statement, about whoever runs the ball better, will be the most telling.

Opening statement
We are coming off an open date week, and I think it was probably a good time to have an open date, especially coming off of the Georgia Tech game. We had some guys on the front seven on defense that got nicked, that have been slow to get back into practice last week. And we got a couple of them back Monday.

We’ve had a good week and a half of practice so far. We know the importance of this game, and the magnitude of it. Hopefully, we’ll go down to Troy and play our best football game of the year.

On the discrepancy in the running game totals against Troy in the last five years:

The team that rushes for the most yards has won this game the last five years. The closest it has been was the first game in ’06 when they outrushed us by four or five yards, and that was the closest game as well. The figures are skewed in some of those games when they jumped out to a big lead and ran the ball to eat up the clock. Also, when we got behind, we couldn’t stay with the run as long. That’s been part of it, but the bottom line is we’ve got to do a better job of running the ball and stopping the run. We haven’t done a good enough job of that.

On talking to the team about not having beaten Troy:

They are aware of it; it’s out there every day. We don’t talk about it because losing last year, the year before that or the year before that, it is not going to change those games. All I am worried about is this year’s team. This year’s team hasn’t lost to them. I give Troy credit, they’ve won every game since I’ve been here. They’ve played better than us, they’ve done a better job coaching than us. They’ve won the games. To dwell on it is a waste of time because it has no bearing on this year’s game.

On Coach Blakeney’s comment that he thinks the secondary is the strongest part of the Middle Tennessee defense:

I think our secondary has played well, our linebackers are playing better, and our defensive front is getting better. From an experience stand point, our secondary should be playing the best. They have all played a bunch of games, they’ve all started games for us. I think our secondary has done a good job. They played well against Purdue. They gave up some big plays against Georgia Tech, and you can’t do that against a good team like Troy.

This game will come down to toughness, on both sides of the ball, in all three phases of the game. I hope, after the two teams we have played so far, it will help us going into this game.

They have a real good quarterback. He was the player of the year in the conference last year. He has a very, very strong arm, he can make all the throws, he is accurate. He’s been in their system now for three years, he understands it. He’s got a really, really good offensive line in front of him, and he’s got good skill people around him.

Troy’s defensive front line, and this is going to sound like coach-speak, but I really believe they will be the best front seven we have played so far.

Tuesday link

As you know, the Troy-Middle Tennessee rivalry has been pretty lopsided over the past few years. I wrote about that today and added on a few more notes.

This is a year that most people think Troy will win pretty handily. So maybe that means this is the year one team wins a close game? Guess we'll find out Saturday.

I'll be on the radio on 740 AM in Montgomery with John and Barry at 9:30 a.m. CST. You can listen online HERE.

MTSU has been off for a week, but after the Georgia Tech game, DNJ sports editor Monte Hale wrote THIS about MTSU's start.

DROPS: Forgot to mention this in yesterday's blog, but offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said the Trojans had 7 drops of pass that should have been caught. I think 3 of those were in the end zone. Of course, Troy also had some guys make some incredible catches, as Edenfield mentioned Stanley Arukwe and Eric Thomas as guys who made great catches.

Will update the blog later with some notes. Middle Tennessee has its press conference on Tuesdays.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two JUCO players commit to Troy

Troy has added two junior college commitments to its 2012 signing class.

Northwest Mississippi Community College defensive end Brandon Timmons committed to Troy on Monday morning. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound end is slated to be a December graduate and enroll at Troy in the spring of 2012. Chris Hawkins, an offensive lineman from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, is also a commitment.

"Troy puts a lot of their D-linemen in the NFL," Timmons said. "They have a rich tradition of putting players in the NFL. I've had a strong relationship with Coach (Benjy) Parker since Day 1. They've never led me astray and kept on me. I felt like if they're going to fight for me, then I need to be there."

Timmons described himself as a pass rushing end, and made a trip to Troy over the summer. He played high school ball at Olive Branch (Miss.) High School.

"I was on vacation to Florida and we stopped by to check out the school and check out the facilities," Timmons said. "It's bigger than I thought it was."

Hawkins, who is 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, redshirted last year at Hutchinson, which is where Troy has signed several players. He signed with Troy two years ago out of Florence (Ala.) High School. This year, he's playing right tackle. He'll have three years left to play three at Troy and be a sophomore in 2012.

