Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thursday link - OL is hurting


Today's story looks at how banged up the offensive line (above, Lamar Higgins photo) is going into Saturday's game. You can read it HERE.

One of the big keys to Troy's season not being successful is the injuries, and that's been overshadowed by the turnovers, yards given up, inability to overcome adversity, etc. It's been especially apparent, injury-wise, on the offensive line, and the story explains it.

But, for the most part, coach John Schlarman's unit has done well under the circumstances. Last year, Troy had a strong, veteran OL with a junior, sophomore and three seniors and that had just as much to do with great offensive success as veteran wide receivers did.

If Kyle Wilborn hadn't gotten hurt again, and he's been playing with a bum shoulder and knee for most of the year, and still hasn't given up a sack, then Troy would be having more success offensively. Wilborn didn't play against WKU and is likely out against ASU. The guy has just had the worst injury luck, but you wouldn't know it as he's played through it all. With Troy going into last week's game at just 3-7, it was probably best just to sit it out.

Robinson apologizes for remarks

Troy quarterback Corey Robinson apologized for his remarks about officials after Troy's loss to Western Kentucky.

Robinson had a test Monday, so we didn't get to see him for the media day, but the comments appear on the school's athletics web site.

“For me personally, my emotions ran high last week, and I said some things about the officiating that I shouldn't have said after the game,” Robinson said. “I am a better person than that, and I deeply apologize to the Sun Belt, Commissioner Waters, the officials, Western Kentucky University and certainly Troy University, my teammates and coaches.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trojans top ETSU/Wed. links


Saw a pretty good basketball game tonight in Troy, as the Trojans beat East Tennessee State 79-71. You can read my game story HERE. (above, that's Daronte Clark, Alan Jones and Emil Jones)

ETSU whooped Troy 10 days ago, but Will Weathers didn't play. This time, I thought Don Maestri had an excellent game plan and his players executed it to perfection. Sounds like he's got a good group of guys that believe in each other. That doesn't guarantee wins, but anyone who watches this team will know that they gave it their all.

Justin Wright scored 15 - he's dealing with some back pain. Weathers had 14 and 7 assists. The team's most versatile player may be Emil Jones, who is playing the 3 and 4 positions with Steven Cunningham still injured. Jones hit a few FT-line jumpers, a three and got some rebounds and put-backs. He's only 6-foot-3 and about 190. Wright is very versatile as well, and bigger than Jones, but the back problems limit him.

If Troy's main 3-point shooters - R.J. Scott, Alan Jones and Daronte Clark - had been especially on, then the score would have been worse. Tim Owens isn't a big scoring threat, but did get 9, 5 of which came from the free throw line, and played solid defense.

ETSU is a pretty good team - longer and bigger than Troy - but Troy outcoached and outplayed the Bucs tonight. Saturday night at 7 p.m. - while I'll be writing from Jonesboro - you need to be at Trojan Arena to see Troy play Miami-Ohio.

Miami may be the best team to come to Trojan Arena this year. I got home tonight and turned on ESPN, and it was showing highlights of Miami vs. Cincinnati - a close loss, and Miami barely lost to highly-ranked Xavier.

-----------------------------------------

Football-wise, and yes, there's still some stuff to write about. HERE is a story on redshirt freshmen right tackle Terrence Jones.

Jones has been pretty solid this year. The only sacks I can remember him giving up were two against FIU. He and Zach Johnson look to be four-year starters on the offensive line.

Tuesday links

Covering two sports here. Football, as the Trojans prepare for the last game of the season but get ready for an offseason where they need to put in the hard work and change their attitudes for the better if they want to erase the sting of this season.

Story HERE.

Obviously, it's been a long year, but there is reason for optimism IF the returning players have a good offseason, focus on team, and the new recruits buy in.

Basketball-wise, Trojans back at home Tuesday night against ETSU. I wrote THIS STORY on Will Weathers and R.J. Scott. They knew each other before Troy and both started their careers at Troy. Now, they're two of the top players on the team.

Troy's basketball team is really struggling with injuries. Justin Wright, a forward, is one of the team's better players, but he's got a back injury that he is trying to play through. He is supposed to see a specialist this week. Steven Cunningham has missed the last two games with an injury and still hasn't been cleared to play. That's two of the better rebounders.

But this team has a lot of grit and is looking to avenge a loss to ETSU earlier this year. That game, Troy was without Weathers, who is still battling a sprained ankle. He led Troy's win at Southern Utah basically playing on one foot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

JUCO quarterback commits to Troy

Hinds, Miss. Community College quarterback Deon Anthony recently committed to Troy.

Anthony, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, visited Troy officially for the FAU game. He earned an offer not long after that.

"I like the team and I like the coaching staff," Anthony said. "The offense is similar to what we ran (at Hinds) and it would be a good fit. I feel like (the coaches) want me to come in and change the program, and I feel like I can do that."

Anthony, who will enroll in January for spring practice as a junior, is aware that current starter Corey Robinson will also be a junior in 2012, but said he would get a fair shot to compete for the job.

"They want me to come in and push him, but if I don't win the job, they said they can use me at receiver or in some quarterback packages," Anthony said. "I feel like there will still be a place for me on the offense."

Anthony played high school ball in New Iberia, La., and threw for more than 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns and topped 500 yards rushing with nine touchdowns.

He had recruiting interest from Southern Miss, Memphis and Delta State.

**** (Star count is the highest rated I could find the commitment listed on all of the recruiting sites - rivals, scout, ESPN, 247sports.com)

HIGH SCHOOL
***Brandon Silvers (QB, Gulf Shores, Ala.)
**Brandon Burks (RB, Daleville, Ala.)
**Cody Core (WR, Auburn, Ala.)
***Bobby Walker (WR, Fruit Cove, Fla.)
***Brandon Brooks (WR, Jacksonville, Fla.)
Michael Lindsey (WR, Elba, Ala.)
Antonio Garcia (OL, Riverdale, Ga.)
***Luke Lawrence (OL, Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Mitchell Roland (LB, Auburn, Ala.)
***Shaquille Beverly (DB, Jacksonville, Fla.)
JaQuadrian Lewis (DB, Fitzgerald, Ga.)
JUNIOR COLLEGE
Deon Anthony (QB/ATH, Hinds, Miss. CC(
Chris Hawkins (OL, Hutchinson, Kan. CC)
**Brandon Timmons (DE, Northwest Miss. CC)

Monday afternoon notes

Some stuff from coaches on preparing for this last week and next year as myself and a writer from the Montgomery Advertiser had our weekly sit-downs with coaches and players.

Head coach Larry Blakeney wasn't happy, to put it nicely, that Corey Robinson's quotes about the officiating appeared in the paper. I reminded him that I gave him two chances to retract his comments, but even then, I'm not sure it sunk in too well.

"I’ll say this, he was upset, he’s a competitor and if he said anything negative about the officials, he was wrong," Blakeney said. "Wrong."

Blakeney, on using this game to prepare for offseason momentum:

"I ain’t worried about no offseason right now," Blakeney said. "I’m worried about trying to find a way to win a game or go up there and not get embarrassed or whatever. We’re beat to death. I know those guys are going to try, but they’re not exactly on top of the world. You understand?

"We’re going to try to get ready to take that trip. We’ve won up there before, and there’s no reason we can’t win up there this year, but they have a very, very good football team. Very good. They’re undefeated in our league. They look like they’re at a different speed than all the guys I’ve seen them play on field. They’re tackling better than anybody in our league right now. Against ULL and Middle and FIU and all the teams that I’ve seen them defend, they’ve gotten after it. They look like a different speed. We’ll have to counteract some of that with something, whatever that is."

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell, on addressing needs for next season: "We’ve got to get some more bodies in here. We’ve got to go recruit and get some guys to come in and help us, JUCO and high school alike, you see where we’re at on people, we’re depleted on having guys to play. We thought going into the year that we were going to be better with numbers and we ended up having guys that didn’t make it and you’re back in the same boat where you’re thin on numbers and it’s tough to play a 12-game season and be good game in and game out."