He's actually been committed to Troy for quite a while.

"The coaching staff kept in contact with me and I still felt like it was a perfect fit," Hawkins said. "I was going to be Troy all the way."

**** (Star count is the highest rated I could find the commitment listed on all of the recruiting sites - rivals, scout, ESPN,

Cody Core (WR, Auburn, Ala.)
Antonio Garcia (OL, Riverdale, Ga.)
***Shaquille Beverly (DB, Jacksonville, Fla.)
JaQuadrian Lewis (DB, Fitzgerald, Ga.)
Chris Hawkins (OL, Hutchinson, Kan. CC)
Brandon Timmons (DE, Northwest Miss. CC)

Monday afternoon notes

First, how 'bout a picture of Trojan Arena? Took this as I was walking past the football fieldhouse to the stadium to work.

Back to football. We'll start with an injury update.

Two players sat out of the Arkansas game - safety Barry Valcin and defensive tackle Emanuel Dudley. Of note, I didn't notice Dudley not playing until yesterday. Linebacker Kanorris Davis left with a hip pointer, but should be fine for Saturday, and Brett Moncrief was limited.

All four should be ready for Saturday. Dudley hurt his ankle vs. Clemson

On Dudley: "He's getting well, too," defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell said. "He got his ankle turned a little bit against Clemson. Obviously, I want to be more ready for Middle Tennessee. If it sacrifices Dudley playing 10 snaps on a gimpy ankle, I'm going to hold him out and get him well and get him ready to play Middle."

On Moncrief: "We wanted to get him some action," offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said. "Late in the week, Thursday, he didn't look quite as good. I don't know if it was because he had been working so much. We let him run around a little bit, watched him and didn't feel he was 100 percent. If he's not 100 percent, it's really not fair to the other guys, if they're 100 percent. I think he's getting better. I thought he would have played a little more, but as the week got on, late last week, you could just tell. I don't know if it was from practicing as much as he had. Maybe this week will be a little better. We didn't rest him on purpose. It was just a fact that we felt like he needed it."

Rowell said that they needed to do a better job of stopping opponents' early surges in game. After switching blitz techniques, the Trojans were able to slow down Arkansas' offense.

"We were trying to blitz them a little early the other night because we knew we were going to get some crazy stuff," Rowell said. "They kept working us on the quick game because we were 3-deep blitzing. We had to get out of that. We finally worked into our 2-deep blitzes, which ended all that. We got the quarterback to hold it and we were able to get to him. You have to adjust on the fly sometimes, but that initial surge we've got to get it stopped. That's obviously momentum. You don't want to be down 7-0 all the time."

Change at right tackle: Jarred Fleming will start at right tackle, moving past Terrence Jones on the depth chart. Coach John Schlarman said that both had played well in rotating against Arkansas and Clemson, but Fleming had played at a very high level and they wanted to see how he'd do with a start.

Moving on: Kicker Michael Taylor said he's ready to move on after missing field goals of 31 and 33 yards against Arkansas and missing an extra point at Clemson. All three misses, he said, were because of faulty technique. (To be honest, if the misses were 41 and 43 yards, I'm probably not writing this note, but he said anything inside of 40 yards should be automatic.)

"I would be lying to you if I said it still is (easy to forget)," Taylor said. "It’s still there, but you’ve got to move on. I’m ready to show that they come and they go. You have your bad days and your good days and unfortunately that was a bad one."

More on that later in the week, plus stories on LaDarrius Madden and Zach Swindall.

Troy's Robinson, Madden honored

Troy's Corey Robinson was named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week. Troy safety LaDarrius Madden shared Defensive Player of the Week honors with FIU's Isame Faciane. The special teams honor went to ULL's Melvin White.

Robinson threw for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns at No. 12 Arkansas. Madden had a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown in the game, had 1.5 TFL and recovered a fumble.

The Sun Belt's full release is HERE.

Spent last night catching up on rest after a long day of travel. Today is the media opportunity with coaches and players, so I should have some stuff up on the blog or twitter this afternoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Postgame links

As you know, Troy lost 38-28 to Arkansas. Trojans did some good things, but people just see the L and see the fact that other Sun Belt teams are playing crappy teams out-of-conference and either barely losing or actually winning.