Depth in front four? "Always, we’ve got to address that and address depth on the back end in the secondary because we’re down to the same thing we are up front. We’ve got to get some guys in and we’re out looking for those guys right now so hopefully it’ll happen."

"We’re going to try to sign some linebackers and what-not, but that’s the two main areas, there and the defensive line."

Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield on this week's game and getting ready for 2012: "Right now to be honest, I’m more excited about getting ready to play this week. In the offseason, we’ll take a look at guys, we’ll bring in some other guys, we’ve had good recruiting up to this point. We do have some guys returning, we are losing some guys who are pretty good for us. James Brown will be gone, Zach Swindall at center has been really good for us and probably played beyond what we thought he would do. Those are some really big losses for us.

"I am excited about the young guys coming into their own, some guys have played in 10, 11 games, the more reps they get, the more practice, the better they’ll get."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Troy wins at Southern Utah

Figure the basketball team deserves a post of their own.

Trojans flew out to Southern Utah by way of Las Vegas and pulled off a win over a SU team that was 4-2. That's not an easy trip to make and come out with a win, but good for the Trojans for doing just that.

Troy (2-3) is at home Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against East Tennessee State.

Recap on TroyTrojans.com HERE. Box score HERE.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Links/thoughts from Troy's loss to WKU


Believe it or not, Chris Pickett was eventually called for a face mask on this play (AP photo). Pretty sure both were guilty, but the fact was that Troy should have had Rainey for a loss of about 5-7 on the play instead of what it ended up being.

But that's how it went for the Trojans. WKU lined up and just physically whipped Troy's tail. They didn't do anything tricky. Troy just wasn't physical enough to stop it. That's the story of Troy's season. They just aren't good this year. Most will be back next year. They can get bigger and stronger. But this year, just not very good. No other way to explain 3-8.

Troy players felt like they didn't get any help from the refs. One drive in particular - Troy was down 16, driving, but a hold and 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called. The second, after Troy had went from 2nd and 20 to 3rd and 1, was called on Corey Robinson and looked questionable. Sure, Robinson's a fiery kid, but I doubt he'd be talking trash to the opposing sideline DOWN 16.

You can read Robinson's comments on the officiating in THIS GAME STORY.

Bear in mind that Robinson said this unprovoked, and I gave him 2 chances to take it back. Good thing Roger Goodell's not the commissioner of the Sun Belt, but you have to feel his frustration. The game was chippy all around, but it was Troy who was getting called for the personal fouls. Meanwhile, after one chippy session where Sun Belt refs threw no flags, WKU linebacker Andrew Jackson took his helmet off, during a drive. Nothing - no call. Troy scored on the drive, so eventually no big deal.

Chris Anderson was called for celebrating a touchdown, but he saluted after scoring, so that appeared legit. You can't do that when the rules are stated like they are.

But when you're good and you're at home, you get the calls. Troy was once good, and got most of those calls. Remember that crazy "disconcerting signals" call last year for Troy against UL-Lafayette?

Read THIS NOTEBOOK as well.

Plenty of injuries, of course from WKU pretty much beating up the Trojans physically. Kanorris Davis with a dislocated ankle, and he's out for the year but should be ready for next year. Kyle Wilborn didn't play, and probably won't play next week for what Blakeney called "the worst shoulder in the history of football" (just bad luck with shoulder injuries). His replacement, Jimbo Arnold, hurt his foot. Even the kicker, Michael Taylor, has a hamstring injury and had to leave the game. Jimmie Anderson (ankle) and John Robles (concussion) were forced out as well.

Not sure of their statuses for the finale at Arkansas State.

Speaking of WKU, why isn't Willie Taggart getting mentioned for all those head coaching jobs like Hugh Freeze and Mark Hudspeth? WKU hammered ULL, but because of geographics, ULL is going bowling and WKU may not be. WKU should have beaten Arkansas State, but got stuffed on a late drive with the lead and allowed ASU to drive the field and score.

No one wants to play WKU. They aren't fancy, but they will line up and wear you down. It's like Alabama and LSU does to all those teams in the SEC, though their talent is at a much higher level compared to the rest of their conference. Not quite sure how WKU will do when Bobby Rainey graduates, but most of the team is back next year and they'll be even bigger and stronger.

In my opinion, Willie Taggart is the Sun Belt Coach of the Year. Bobby Rainey is the Player of the Year/Offensive Player of the Year, and I'd have to look at stats, but Andrew Jackson is probably the league's Defensive Player of the Year.

***Eric Thomas and Chandler Worthy are really, really good players. Thomas' 1-handed catch was 10X better than the one he had vs. North Texas and Worthy made a great catch and run for a TD. Chris Anderson looked good as a receiver on his TD catch, and Corey Johnson, though he still hasn't found the end zone, is finding his niche at the Y-WR. Troy needs a few more playmakers at WR and should get that with the anticipated return of Jamel Johnson and Chip Reeves, plus some WR commits that look impressive.

At the Troy-WKU game

For some reason, Bowling Green doesn't like Verizon, or just my phone, so I can't seem to e-mail a pic to myself from my phone and upload it. But it is a beautiful day here as Troy and WKU kick off at 11:30 a.m.

A couple of injury notes. Left guard Kyle Wilborn has been playing through pain all year. Well, that's no more, as he'll sit out these last two games and probably face more offseason surgeries. I'd guess Jimbo Arnold starts in his place, as he's spelled Wilborn over the last few games when he'd have to rest for a series.

Safety Camren Hudson (hamstring) will miss his second straight game. Linebacker Kanorris Davis (ankle) is expected to try and play.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gameday: Troy at WKU

It's not yet Saturday, but the game between Troy (3-7, 2-4) and Western Kentucky (6-5, 6-1) is going to be played in about 14 hours.

You can read my game preview HERE.

I've got every reason to believe that Troy's going to build off last week's win over FAU. However, WKU is at home, has more to play for, and has been making fewer mistakes. With that said, my prediction will be WKU 31, Troy 28.

Follow me on twitter during the game @dothaneagletroy

HOOPS - Don't forget, Troy plays at Southern Utah at 8 p.m. CST

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Friday links


Troy has had a tough time rushing the passer this year. Trojans were spoiled with great DEs in the past like DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Lang, Cameron Sheffield, even Mario Addison. Jonathan Massaquoi (pictured above, AP photo) was great last year, but hasn't gotten near as many sacks this year for whatever reason.

Of the other ends, John Robles showed flashes early, but is only 225 pounds (wonder what kind of linebacker he might have been). Brandon Boudreaux is as strong as an ox, but was never able to really get on the field. Troy wanted to redshirt Xavian Evans and it would have really paid off, as he's a big dude, but couldn't because of depth.

I'd imagine Evans is the front-runner to start at one end opposite Massaquoi. Two freshmen - D.J. Johnson and Deon Lee - are redshirting this year and I wonder how they'll end up. They were good recruits. Lee needed to put on weight and Johnson came in around 270 (but carries it well, looks like he's 240) may end up at tackle. Troy also has a JUCO spring commitment from Brandon Timmons and will probably get another JUCO end.

You can read today's story on Trojans struggling to rush the passer HERE.

The story mentions how Addison made the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent. Just looked now and he was cut by the Bears this week, but picked up by the Colts right after that. Read HERE.

Thanksgiving links

Will make it brief, and hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving. I am headed up I-65 North on Friday for Troy's 11:30 a.m. game Saturday at Western Kentucky.

HERE is a story on sophomore wide receiver Khary Franklin, who caught his first career touchdown pass last week against FAU.

HERE is a story from the Bowling Green Daily News on WKU's 10 seniors.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From the other side: WKU


Here's a look at the Western Kentucky program as it stands now with Bowling Green Daily News beat writer Chad Bishop. Thanks to Chad for his time and insight.

1. How did WKU go from a team that got punked vs. Indiana State to a team that's going to finish, at worst, second in the Sun Belt? Does it have a lot to do with QB Kawaun Jakes getting better?
I get asked this question a lot, and while Kawaun Jakes' play has been pivotal, I think it's simply just a matter of the team as a whole playing better. Coach Willie Taggart, the assistants and the players will tell us about how it's believing and brotherhood and coming together as a football team. That's all good and well, but running the right routes, blocking the right assignments and tackling better are pretty important, too. They did none of those things in the first three ballgames. As for Jakes, he's made a total transformation. He'll never be considered a great quarterback, but he doesn't need to be. In this offense, Jakes has only to "manage the game", not turn the ball over and consistently read the defense – which he's done for eight straight weeks now.