HERE is my notebook, leading with LaDarrius Madden getting the start at safety and making the big plays.

and HERE is my game story.

On injuries, Barry Valcin didn't play. He played vs. Clemson, but coach Larry Blakeney said he was not fully well. Strange how he went from practicing fully, playing a lot against Clemson to not playing at all, but that's how it went. You know he had the bad leg injury prior to last season.

Linebacker Kanorris Davis got hurt late in the game, but it's just a hip pointer. He should be fine for the Middle Tennessee game.

Wide receiver Brett Moncrief got to be a captain for the game in his home state. He played just 2 snaps. I guess he wasn't as healthy as we all thought or hoped he would be.

I don't know of any other injuries, but maybe I'll find out more on Monday.

But I think these guys are gonna be just fine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

LIVE: Troy at Arkansas

Here's a pregame picture. Wish I had some pregame news to report, but no news is good news. If I see any changes in the lineups, etc., I'll try to update, but I did leave my binoculars at home.

I'll try to get back at the end of the first 3 quarters, but your best bet is following me on twitter @dothaneagletroy

Friday, September 16, 2011

GAMEDAY: Troy at Arkansas

I got in to Northwest Arkansas around 4:30 p.m. and it's been pretty cold and damp. Well, only in the 50s, but when I'm used to 90, that's cold. There's a sight from the NWA airport

You can read my game preview HERE.

I'm interested to see how Troy looks after an off week. Arkansas faces a step up in competition from its first two weeks, but is a talented team that is pretty good in all three phases.

But the Hogs are without leading receiver Jarius Wright and defensive end Jake Bequette. I don't think the loss of Wright will hurt one bit, but not having Bequette will make it easier on Troy's offensive line, especially in pass protection.

One big key to the game will be finishing drives for Troy's offense. They can't settle for short field goals like they did at Clemson.

Look for more during the game from me, especially by following me on twitter @dothaneagletroy.

Prediction: Even though Arkansas is looking ahead to Alabama, the talent is still there for a decent-sized win. Arkansas 44, Troy 21

Friday links/video

Today's story is on how Troy is facing a tough all-around test in Arkansas. You can read it HERE.

Wish I had a little bit more to say, but the big injury news for Arkansas was covered in a blog post below.

From our good friend Robbie Neiswanger (@NWARobbie), HERE is a story on Brett Moncrief and his father Sidney and their thoughts on the game.

I'll be traveling today, flying from Dothan to Atlanta to Northwest Arkansas, via Delta. Crossing fingers that everything makes it on time.

Here is our weekly video, The Huddle, as Jon Johnson and I discuss Troy football.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two top Arkansas players won't play vs. Troy

Arkansas will be without leading receiver Jarius Wright and star defensive end Jake Bequette when the Razorbacks (2-0) host Troy (0-1) Saturday.

Wright (knee) and Bequette (hamstring) were injured last week against New Mexico.

"Jake and Jarius will not play," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino told Hogs media reporters Thursday. "They’ll both be out. They have made significant improvement on a daily basis, so we’re hopeful for maybe getting them back next week."

Chris Smith will start in Bequette's place. The Hogs have several receivers to fill Wright's void.

"I feel really good," Petrino said. "I feel good. Chris Smith played a bunch last week. He’s a guy that has experience from playing last year as a true freshman. He’s very fast, very physical. He’s excited, you know, for his first start and his first attempt at it. I would expect he’ll play well. And then, you know, on the offensive side of the ball we feel like that’s one of the things we have is good depth at wide receiver. Greg Childs has been, missed a couple practices this week. He had a death in the family. Unfortunately his grandmother died. We’re not exactly sure his status of the game right now."

Running back Dennis Johnson will make his first appearance of the season against Troy. He missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, and most of last year after a bowel injury when he fell on the football on a kick return against ULM.

"He’ll get some work," Petrino said. "He’s looked good. He looks fast. I worry a little about his conditioning, where he’ll be. How many plays. How many carries. But he’s looked good this week. It’s good to have him back. It certainly helps in the rotation and helps everybody in practice. I would expect he’ll carry the ball and hopefully he’ll do well."

-thanks to Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for providing quotes

Thursday links/notes

Today's feature story focuses on defensive end John Robles, who took over as a starting defensive end for his senior year.

Robles came to Troy about 195 pounds, and now he's 225ish (despite being listed at 255 on the official roster). I'll say this, though, Robles looks bigger than 225. Despite being lighter than most defensive ends, he played well at Clemson with 8 tackles and 2.5 TFL. He'll get an even bigger challenge at Arkansas.

You can read the story, plus some notes, HERE.

ON THE AIR: I'm supposed to go on with some guys in Arkansas on 92.1 FM today. The show is called The Red Zone and I'll be on at 12:30 p.m. CST. You can listen HERE.

***You can view some Arkansas stories on HERE, but it's a pay site. I believe it's the newspaper Arkansas Razorbacks site for the Democrat-Gazette.

***HERE is a story from the Associated Press on Arkansas' dynamic return game. Basically, you better just hope Michael Taylor boots every kickoff out of the end zone and that Troy's offense is so effective that Will Goggans never has to punt.

***Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson had to exit the New Mexico game with concussion symptoms. All indications are that he plays against Troy, but if not, HERE is a look at who Troy would see taking snaps from center.

***HERE is an update on Arkansas' injured players. Defensive end Jake Bequette and wide receiver Jarius Wright had not practiced as of Tuesday (no word if they practiced Wednesday), and Wilson and running back Dennis Johnson - who hasn't played since the 2009 season - are ready to go vs. Troy.

BASEBALL NOTE: Former Troy 1B/DH and Kansas City Royals prospect Clint Robinson (2004-07) told me he will not play in the Arizona Fall League as planned. He has a sports hernia and the organization wants him to get it fixed. Former Troy pitcher Chase Whitley (2010), now a fast-rising New York Yankees prospect, will play in it. Robinson and the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers are in the PCL finals. Hopefully he'll get called up for a few days after that's over with. Robinson played at Northview High School.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From the other side: Arkansas

A big thanks to Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for taking the time to answer a few questions about the upcoming game.

1. Do you get any sense that Arkansas could be overlooking Troy to next week's game at Alabama?

That would be a natural reaction for a lot of teams, but I believe Bobby Petrino and his coaches know how to keep these players focused on the task at hand, which is playing Troy. I think the players also realize that while they’re not playing an SEC team, Troy is a lot better than Missouri State and New Mexico, a 1-AA team picked last in the Missouri Valley and a team picked last in the Mountain West that is 2-24 since 2009.

2. Troy coach Larry Blakeney said he thought Arkansas has a better team than it did in '09 (a 56-20 Arkansas win over Troy), especially defensively. Do you agree?

I do agree. The defense and special teams are much better. There are a lot of experienced players on defense, including several seniors who took their lumps in 2008 (when the team was 5-7) and have gradually improved and now have a great feel for the scheme and how to win. The depth across the defensive line is the best Arkansas has had since joining the SEC for the 1992 season. I think placekicker Zach Hocker and punter Dylan Breeding are among the better kicking tandems in the country, and Arkansas already has scored three touchdowns on returns (two by Joe Adams on punts and one by Marquel Wade on a kickoff). Quarterback Ryan Mallett is now a rookie with New England, but Tyler Wilson is a very capable quarterback and he’s surrounded by big-time receivers and solid running backs.

3. Are there some areas of weakness on Arkansas' team that Troy could exploit? If so, where?

I don’t know if the offensive line is a weakness, but it’s still a question mark. There are new starters at both tackle spots with fifth-year senior Grant Cook, a career backup before this year, and true freshman Mitch Smothers. The line showed good progress from game 1 to game 2, but still hasn’t been tested. With the loss of All-SEC tailback Knile Davis to a season-ending ankle injury in August, the team also is searching for a go-to back. Junior Dennis Johnson ultimately might be the best option, but he missed the first two games (hamstring) and while he may play this week, he’s got to play his way back into shape. Johnson has missed 13 games going back to last season, when he sustained a bowel injury and got a medical redshirt. Junior Ronnie Wingo still has to show he can be a consistent runner and make the tough yards.

4. For out-of-town visitors, where are some must-eat places?

If you like great food and service, go to the Catfish Hole on Weddington. It has great catfish and hush puppies, as the name implies, but also great steaks and chicken, salads, and other seafood choices. It’s where Bobby Petrino does his weekly radio show and where recruits go to eat on their official visits. Herman’s Rib House on College Ave., is a good place, especially for steaks and ribs. It’s small and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but don’t be fooled by the exterior. Doe’s Eat Place on Dickson Street near the UA campus also has great steaks. If you go there, be sure and order the tamales as an appetizer, too. Hugo’s by the downtown square has great burgers and sandwiches. If you want fried chicken, go to AQ Chicken House on College Ave.