2. Seems like every play goes to RB Bobby Rainey and TE Jack Doyle. How important are those two guys, and who are a few others who have shown the ability to make big plays?
Condisdering Bobby Rainey accounts for about half the team's offense – he's huge. Folks might think, 'Hey, stop that Rainey kid and you got a shot'. Problem is, Taggart likes to mix up the play-calling early so as to give the opposing defense extra things to think about. When the fourth quarter comes around, Rainey dominates worn-down defenses. Since WKU hasn't a serious threat – anywhere – in the wide receiving corps, Doyle (above, Associated Press photo) is by far the team's best weapon through the air. Last week at North Texas, on third-and-four, he would simply run a five-yard curl and get a first down. Time after time after time. The only other serious scoring threats are John Evans and Antonio Andrews in the return game, but both have ankle injuries which have hindered them lately. Fullback Kadeem Jones has had a breakout year as well.

3. What are the strengths and weaknesses defensively?
Andrew Jackson. Remember the name. The sophomore at middle linebacker is a bad man. We're kinda afraid to interview him sometimes. But seriously, he's become an all-out monster for this defense. The defensive line play has been good as well, but the loss of senior captain Jared Clendenin to a broken toe has hurt. The weakness all season has been the team's tackling. At times they are very good wrapping up. Other times it goes out the window. I've called them a "bend-don't-break-defense" because they'll often give up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points.

4. For visitors to Bowling Green, where are some must-eat places?
Shoot, were do I begin as a bit of a foodie? There's the old staples like Double Dogs and Buffalo Wild Wings on Scottsville Road for the sports bar fan. Mariah's downtown is a local landmark. 440 Main, The Bistro and Verdi on the square are more high-priced dining. For those more adventurous, Taj Palace has a great Indian buffet and Thai Express has great, well, Thai.

5. How do you see the game going? Predict a score if you'd like
I said 28-14 Western Kentucky – the same score as last year's game only reversed. This team really has improved every week – save for a midseason letdown against FIU in a 10-9 win – and I don't see them stopping now. They still believe they can become co-champions in the league and know a loss pretty much destroys their bowl hopes. Although I don't expect many people to show up inside "The Houch", I expect the Hilltoppers will – and finish out this ridiculous season.

Wednesday links


Today's story is on how Justin Albert (AP photo/Thomas Graning/Troy Messenger) has become more effective in the punt return game. He's almost scored three touchdowns on long returns and has become more comfortable as a punt returner. He's done a nice job fielding the ball, but is now starting to become a weapon.

Or, as he said the other night, he "got his swag" back.

You can read the story HERE. Albert (15) looks like he's striking a Heisman pose in that picture, but that was the long punt return he had against North Texas that was called back because of a penalty.

Take away that penalty, or Troy's fumble inside its 10-yard line, and Troy probably wins that game.

From the Bowling Green Daily News, HERE is a story on the Hilltoppers focusing on beating Troy, then worrying about bowls. Also, WKU beat writer Chad Bishop's HERE.

Of note, Bobby Rainey needs 82 yards to be the school's all-time leading rusher. Even if Troy is able to pull off the win (Trojans opened as 7-point underdogs), Rainey should be able to get that number easily. He's been able to do a lot against much better defenses. Troy needs to focus on not letting him get the extra yards after contact, and covering the tight end.

From the College Heights Herald, a pretty good read from M. Blake Harrison on Corey Robinson, Paducah High School and the ties to the upcoming game. It goes a bit deeper than the story I wrote in Tuesday's paper.

Also, another story on Robinson and WR Jamarielle Brown - who lived with Robinson in high school and caught most of his touchdown passes - HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Trojans fall to UAB


Trojans drop to 1-3 with a 71-59 loss at UAB. Game recap HERE.

Trojans are battling injuries and depth issues, and also aren't as big as UAB. Trojans shot 12 free throws to UAB's 32, but the game was on the road. UAB's Cameron Moore, who coach Don Maestri said will play in the NBA, had 22 points and 17 rebounds. He's a 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward with a skill set that isn't seen in the Sun Belt.

Box score HERE. R.J. Scott (AP photo) scored 17. Justin Wright, playing with a bad back, scored 14. Will Weathers played with a bad ankle, going 36 minutes, had 5 points, 7 assists but 5 turnovers. Steven Cunningham was injured and did not play.

Troy's non-conference schedule is one that's not necessarily that tough, but not filled with any gimmes. Trojans are at Southern Utah Saturday at 8 p.m. Southern Utah is 3-2, and comes to Troy in December, but I'll go ahead and predict this is a game Troy loses there, but wins at home.

Robinson ready for trip home


Troy quarterback Corey Robinson, shown here against FAU (Lamar Higgins photo), is excited about his return to his home state of Kentucky for Saturday's 11:30 a.m. game.

You can read today's story HERE, focusing on his return, the impact on his home town of Paducah, and on how his top wide receiver from high school, Jamarielle Brown, is a Hilltopper wide receiver.

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

BREAKING NEWS: If you've traveled to WKU for a game, you're fully aware of THIRD DOWN THUNDER!!!!!! It happens every time there's a third down, no matter who has the ball, as the public address announcer yells it. Well, THIRD DOWN THUNDER!!!!!! is no more, thanks to a couple of top-secret inside sources in or around Bowling Green.

I'm sure the crowd will be louder on third downs this year anyway, since WKU is calling for a sellout to try to impress the bowl folks for an at-large spot should the 'Tops knock off Troy.

2012 may be a good time to nix That pass falls IN-COM-PLETE!!!!! at Troy games.

***From over in Bowling Green, the real story has been the development of QB Kawaun Jakes. Coach Willie Taggart has turned him from a guy who ran the spread option well (see first half vs. Troy in 2009) to a guy that's running the pro-style, west coast offense to precision. And he had struggled badly at it, but the reason WKU is where it is now is because of Jakes.

Read that story HERE.

WKU of course has top rusher Bobby Rainey, but Jakes' big plays enable defenses to take all of their focus off Rainey. Rainey and tight end Jack Doyle are the only double-digit catchers, so the thought is to watch those guys. Sounds like WKU is good about playing it safe and then busting a big play every few series.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trojans travel to UAB for hoops


Troy could be shorthanded again when the Trojans (1-2) travel to UAB (0-2) for Tuesday's 7 p.m. basketball game.

Junior point guard Will Weathers turned his ankle last week in practice and didn't make the trip to East Tennessee State Saturday, where the Trojans overcame a slow start, turned it over 17 times and only ended up losing by 10, 81-71. (above photo ETSU athletics)

His status for the UAB game is questionable.

"He hasn't practiced," head coach Don Maestri said Monday after Troy's morning practice. "We'll find out during warmups. If he can warm up, he may give it a shot."
Nic Combs started at point guard against ETSU and had just two turnovers. He scored 10 points with four rebounds and four assists, but Weathers' absence was felt.

"We lose a big part of our ball club," Maestri said. "He's an all-conference player. (ETSU) pressed us the whole time, and we had trouble. It was bad timing on the schedule. Combs had some bright spots, but he's not as fast as Weathers is."

Troy is redshirting four players - forwards Westley Hinton, Breon Dixon, Sidki Muwallif and guard D.J. Jethroe.

Two more players are battling injuries in forward Steven Cunningham (undisclosed injury) and forward Justin Wright (back). Wright is playing through the pain, but it's really limiting his effectiveness, Maestri said, and he's slated to see a back specialist this week. Cunningham is questionable for the game, but Wright should play.

UAB is 0-2, but its length should give the Trojans trouble. Cameron Moore, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound senior, is averaging a double-double (11.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg) and Ovie Soko (6-foot-8, 222 pounds) is scoring 10 ppg and getting 8.5 rpg. Guards Jekore Tyler and Jordan Swing are also top scorers, but the Blazers are struggling at the point guard spot.