5. How do you see the game going?

I think it will be a competitive game for a while before Arkansas’ depth begins showing up, with the Razorbacks winning by three touchdowns.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wednesday links/notes

***Today's feature looks at Justin Albert, who was once a prime recruit (3 stars in 08) before tearing up his knee. He took an official to Troy back then, but I think Troy pulled its scholarship offer (would have taken him as a walk-on for sure) and he walked on at Auburn. Now he's at Troy and playing.

Albert has also overcome where people tell him he's too small to succeed. He rehabbed hard and stayed patient. You can read the story HERE.

Tuesday, Sept. 13: Moncrief eager to get back on field.
Monday, Sept. 12: Troy's Stanley Arukwe making most of his second chance at football.

I'm honestly not sure if Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette will play or not. Troy quarterback Corey Robinson seemed to think he would be.

"Bequette, I think he's out this week, which is good," Robinson said. "He's a big boy. Their defensive line is solid. Clemson had the No. 1 nose guard in the nation last week apparently. Our O-line did a good job. I got faith in those guys. They're a bunch of hard-nosed kids. I have faith in them."

Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said if Bequette plays, he'd be matched up against the right tackle rotation of Terrence Jones and Jarred Fleming.

"It will be a big test," Edenfield said. "He's really good. He's big, fast and strong."

From the other side
***HERE is a press box roundtable from
***HERE is a feature on stud receiver/returner Joe Adams, who will be a tough guy for Troy to keep track of this Saturday.

I'll add more links in the morning if there are some.

Larry Blakeney on Sun Belt call

Going to thank my main man Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for being able to listen to the teleconference Monday and send me the Blakeney quotes. Here you go.

On the off week: "I think we had a productive week. ... Going back to Clemson, we in spots played well in all three phases. I’d say that we didn’t make enough big plays to counter the big plays they made. We missed, I think, 21 tackles on defense. Certainly we’ve got to do a lot better than that. The kicking game was OK. Not perfect. We didn’t take advantage of field position opportunities. But I think our kids tried hard and played hard, and we just came up a little short. We’re looking forward to playing Arkansas coming out of an open week in which we practiced three times, and then sent our coaches and the road, and worked out the last few days of the week. Came back to work Sunday afternoon to get an extra day of prep for Arkansas, who is a very good football, SEC Western Division competitor. They’re good across the board at every position. They’ve always been great on offense, and that still remains the same, and they look like they’re much, much better, more aggressive and faster defensively.

...Their returners have produced a lot of points for them already, something we’ve certainly got to prepare well for, and try to offset somehow.

...Coach Petrino is probably one of the best offensive minds in college football, and again, it looks like they’re really, really improved, and much better and much faster and more aggressive on defense.

Was it a good time to have the off week, or would you rather have waited? I don’t try to second-guess those type things. Scheduling is probably the most difficult job that we have where we are. Playing these type games, it doesn’t matter if you have an open date or not, you know what you’re going to face when you get there, and you better prepare as well as possible.

The open date gave us time to get well, or closer to 100 percent well. And also gave us some time to reflect and look forward to what we’ve got to try to do improvement-wise to be any kind of a competitor with Arkansas.

Is Brett Moncrief ready to go? We expect Brett to play. He’s been practicing and he probably could have played against Clemson. We didn't want to force the issue. i think we’re going to try to get him ready to go. He’s going to make the trip .... He’s doing well and getting much, much better and looks like the old Brett Moncrief. Hopefully, we’ll get him in the game and he’ll be productive.

On QB Corey Robinson ... Corey was a grayshirt and then he redshirted his second fall in school, and then he won the job his third fall in school last year as a redshirt freshman. I think he learned a lot about the game, and learned a lot about himself and the position that he has to play. He’s certainly made mistakes, as all quarterbacks do. But it looks to me like he’s really done a good job over the year reflecting and trying to be a better player and make better decisions. Of course, the game of football is very fast and furious, and sometimes those quick decisions you have to make aren’t perfect. But this young man has got a good throwing stroke and i think he has a firm grasp on what we’re trying to do, and he is as good as we have in our league ... or at least equal to most of the guys in our league ...

Is Arkansas better than Clemson? Well, it would be easy for me to say that since we’re getting ready to play Arkansas. But I think as far as across the board and players at every position, and knowing exactly what they want to do, and who’s going to be doing it, and with quality players at every position, I’d say yes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tuesday links/notes

Troy wide receiver Brett Moncrief is in line to play and start this weekend at Arkansas. It's a big weekend for the Moncrief family. Most of his mom's side lives in Little Rock, and his dad, Sidney Moncrief, played at Arkansas before going on to the NBA.

Brett went his own path and chose football over basketball. You can read the story in Tuesday's Dothan Eagle, plus some more notes, HERE.

As the week goes on, I'll start linking the daily stories from earlier in the week.
Monday, Sept. 12: Troy's Stanley Arukwe making most of his second chance at football.

Quotable: I asked quarterback Corey Robinson for something on the mindset going up there. Not really wanting to use the word "moral victory" but just wanted to see where his head was. He's always been able to dish out the good stuff.

"The mindset that I take into every game is that I want to win," Robinson said. "I don't ever think that I'm going to lose or my team is going to lose. That never crosses my mind going into a football game, no matter how outmatched we are. That's just a mental thing that you can't have. I don't want anybody on this team to have that, and I don't think they do. I obviously feel that we're just as talented as everybody else. That's why we play. If we didn't feel that way, I don't think we'd go out there."

Injury report: None. Brett Moncrief (foot) will play and likely start. Troy is as fresh as a college football team could be at this point. After all the injuries last year, they deserve that good karma for a while.

Roster report: This is a little change that I thought I saw at Clemson but wasn't sure. Cody Woodiel is now wearing No. 88 and playing some at tight end in 2-TE sets. Woodiel is listed as the third team tight end and right tackle, though I suspect he'd have to change jerseys to play right tackle. Kenny Edenfield has always told me that Woodiel is pretty good, but I wondered where he would fit in and thought he'd redshirt this year. Gavin Ellis' emergence as a guy who can play in the slot has freed up a spot for Woodiel at tight end behind starter Jim Teknipp.

Links from the other side

***QB Wilson gaining experience, dealing with contact
***Three and Out - Wilson 'Fine,' evaluations still ongoing for Bequette & Wright, and other notes.

Some Arkansas twitter follows

***Lots more media cover Arkansas than Troy. Here are some you can look at. This is not a comprehensive list, so apologies for ones I have left out: @TomMurphyADG @NWARobbie @NWAMatt @cbahn @TJCarpenterShow

On the radio

I'll have my normal Tuesday morning segment talking Troy with John & Barry on SportsRadio 740 AM out of Montgomery. Tune in about 9:30 CST. Listen HERE.

Monday notes

Happy Monday, as I'll pass along a few notes from Troy and Arkansas.

-- Senior WR Brett Moncrief will play Saturday and is listed at No. 1 on the depth chart at Z-WR. He could also play some at Y-WR, which is where he played last year.

"We expect him to play," outside receivers coach Shayne Wasden said. "He's moved around well this week in practice and caught the ball well. We fully expect him to be out there Saturday."

-- Funny, and unprovoked, too. Jeremy Rowell said Arkansas' offense has given him a few more gray hairs. Kenny Edenfield, who already has gray hair, pointed out a fever blister than he said watching Arkansas' defense gave him. Larry Blakeney said, "I’ve got whatever the fat old people can have watching their kick and punt returners. They’re pretty good. We’ve got to find a way to keep that ball away from them. The best thing to do is kick it out of the field (like New Mexico did).

-- Remember the 2009 game, the 56-20 Arkansas win? Maybe this year's Arkansas team is better.

"I think they’re a better team," Blakeney said. "They had the big boy (Ryan Mallett) two years ago and he’s a really good player. I think it looks like to me from a team concept they’re better in all three phases. They look like they know exactly what they want to do on defense and they get after you. They’ve got a good blitz, zone blitz package. They play well and they challenge you on every thing.

"Offensively, they’re going to play action pass and run a lot of draws. It’s not anything (special) but they get their guys in good position. They’ll flood the zone, they’ll boot naked, get their guy on the run so they can buy their time and get guys open. They know they can throw it deep. They keep the field stretched and get those seams open."