With Weathers possibly out, though, the Trojans will struggle to win this game. If he's able to play effectively, they have a chance.

Monday notes

Don't have as much to talk about this week, but here goes:

Injuries: Looks like linebacker Kanorris Davis (ankle) will play. Doubtful for safety Cam Hudson (hamstring) and wide receiver Jaquon Robinson (foot).

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell on the unit: "It’s always better when you win. We did some stuff a little better, I wouldn’t say we were dramatic drastic differences, but we were able to make a couple of plays, get a couple of key stops, get a couple of turnovers which obviously helps. You could see the game as it went, some better things happened to us playing a little better, the confidence part we all talked about. You could kind of see it gradually getting a little better for them every snap."

Rowell on Troy's low sack total: "Not getting people in as many long yardage situations to where they do have to drop back and throw it, getting in better situations to where they can get it out, where you could bring all 11 and it wouldn’t matter because they’re going to throw it and get it out."

"It just depends on how it all sets up some. Quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball better and the grounding rule changed to where they can throw it at the feet of one of their guys behind the line of scrimmage and that makes a different.

On playing better on 1st and 2nd down, would that allow more sacks? "It would allow you an opportunity to get more sacks. I’m not telling you it’s going to get you more, but it puts you in better situations."

Blakeney on the low sack totals: "That’s all about being able to rush the passer. Who’s up there rushing it? I’ll tell you one little technical thing. We’ve played a lot of 2 techniques, which is straight up and down on the guards, and some movement.

"Normally, when you play shades and 3 technique, you’re in a gap and it gives you a little more rush leverage by the inside guys. The outside guys, they have techniques they have to play for run. We’ll give them some go calls and chances where they can rush the passer. Our sack production on defense is down? I would imagine a lot of things on defense are down"

Corey Robinson on his improved performance over the last 2 games, which includes taking more chances downfield: "I wasn’t playing like the old Corey used to play in previous games. I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. I just had to sit down with (coaches). They told me I needed to go back to the gunslinger, the Corey that I was last year and the Corey they recruited. I thought I had to do that, and that’s what I’m going to start doing."

"I was being too cautious at some points, trying to make too much happen by myself rather than letting those guys make plays for me. That’s something I had to learn, a little process that I went through, but I’ve learned it and it’s not going to change."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Postgame links/couple of thoughts

Troy 34, FAU 7

Game story HERE

Notebook HERE

One thing that's standing out on offense. Corey Johnson has moved from H to Y. That came about when Jaquon Robinson got hurt, but Johnson and Justin Albert, who is still at H. Regardless of what the stats say, these are 2 of Troy's better playmakers on offense. Getting them both on the field at the same time has opened up the offense, and you saw that the past two weeks.

Behind them, Khary Franklin - another speedster - is starting to make an impact in the offense. He caught his first career touchdown pass tonight. Of course, Chandler Worthy is in that group as well.

HOOPS: Troy fell on the road at East Tennessee State. Top player Will Weathers did not make the trip due to an ankle injury.

At Troy-FAU


Here's the scene 22 minutes before kickoff from where I'm sitting. Hopefully the crowd on the other side is better.

Safety Camren Hudson got the start last week. Well, he hurt his hamstring earlier this week in practice and is out for this game and possibly the last two. Brynden Trawick is back in the starting lineup.

The two starting corners look to be Jimmie Anderson and Bryan Willis. Willis has missed the last two games because of a hamstring injury.

GAMEDAY: Troy vs. FAU

The season's almost over, and probably can't get here soon enough for Troy and Florida Atlantic.

At FAU, Owls are 0-9, and just playing out the string for retiring coach Howard Schnellenberger. Got to think players are playing hard, but can't really "play for next season" because no one really knows what their role will be.

Not so much the case at Troy, though the Trojans are 2-7. With few senior starters, there is a little more to build on.

Game preview HERE.

I've picked Troy to win a few games this year that they've lost, but the premise here is that Troy's offense and QB are much better than FAU. Now, my prediction will be Troy 31, FAU 17.

However, if Troy turns the ball over 3 times and FAU just once or zero times, FAU will probably win.

Follow me on twitter for the 2:30 p.m. start @dothaneagletroy

Also, Troy hoopsters, at 1-1, though the one win doesn't really count, are back in action with a tough game at East Tennessee State. ETSU, which comes to Troy on Nov. 29, is 1-1 with a win over Appalachian State and a respectable loss to Virginia Tech. This one's going to be a tough one, though not impossible, for the Trojans to go win on the road. Game time is at 3 p.m.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday links

Wrote THIS NOTEBOOK in today's paper, leading with the changes in the secondary last week. Basically, if you read the Monday notes, it's not much new stuff.

It'll be interesting to see how the secondary looks this week. Hudson and Davis are young guys with a bright future, you would think, but Pickett and Trawick are good-sized kids who have done well in spurts, but haven't really made the game-changing plays yet, save for Pickett's fumble recovery for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee. Neither one have an interception yet, but the Trojans haven't intercepted many passes this year.

From the Sun-Sentinel, FAU was embarrassed by Troy last season.

This is Troy's last home game, and the Trojans are tentatively scheduled to have some official visitors. Two are Troy commitments in Hutchinson (Kan.) CC offensive lineman Chris Hawkins, who will be a sophomore for Troy next year, and Jacksonville-First Coast cornerback Shaquille Beverly. The other two visitors come from Hinds (Miss.) Community College quarterback/athlete Deon Anthony and cornerback Adonis Armstrong. Not sure if these guys have offers or not, or when they would graduate from junior college.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday links/video

Wrote THIS STORY on senior long snapper Wes Henry, a good guy from a good family in the small town of Greensboro, Alabama. Henry, who grew up on a farm, is planning on going to veterinary school after he's done at Troy.

From over at FAU, coach Howard Schnellenberger is trying to boost the spirits of the Owls.

Also, FAU assistants were told to look for new jobs, but that came as no surprise with Schnellenberger retiring.

Like Troy, FAU is having a problem with turnovers.

Here is the weekly THE HUDDLE video with myself and Jon Johnson.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Troy gets QB commitment

Brandon Silvers had been going to Troy University football games since he was a little kid. Wednesday, the quarterback from Gulf Shores, Ala., made his college football dream a reality when he committed to play for the Trojans.

Silvers, a 3-star quarterback on ESPN and the 26th ranked quarterback nationally by ESPN, has some family ties. His uncle, Carey Christensen, played quarterback for Troy's 1984 national championship team.

"Every time I go to Troy, I feel like I'm at home," Silvers said. "I've been going there since I was little. (My uncle) always wanted me to go to Troy."

Silvers, who is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, earned his offer in July. He was being recruited by Alabama and Arkansas, and held offers from several Sun Belt schools, such as Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State.

"They made me feel like they wanted me," Silvers said. "They weren't going to offer a quarterback, but then decided to offer me."

Silvers threw for 1,400 yards and six touchdowns as Gulf Shores went 5-5. He ran 116 times for 410 yards and 9 touchdowns.


HIGH SCHOOL
***Brandon Silvers (QB, Gulf Shores, Ala.)
**Brandon Burks (RB, Daleville, Ala.)
**Cody Core (WR, Auburn, Ala.)
***Bobby Walker (WR, Fruit Cove, Fla.)
***Brandon Brooks (WR, Jacksonville, Fla.)
Michael Lindsey (WR, Elba, Ala.)
Antonio Garcia (OL, Riverdale, Ga.)
**Luke Lawrence (OL, Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Mitchell Roland (LB, Auburn, Ala.)
***Shaquille Beverly (DB, Jacksonville, Fla.)
JaQuadrian Lewis (DB, Fitzgerald, Ga.)
JUNIOR COLLEGE
Chris Hawkins (OL, Hutchinson, Kan. CC)
**Brandon Timmons (DE, Northwest Miss. CC)

Troy baseball signees

Troy baseball released its signing class today. If you read the blog or my twitter, you knew about Enterprise LHP Levi Tate, Southern Union RHP Will Starling and Gulf Coast LHP Ben Tidwell.