-- Justin Albert is still Troy's punt returner after dropping the first one at Clemson. Corey Johnson is waiting in the wings and able to do the job, but Albert, who hadn't played in a competitive game since at Prattville High in 2007, looked natural there and at wide receiver after getting early jitters out.

-- Troy will still use Terrence Jones and Jarred Fleming at right tackle. Edenfield said Fleming played more at Clemson because he was playing better "and had the hot hand." Never heard the hot hand reference used at right tackle before.

-- No injuries of major players to note. Rowell noted the team is healthier now than they were before the Clemson game.

-- Reporter friends in Arkansas sent us some injury updates, notably on QB Tyler Wilson, WR Jarius Wright and DE Jake Bequette. Basically, Wright and Bequette are seniors. All 3 are day to day, and Wilson sounded like he would be ready to play. Wilson is a junior.

"Whether they can get the practice time in and get prepared physically and mentally to play in the game, then they’ll play," UA coach Bobby Petrino said of Wright/Bequette. "If they can’t, then they won’t play. But we don’t hold anybody out. Those two guys are seniors. They know the clock is sticking on their opportunities to play in our stadium, so I know they’re going to do everything in their power to get ready to play in the game."

Petrino on Troy (as a step up from the Hogs' first 2 games): "They’re a big step up. They’re a fast, good football team. They’re very well coached on both the offense and defense. They know what they’re doing. When you put the video on the first thing that jumps out is how fast they are. Like i told our players, we’re going to play a football team that knows how to play the game and we have to be at our best. We have to play a lot better than we did in the first two games."

Petrino on Corey Robinson: “He’s a good quarterback. He has a real quick release. He’s very accurate. He looks like he has a good understanding of what they’re doing because his decision-making is quick. It’s sometimes hard to get pressure on him because they get rid of the ball so quick."

Monday links/watch out for Arukwe

Ever heard of Stanley Arukwe? Sure you have, if you're a devoted follower of Troy Track & Field. Arukwe ran track at Troy for two years and had one year of eligibility left. He wanted to play football. Troy coaches, knowing how fast he is and needing a few more WRs, let him walk on. He tried to get on the team a couple of years ago, but it didn't work out.

Well, four weeks of preseason practice and he had earned his way into the playing rotation. He played at Clemson. He's probably more of a special teams guy, with Kanorris Davis-like skills on kickoff coverage. He did catch a pass against Clemson as he got drilled.

Skipping all that, I did write a long story for the Monday paper. You can read it HERE.

Over in Arkansas, the Hogs have won big in 2 games, but had three key players get hurt in the win over New Mexico, including quarterback Tyler Wilson.

The guess is that WR Jarius Wright will play against Troy, but DE Jake Bequette, one of the best ends in the SEC and the country, and Wilson, are questionable. Hogs play Alabama next week, so could try to hold these guys out against Troy.

The opening line for this game has Arkansas as 26.5 point favorites. Agree or disagree?

Today is Monday, so we'll meet with coaches and players and catch up on things. I'll post updates on the blog or twitter later this afternoon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sun Belt stock report, Week 2


1. FIU - Better keep taking these guys seriously as a threat to win the league outright. FIU went to Louisville and won pretty convincingly. Now, Louisville isn't very good, but it's about perception, and about scheduling games you can compete in.

2. Arkansas State - Red Wolves demolished Memphis, quite possibly one of the worst 3 teams in the country. This game was never in doubt. Remember Josh Jarboe? 7 catches, 162 yards, 2 scores. Credit ASU for being able to schedule a mediocre Big 10 school and a bad CUSA school. Also, watch out for this bunch in the Sun Belt race.

3. UL-Lafayette - A win's a win, right? ULL went to Kent State and won 20-12, even though the offense didn't show much. It shows that a bad Sun Belt team is better than a bad MAC team and even a mediocre MAC team.

4. UL-Monroe - 35-7 win over Grambling State. Young guys with odd first names like Kolton, Jyruss, Tavarese and Centarius are poised to build off last year's 5-7 record. Not that this was some big win, but you can't penalize a team for winning.


1. Troy - Can't move a team up or down after a bye week. The tough non-conference schedule continues this week with a trip to Arkansas. (Unfortunate that this team isn't getting to play teams like Illinois or Purdue or Louisville).


1. Western Kentucky - The defense against Kentucky couldn't stop Navy's triple option attack in a 40-14 loss. It's not a tricky offense, but one that's tough to stop and Troy will get its chance to find that out in early November. 'Tops made a QB change, going to freshman Brandon Doughty.

2. Middle Tennessee - Blue Raiders get another big school to come to Murfreesboro, and Georgia Tech leaves with a huge road win, 49-21. But this is the exact same offense that Navy runs.

3. North Texas - At least the Mean Green showed some life in a 48-23 loss to Houston at home, one they weren't going to win a shootout in. UNT still needs to get Lance Dunbar some room to operate.

4. Florida Atlantic - Coaches picked FAU last in the league, and rightfully so. Michigan State's about like Clemson in the Big 10, probably the 4th best team in a good year. Yet, FAU had just 1 first down and 48 total yards. Time for the Owls to scrap its 1985 offense and move to the spread.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Sun Belt news

I'm back from my trip northeast, and I'd like to post pictures of all 3 baseball stadiums I went to with some tarp over the field. Actually got to see 2 of the 3 games, and the third game was played several hours after I got there. By then, I was pretty worn out from 1.5 hours of sleep the day before and decided catching up on sleep was what I needed to do.

Kind of hard to fill the blog during off weeks, but I got a lot of interviews done this past Monday, making the start of next week a little easier.

The Sun Belt announced some big news, reaching a multi-year agreement with ESPN starting in 2012-13.

Here's the key point

The new agreement will give Sun Belt Conference football a minimum of two games on either ESPN or ESPN2 and also a minimum of five games on ESPNU that will be scheduled for Thursday or Friday nights. Additionally, ESPN Regional Television will have the right to produced, distribute and syndicate up to five football games each year. ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, will also be granted additional opportunities to select games to air. This trio of networks will be granted a 12-day rolling window during the season to select additional games to televise. Games available for selection are after the third Saturday of the season.

That means I'd expect, as long as Troy is still good, at least 3 games not on Saturdays.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blakeney on the Sun Belt call

I don't ever get to call in to the Sun Belt Coaches' Teleconference because I'm driving to Troy. I did listen to the audio, so here is what was asked of coach Larry Blakeney and what he had to say.

Opening statement:

"We played Clemson and lost. We played pretty well in spots. Not good enough for 60 minutes to win a game against anybody, but we showed signs of some bright spots and did some things well and if we can get more consistent and continue to grow depth-wise, I think we’ve got a chance to have a decent team. I’m not sure how good, but we had some guys step up a little bit at receiver and make some plays. Our running game was better than we anticipated going in. Our defense with the exception of giving up some big plays played pretty well.

"We did some things that give us hope. Credit to them, they did what they had to do to win. We’re looking forward to an off week with preparation and a little recruiting and trying to prepare for Arkansas, who I think is a much better team than I think we faced last week."

He was then asked about the weekend and Sun Belt teams' records against automatic qualifier teams, etc.

"I think the conference will be improved. It has steadily improved since we’ve been around. I think the strength of the league in total, it doesn’t always measure itself in beating the automatic qualifier conference teams, but I think our competitiveness against them and each other is certainly ever-present, getting better. Those scores show that there’s some competitive improvement along the way against the AQs. That doesn’t mean a thing because being competitive against the AQs doesn’t give you anything because there’s no wins or BCS buster involved in looking good and losing close."

"Looking good and losing close most of the time in our league gets you fired in three years."

Is bye week this early an odd twist to get used to?

"I’m never negative about off time. I think it’s good for your team and good for your coaches. You get a chance to watch somebody else play. Even the Tuesday night games, I love them. You actually have some time you can give your players especially after the Tuesday night game and it gives you a long prep for the Tuesday night game. The off week does not bother me."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday link

We did have some time on Monday to meet with Troy coaches and players, even though it's an off week.

HERE is what I've got in the Tuesday paper on what both coordinators feel went right, went wrong and what there is to work on.

I'd say there's a good sense of optimism with this team. Will it pay off against a talented Arkansas team in 2 weeks? Who knows, but if the Trojans lose again, you'll have a pretty angry bunch of guys ready to unleash their frustration against Middle Tennessee the following week.