There are four more - catcher T.J. Binder from Ooltewah, Tenn., Tanner Hicks, a RHP from Central Alabama Community College, Matthew Howard, a RHP/IF from Northwest Florida State College and Trae Santos, a LHP/1B from Northwest Florida State College.

Looks like a good group. You can read the school release HERE.

Wednesday links/Seniors want to finish strong

Wrote THIS STORY on how Troy's seniors are dealing with the losing record and getting ready for Senior Day.

When you read the story, you note the small number of starting seniors, so there is reason to believe the Trojans will be better next year. However, you've got to feel bad for this group because they're the ones who will go out being the first senior class since 2005 to not have a winning record.

But that doesn't mean these are bad guys or bad leaders. Far from it. I remember when all of these guys came in. They're all good guys, too, as I've talked to all of them and written on all of them at some point in their careers, some much more than others (well, except Wes Henry, but that story's coming later this week).

Xavier Lamb remembered an interview I did with him in the summer of 2008. I asked him what he saw himself doing in 5 years, and he said playing football somewhere. Then he thought he should have answered it a little bit better. He's going to go through pro day and give it his all in an attempt to make a pro roster, but he's also realistic in that he's 5-foot-9 and linebackers that size barely get looked at in the pros.

He's already got his criminal justice degree, is working on a human services degree. He wants to help young people and is very involved with the Christian organization Campus Outreach. He could see himself either being a police officer or coach in a few years now.

There are plenty of other guys who have risen up over adversity to put themselves in great position. Some guys have had serious injuries derail their senior seasons - Brett Moncrief, Emanuel Dudley and Barry Valcin (though Valcin was hoping to get a 6th year), and of course Jamie Hampton. All four of these guys would have been major contributors this year had they been healthy - so would two young guys who had to give up the sport because of neck injuries in OL Jay Stansberry and LB Johnny Thompson. Don't forget another OL who has suffered season ending shoulder and knee injuries over the last two years in Jacob Creech - he's a junior, but may not play his senior season because of the injuries.

Heck, even top cornerback Jimmie Anderson missed two games this year and most of a third after having his appendix removed.

When I mentioned guys getting academically ineligible or transferring out as a big reason for the 2-7 record, I should have also mentioned the injuries, especially those listed above. If those guys were completely healthy, again, this year wouldn't be like it is record-wise.

But it is what it is, and these guys are determined to finish out with some wins.

------------------------------

Over in FAU, starting defensive end Jamere Johnson is suspended for two games after making contact with an official. FAU committed a bunch of personal foul penalties in last week's loss to FIU.

Also, outgoing coach Howard Schnellenberger doesn't think a bad season will affect recruiting. Also, FAU faces reeling Troy, with some notes about FAU's quarterback situation.

Schnellenberger is right about recruiting. Most of the time, a recruit can view a team having a bad year and think "gee, these guys stink. I can come in and play right away!" That's not the case, but it helps bring in some talented guys and raises the level of competition. It certainly happened for Troy back in 2006.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuesday links

Because you read the good notes on yesterday's blog (scroll below)...

...Today, a feature on wide receiver Felton Payton. You can read it HERE.

Payton was a grayshirt, then a redshirt, then suffered a torn ACL that limited him last year to spot action. He was called upon to step up this year, and made a big touchdown catch on 3rd down to bring Troy to within 38-33 against North Texas.

I did ask him if he was related to Walter Payton. He said his grandmother said there was some familial connection.

**I'm watching the ESPN 24-hour college hoops marathon. I still think Troy needs to get on that next year in the new arena. Even if it means playing at 5 a.m. against a team like Mercer. Someone in charge needs to get on that.

**I'll be on the radio with John & Barry talking Troy at 9:30 a.m. CST. You can listen HERE, or tune into 740 AM out of Montgomery.

**For your FAU coverage, read Ted Hutton's blog HERE from the Sun-Sentinel, or you can read some other good links like FAU Owl Access and the Palm Beach Post FAU blog.

FAU is geared up for basketball season, and rightfully so, as the Owls are probably the best team in the Sun Belt - and definitely the best and deepest in the back court.

Though hoops-wise, I think the team that could surprise everyone and win the league is Middle Tennessee. Lots of nice pieces on paper and so far, they're off to a good start.

Monday afternoon notes

Sharing some stuff from today's media gathering.

***Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said that Luke Barnes is the No. 2 quarterback now behind Corey Robinson after Jamie Hampton's injury, but they still hope to be able to redshirt Barnes and two other freshmen QBs. However, Barnes is getting the 2nd team reps.

***Starting Y-WR Jaquon Robinson did not play against UNT, except to hold for PATs, because of a foot injury. His foot is still in the boot. Troy moved Corey Johnson to Y-WR and Chris Anderson to a backup H-WR role for the game, and it'll likely stay that way as long as Robinson is out.

***Defensively, coordinator Jeremy Rowell made some switches, putting in Cam Hudson at safety for Brynden Trawick and Ethan Davis at corner for Chris Pickett. Here's what he had to say about it.

"Trying to find the right dynamic to help us, whatever it may be to give us the spark to play better and to finish things and to make more plays and to do the things it takes to win," Rowell said. "Obviously, we're searching for answers."

"I thought Ethan did some good stuff. He cost us on two plays. The big play early (a big pass play that wasn't a TD) and the big play late (last TD pass), that were both his. That's busts from being a young guy, seeing too much and not zeroing in on what you should be zeroed in on. He sees a little bit too much of the field and what's going on around as opposed to staying locked on his guy. If we would have done that, we'd have been in the right situation to help. He should have had some help from other people also. It's not just his fault, but he should have had some help from some other guys, too, to help him a little bit and didn't have that, either."

"I thought Cam did some good stuff. Again, he made some mistakes, too. That's part of it. Like I said, I was trying something different. Trawick still played. Pickett still played. I was just trying to get a different chemistry going."

***Not quite sure if he'll stick with that lineup - depends on health for this game of Jimmie Anderson (ribs) and Bryan Willis (hamstring). They were more optimistic about Willis, but Anderson did appear to be practicing. I think they both end up playing.

***Left guard Kyle Wilborn wasn't practicing (knee) - but I'd be surprised if he didn't play.

***Here's what head coach Larry Blakeney said about the defense. Remember, he gets long-winded, which is good, but here's the full quote:

"I don't know how to describe it," Blakeney said. "We play pretty good and then, bang, give something up and it's another series before we ever get back on our feet. We don't recover quick enough. Part of that, I guess, is some young guys, though we've got a few experienced guys. We're not great athletically on defense. We're not as good as we've been athletically. We're young in the secondary. We've had to play young. Some of them have been back. Jimmie has been back. It's hard to put your finger on it.

"Willis hasn't played in several weeks. Jimmie is questionable this week. Willis may play this week. (Pickett) has played a lot. The kid, 34, Ethan Davis, is a redshirt freshman. He's played a lot. Those two safeties, LaDarrius Madden and Trawick and No. 8, Camren Hudson. Probably the best football player, not the best athlete is LaDarrius Madden. Trawick is probably the best combination of the two, ability and football player. The young guy (Hudson), there ain't no telling what the (heck) he may do back there. He's smart, he's got plenty of sense, just sometimes he makes the wrong check.

"Defense, everybody thinks you just line up and sic 'em. When the ball turns over, I guess that's true. You've got to get to certain places. You have to make checks. When they motion a guy from here to there, that changes. We have to make a check in the secondary to compensate for that two receivers over there to two receivers over here."

"It's not rocket science, but it's obviously not the easiest thing in the world, either, especially for a young player who is trying to stay alive back there."

***I did ask Rowell about the motivation for these guys playing out the season even though it'll be one with a losing record

"They have to keep playing," Rowell said. "It's a game, but it's still what they're here to do. We have to get better because we've got games next year. We've got to get ourselves better to help ourselves for next year. We have to keep working, keep grinding. They have to have some pride, too, to finish the season and play hard and get better."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday night thoughts

Just a few from Troy's 38-33 loss to North Texas, which ends any chance the Trojans have of reaching a bowl game. That means the last 3 weeks are all about playing for pride.

OFFENSE - Thought the unit took a step forward, especially was good to see more chances being taken and that receivers, like Eric Thomas, got a chance to make plays. There still isn't the established playmaker who can turn a slip screen into a 60-yard gain, though, and that won't be corrected this year. Chandler Worthy and Justin Albert are probably the best bets on this year's group. Of course, the bad turnovers still plagued the Trojans. Two more fumbles led to touchdowns, and there was an interception, though it was thrown to try to give the receiver a chance to make a play (even if 2 defenders were around.)

It was interesting to see the Trojans just go to a 2-man running back rotation, with Shawn Southward and D.J. Taylor getting 26 carries combined. Southward was the better one in that game, running 16 times for 84 yards and not losing yards.

With Jamie Hampton out for the year, looks like the backup is Luke Barnes. It may not be the worst thing if he plays a little bit - think about it, if starter Corey Robinson is starting for the next two full years, how much playing time would the backups get during those years anyway? Though, don't look for the freshmen to play unless Robinson gets hurt.

DEFENSE - This group took a big step back, I thought. Trojans were put in a bad spot after 2 offensive fumbles, especially the 2nd one, but that last drive of the game was especially disheartening. Troy wasn't especially aggressive, but UNT faced 3 third downs in that last drive for 2, 3 and 2 yards and were able to complete passes in front of Troy defenders. No reason to play cautious there, as the chance of going for the home run ball was slim.

North Texas, even with Lance Dunbar, is a mediocre offense, but had its best game in 2 years yardage-wise even after Dunbar left the game with a knee injury. The biggest thing looked to be that the offensive line pretty much handled Troy's defensive line for most of the game.

Troy made some changes, starting Cam Hudson over Brynden Trawick at safety and Ethan Davis over Chris Pickett at corner.

OVERALL - Troy is just one step behind the teams it has played this year, where in years past, it has been one, two or three steps ahead. The talent level certainly isn't there - there won't be a player on the all-conference team except for James Brown, possibly Kyle Wilborn and the honorable mention selection. The JUCO recruiting is something fans shouldn't rag on, but the Trojans haven't found as many impact JUCO players over the past year or two as they did in years prior. Much of this has to do with talent, which goes back to recruiting and keeping guys academically eligible.

There isn't a dominating defensive tackle - a guy like Steve McLendon, Dion Gales, Chris Bradwell, Eugene Kinlaw, Kevin Dixon - and that's not letting the defensive ends make as many plays. There are some solid ones, but not guys like that who command more than 1 blocker at all times.

The biggest problem has been the overabundance of guys getting declared academically ineligible or transferring out/getting asked to leave. You look at WR Jamel Johnson, WR Chip Reeves, DB KeJuan Phillips, DE R.J. Roberts, DL J.R. Robertson, LB Mark Wilson, perhaps even WR Anthony Williams - all guys who should still be on this year's team, but aren't for whatever reason. I could list several more, perhaps, and some recruits who were hyped by recruiting services, but haven't played yet or never contributed before leaving (see DE Antonio Harper a few years ago).

Also, factor in a multitude of injuries.

Right now, Troy coaches are searching for leaders - guys who can do whatever it takes to finish the year strong, and transition into next year with the hopes that this season won't repeat itself, though it'll be tough as many Sun Belt teams have recruited well. It's been a heck of a job in itself for these coaches to recruit players to the town of Troy - most kids don't want to go to a place like Troy unless it reminds them of home. JUCO guys are looking for playing time, which is what attracts them to Troy. Troy should get Johnson and Reeves back next year, so that'll help out at receiver.

Tomorrow is the usual media day, so we'll see what coaches have to say about plans going forward.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gameday: Troy vs. North Texas

Since it's a noon kickoff, I'm not going to waste a bunch of time on a blog post previewing the game. My prediction is Troy 31, North Texas 27. Not necessarily with a lot of confidence, but Troy's at home, North Texas isn't great (then again, neither is Troy), but Troy's at home. So, I guess that's my basic point. I picked Troy in our Fearless Forecasters, so may as well predict a score as well.

Wrote this piece on cornerback Jimmie Anderson as a preview on the game. You can read it HERE.

I'll send tweets from the game, you can follow me @dothaneagletroy.

Troy basketball lost to Texas Tech 90-85. That's a good showing for a group of new guys on the road in a hostile environment, but the bad part was 18-of-32 from the free throw line.

Box score HERE

Troy is back at home Sunday at 4 p.m. against LaGrange, a non-Division I school.

From the other side: North Texas

Here's a Q and A with North Texas beat writer Brett Vito

1. How much better is this program going forward with the new coaching staff and stadium?

UNT is a lot better off. Todd Dodge just wasn’t head coaching material – at least not on the college level – at this point in his career and pretty much ran the program into the ground. To say Dan McCarney is an upgrade would be a huge understatement. He has taken over the mess he inherited and has UNT headed in the right direction. One more win and UNT will have its best record since 2004, when Darrell Dickey led the Mean Green to the last of four straight Sun Belt titles. The new stadium has also helped matters a lot. Fouts Field needed to be replaced years ago. Having a new venue has helped a lot in terms of attendance and should help with recruiting down the line. UNT promised a new stadium to players who graduated two years ago. Having it in place now allows UNT to sell something that is in place instead of something they say they are going to put in place.

2. Seems UNT is good at home, not so good on the road. Why is that?

A lot of UNT’s struggles on the road have to do with who they played. I don’t think UNT was going to beat Alabama, Houston, Tulsa, Arkansas State or Florida International on the road, at home or in a parking lot in Waterloo, Iowa. UNT has beaten Indiana (terrible team) and Florida Atlantic (even more horrible team) at home. A win over Louisiana-Monroe was the most legit W of that bunch. A little bit of it probably has to do with a team learning to win anywhere as well.

3. People know about Lance Dunbar and how effective he is at RB, but what's got to happen for the offense to really click like it did against, say, UL-Monroe?

UNT was able to throw the ball effectively against ULM. Derek Thompson had 332 yards and three touchdowns in that game. He has been good at times this season and throws a pretty good deep ball. When he is throwing it well, UNT is a whole lot better. He has missed two games this season. When he’s out, UNT isn’t very good.


4. How does UNT's defense look at this stage of the season?

UNT is better than it has been in the past. The Mean Green is making a few more plays and seems to have more confidence. What I wonder is how this team will play without Zach Orr, its middle linebacker and best defensive player, who was lost for the year late in the Arkansas State game with a broken leg. I would imagine Troy will try to go after the middle of UNT’s defense.


5. How do you see the game going?

My guess is this will be a close game. UNT has been bad on the road and Troy isn’t what it was in previous seasons (didn’t see that coming). UNT is selling this game as a chance to keep its bowl hopes alive. I could see it going either way, but give me UNT 28-27.

Troy hoops opens season/football links

Troy point guard Will Weathers looks at one thing every day: a magazine clipping where the Trojans are picked last in the Sun Belt.

The predictions came as no surprise to Troy coaches and players, since the Trojans have 10 players on scholarship who didn't play last year.

"I look at it every day before I go to practice and before I go to the game," Weathers said after Monday's exhibition win over West Alabama. "I feel like everybody's doubting us."

Troy went 8-21 last year and lost five seniors, plus three more underclassmen who played a little bit last year. Weathers had 10 assists in the exhibition, and the five double-digit scorers were all newcomers.

"These guys are more energetic than last year's team," Weathers said. "They're more eager to learn and play defense."

Defense will be a key for the Trojans, who open the regular season tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Texas Tech (follow media relations student guru Tyler Pigg @iamtylerpigg on twitter for game updates, I'll be covering football at Barbour County). Troy will play 10 or 11 guys and full court press the entire game.

"I got on to R.J. (Scott) after that second or third three," head coach Don Maestri said about Scott's trio of threes in the second half. "I don't know if he was looking for his mama in the stands or what. It's tough for guys to discipline yourself that as soon as you make a shot, you've got to immediately think 'press.'"

For a good look at Texas Tech - and I do think this is a game Troy will be competitive in, if not win, read HERE and HERE. Texas Tech has a brand new coach and double-digit newcomers as well.

Friday's football links: Wrote a notebook today, but led mostly on the development of defensive tackle Kyle Lucas, who walked on, earned his scholarship, made the successful move from defensive end to defensive tackle and played well in his first career start.

You can read the story HERE.

From the Denton Record-Chronicle, HERE is a good profile on freshman right guard Cyril Lemon.

Fall signing period: Troy hoops isn't expected to sign anyone during the week-long signing period. Troy baseball will sign a few, one being LHP Levi Tate from Enterprise High School. You can read more about that HERE.

Troy is expected or already has received paperwork on a few more signees, including former local high school talents Ben Tidwell (LHP-Gulf Coast CC via G.W. Long High School) and Will Starling (RHP-Southern Union CC via Pike Liberal Arts).

As a freshman, Starling threw two complete games, including the championship game, as Southern Union won the Alabama state title last year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall baseball notes - Pitchers

The second part in a series after talking with Troy head baseball coach Bobby Pierce at the conclusion of fall practice. Read the position players recap HERE.

Senior RHP Tyler Ray did bullpen work and threw on Scout Day, but there was no need for him to throw in squad scrimmages. He'll be the Friday night guy.

Sophomore LHP Jimmy Hodgskin was forced into prime time duty last year after Drew Hull went down to Tommy John surgery. Hodgskin is entrenched as the Saturday guy.

"He's ready to do what we need him to do, which is flip his record from 3-7 to 7-3," Pierce said.

Troy is also very good at the back end of games with all-conference relievers LHP Nate Hill (junior) and RHP Tyson Workman (senior) returning.

Where the big issue now lies is this: who will step up as the third weekend starter and some quality midweek, middle-relief guys?

Troy has 2 pitchers out for the year after surgeries in LHPs Shane McCain and Ryan Sorce. RHP Adam Purdy is battling a tender elbow, but Purdy could be a Sunday starter if he is healthy.

Hull is expected to be released by doctors to throw around mid-February. He could be in game shape by early to mid April, which is when he got hurt last year.

Pierce mentioned some other guys who are contending: senior LHP Garrett McHenry started last year strong but faded late as a bullpen guy. He's back throwing better, Pierce said. RHP Thomas Austin, a junior, came on strong at the end and he's pitching well with his sinker.

Three guys who had arm surgery at least 2 years ago in senior LHP A.J. Howard, junior RHP William Teal and junior RHP Chris Fisher are coming along, and Pierce said Fisher got the most done of that trio.

JUCO transfer RHP Joseph Hernandez has had his moments in the bullpen. Other guys who could contend are RHP JUCO transfers Ryan Brady and William Shell.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Troy's James Brown enjoying solid senior season

Wrote THIS STORY on left tackle James Brown, who is really enjoying a fine senior season from an individual standpoint. Brown, who has dropped 45 pounds in 2 years and is now around 6-4, 310, was recently invited to the Senior Bowl.

So look for Brown on an NFL roster as a left or right guard next season, because the NFL loves those tackles who are about 6-foot-8.

If you want some more insight into what Brown has overcome to get to this point, read THIS STORY I wrote on Brown in August.

***After reading some social media of players, looks like the foot surgery for backup QB Jamie Hampton happened sooner rather than later, and he's played his last game as a Trojan. You could say "poor guy just never could catch a break," but Jamie's not that type of guy and he's going to handle it with the class and still show the same leadership abilities to his teammates that he's shown over his 5 years at Troy - now 3 of which have ended with season-ending injuries.

With that being said, better hope starter Corey Robinson stays healthy over the next four games, or a redshirt's going to be burned. Looks like Luke Barnes would be next in line.

***Coordinators were asked if they'd start playing young players for the sake of it, but the answer was no. However, redshirt freshman linebacker Brach Bessant has emerged as a guy who is ready to play, defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell said. Bessant played some in the second half at middle linebacker against Navy, where 4-5 games ago he wasn't ready to play. Starter Xavier Lamb is a senior, so it's a big final few weeks for a guy like Bessant.

Baseball notes - position players

Recently spoke with Troy head baseball coach Bobby Pierce at the conclusion of Troy's fall baseball practice. HERE is a recap of the World Series, and this weekend is big because Friday night is the alumni game and this weekend is also the Troy baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend.

Now, on to the position players that Pierce mentioned, and I'll get to the pitchers later this week.

CATCHER - The top two guys here are fifth-year senior Blake Martz and JUCO transfer junior Brandon Brown. Martz sat out part of the fall with a meniscus injury, but "when he was out there, he was catching and throwing as well as he has in his career," Pierce said.

Brown's defense was good, but his offense really took a step up, Pierce said. He did hit over .400 in scrimmages. Coaches feel pretty confident about this duo and if Brown is the main catcher, Martz is a top candidate to be the DH. Freshman Jake Harrell missed fall after hand surgery.

FIRST BASE - Logan Pierce returns for his junior year and led Troy in most hitting categories this fall. Bobby felt like his kid made some big strides after hitting well in spots last year. Sophomore Kyle Brown really made significant offensive improvements this fall, though he's battling a hip problem that may need surgery. If Brown can play through the pain, he's also a candidate to be the DH if Pierce is the main 1B.

SECOND BASE - Three-way battle here with senior Tyson Workman, who was an outfielder last year and is also a top reliever, sophomore JUCO transfer Jakob Nixon, who Troy signed late in the summer and redshirt sophomore Tyler Vaughn. Nixon had a good fall offensively but still needs to pick it up defensively, Pierce said, and Vaughn is one of the hardest workers on the team. Workman will be in the lineup somewhere in the OF if not at 2B.

SHORTSTOP - Senior Tyler Hannah moves from third base to short to replace Adam Bryant, and he missed some of fall with a leg injury, but he should be fine. JUCO transfer Austin Golden had a good fall, Pierce said, and adds depth.

THIRD BASE - Looks like sophomore JUCO transfer Danny Collins has emerged in this battle ahead of true freshman Peyton Fuller (who also pitches). Both should end up as pretty good players in the program. Collins was the runner-up JUCO Player of the Year in Florida. He redshirted at Alabama in 2009 and won the Wiregrass High School Home Run Derby in 2008. Collins will be counted on to be a middle of the order guy.

OUTFIELD - Easily Troy's deepest position, and there won't be enough at-bats or innings to go around for all of them. Seniors Josh McDorman and Boone Shear are two starters, as McDorman had a big fall from a power standpoint and Shear continued hitting well after closing the year strong. Workman could also play out here.

JUCO transfer Chase Mathis had a steady fall, Pierce said. Sophomore Ali Knowles is the best defender, but has had two surgeries to remove bone spurs and a gall bladder surgery. Pierce is very high on redshirt freshman Clay Holcomb and his potential to be an outstanding player. True freshman Jo-El Bennett, an 11th round MLB Draft pick by the Pirates, has a chance to play a big role. He had a good offensive fall but must be more consistent defensively, Pierce said. Sophomore Hayden Hillyer missed the fall with a hand injury.

Holcomb and Knowles are probably the two best defenders in the group and if they don't start the games, they'll likely be in there at the end as defensive replacements.

Offensively, this should be a pretty good group. The infield defense won't be as good as it was last year, but the combo of Adam Bryant and T.J. Rivera was as good as it gets.

Wednesday links

HERE is today's story mostly rehashing the notes that I put out Monday afternoon, but with my knowledge that not every single one of our 30-something thousand subscribers or people at the diner read my blog.

For the best North Texas news around, read Brett Vito's blog HERE from the Denton Record-Chronicle.

HERE is a UNT update from earlier in the week.

Of note, UNT lost top defensive player Zach Orr, a linebacker, 2 weeks ago against Arkansas State to a broken leg. UNT's defense is 8th in the conference ahead of Troy, but the Mean Green are 2nd in the league in sacks. Also, QB Derek Thompson got hurt in the same game, but is ready to go vs. Troy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hoops thoughts after exhibition game



Some quick thoughts from last night's 84-67 win by Troy over West Alabama. You can see the box score HERE.

Not going to sit here and say it'll be a Sun Belt championship contender, just because a few other Sun Belt teams have dominant post players who are around 6'10 and 250 and can be scoring threats in the paint.

Troy dressed out 12 players last night, and it looks like 11 will be in the rotation.

Point guard Will Weathers was scoreless last night, but dished out 10 assists and was creating havoc on Troy's full-court press. This year he has a backup in Nic Combs and he'll get to rest a little bit more.

Troy has several guards/wing players that can score - the question will be who steps up as the go-to guy? A few stand out just from watching one exhibition game. Sophomore R.J. Scott (UCF transfer) has a sweet shot and drained 3 straight 3s that turned a 3-point game into eventually a 19-point lead. He has been in the system for a year now since he sat out last year as a transfer.

Troy got Daronte Clark after just one year at NW Florida State, and he scored 16 off four 3s. The good thing about Clark and Scott is that they're both sophomores.

Justin Wright scored 15 last night and he's a different player than Scott and Wright as he's 6-5 and 220 and doesn't rely on the 3-point shot nearly as much. He'll drive to the hoop and try to create higher-percentage shots. He also had 6 rebounds.
Alan Jones looks like he'll have a few games where he scores 15-20 because he's also a good 3-point shooter. Emil Jones is more of an all-around guy - didn't shoot as well, but scored 6 with 5 rebounds and 6 steals. Steven Cunningham started some games last year and he's going to get plenty of dunks and rebounds because he's freakish athletic and can jump out of the gym.

Troy has 3 guys who played center. Tim Owens returns after playing last year. He's never going to be an offensive threat, but is long and all he really needs to do is rebound and block shots (4 blocks). Ray Chambers is smaller than Owens (6-6, 220), but can score - 12 pts, 12 reb, and even has a jumper with some range. The third center to play was freshman Breon Dixon. He's athletic, but raw. I suspect he'll play a little bit this year.

The 12th guy to dress out and play a little was walk-on guard Brian Feldman.

Troy will redshirt 3 guys - guard D.J. Jethroe, who is a sophomore JUCO transfer (abundance of guards necessitates this), freshman walk-on forward/center Sidki Muwallif and JUCO transfer forward/center Westley Hinton. Those three did not dress out against UWA.

Troy opens the season Friday at Texas Tech , which is not expected to do well in the Big 12, but has a new coach in Billy Gillispie. The game is at 8:30 p.m.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tuesday quick links

I'll write a longer blog post about basketball, but I really enjoyed watching this team play in an exhibition win over West Alabama. They've got a sense of determination to them and eagerness to get better, plus they're quick and athletic. They don't have that dominant post player to win the league, but I think they'll be better than most think and get better as the year goes along.

You can read a quick game recap HERE.

Of note, assistant coach David Felix missed the game due to illness.

Football-wise, wrote THIS little feature on defensive tackles coach Mo Crain getting healthier and how it's rubbing off on his players. Crain said he rides a bike now, but won't say when or where. Once his players found out, they're on a mission to catch him riding a bike. Good for Mo, and it's great that he has gotten healthier. Of course, he'll probably not be too happy with me getting the secret out that he's a newfound cyclist.

Pretty much all of the good notes I could have passed along are in the blog post from yesterday. Scroll down and you can read it.

I'll be on the radio with John and Barry at 9:30 a.m. CST, like I am every Tuesday. You can listen online HERE

Monday afternoon notes

Wanted to make my main story tomorrow on something a little more positive, but here's what the talk was in today's press conference.

OC Kenny Edenfield on offense's confidence: "I think it’s that more than anything. If you watch the first four games, there was the same type of scenarios but we made plays and we found a way to win games. We made plays against Clemson and Arkansas in crowded areas. I remember Eric Thomas catching a go ball and a touchdown with guys all over him. You gain confidence that way. You can’t just do that in practice, you have to do that in games to really gain that confidence. That’s something we’ve got to continue to work on. Somebody’s got to step up and make plays in the game."

"We had two turnovers in good situations and after that, we had three and out in three straight series. The game got out of hand, and that was really on us, of not letting that happen. They did not do anything different than we hadn't practiced. They made a play."

Edenfield on what defenses they are facing: "Schematically, everybody’s rushing three people and dropping eight until you put two backs in the game. It’s not complicated, it’s no different than what we’ve seen in the past. You’ve got to take advantage of that. You’ve got to run the ball when they drop a lot of guys and throw the ball when they’re crowding the line of scrimmage."

He did say that defenses are making sure to stop Troy's H-WRs, Justin Albert and Corey Johnson.

***Troy's
defense looked pretty solid in the first quarter. Then Navy hit them on a deep pass to set up the first score, and hit them on a deep touchdown pass to make it 14-0. All downhill after that.

"They hit us on a play that we know a couple of (Navy) coaches and talked to them after the game and they said they hadn’t run that play in 4 years," defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell said. "It busted our scheme and what we were doing early in the game. Once they did that because it was a totally different look from how we were playing, it took a couple of things away from us. We couldn’t do a couple of things that caused negative things on the first couple of drives because we couldn’t (then) cover what they were doing."

****Jamie Hampton hurt his foot against Navy, and head coach Larry Blakeney said he'll have to have surgery. However, I don't know when that'll be - if it would be this week or just try to wait, prepare/play on pain and just do it after the season. I'd honestly be surprised if he's able to play again, especially this week, but I hope he can play.

"It’s not a break, but it’s somewhere between his first and second metatarsal," Blakeney said. "When they do that, it’s painful. Every time you take a step, you’re hurting. They’re talking about maybe having to put a screw in there to hold it together, to get it well. I’m hoping the best for him. I wish he could play this week."

Blakeney said he didn't believe freshmen Luke Barnes or Dallas Tidwell were ready yet to play quarterback in a game, and that K.D. Edenfield is more of a change-of-pace guy.

Also asked Blakeney on what's different about the offense now as opposed to the first 3-4 games of the season: "I think maybe the caliber of people we play. I think Middle is obviously not the best team in the league. Who else we beat? UAB is obviously not the best team. I’ve got no answer. We sort of looked at that, too, and thought maybe it’s going to be OK. It might have been how they were playing us. Everybody in this league is kind of been bend-but-don’t-break us. Navy was the same way. Three- or four-man rush, a little bit of blitz but not much. Try to not give us a lot of opportunities. Make us earn it all. We’re not good enough to get where we need to be.

"I’m not sure. I wish I was sure. I’d tell y’all. I’d tell the world. I’d make a lot of money, because I’d probably be in Vegas or somewhere."

Blakeney on morale, he also said they were practicing Tues-Fri to change things up. Players had off Sunday and Monday: "I’d say morale is not great, but young people, like I’ve said before, they’re pretty resilient. We’ve lost, what, four in a row? First time since 2006. I ain’t got no answer. I’m going to keep doing what we’re doing. Work harder, employ more guys, bring them to the party, be a leader, work hard.

"Status quo ain’t obviously good enough. We have to find some people who will make a play for us on offense and defense."

"It’s not give up time. It’s time to reassert. That’s all I know."

"Like I was telling them in there a while ago, I heard this pro coach, I can’t remember if he’s retired or an assistant or what, about the gap between winning and losing emotionally. He said there’s no question that this is a lot worse than this is. You’re so happy. There’s no question that losing makes you sadder than winning makes you glad. He said different words, but that’s what he meant. There’s no question that’s a true statement.

Then, he got into complaints from outside the athletic department: "When you’re on a four-game skid, everybody is searching. Everybody is trying to find each other. Coaches, players, fans, alumni, everybody wants to fire this one or fire that one, or do this, start this quarterback, throw it to so-and-so, or we obviously don’t need to be running the ball. I’ve had that letter. God bless them, but they don’t understand."

I asked him if people were starting to send e-mails or letters: "No. 1, I don’t get many emails. I’ve gotten a couple. No. 2, I read no social media, period. I’m sure I’d be a basket case if I did. I try to make sure my wife doesn’t read any of it and none of our coaches’ wives read any of it. I’m sure they’re reading it, but it would be a mistake because there’s no responsibility for what people say."

***Other injuries: linebacker Kanorris Davis (concussion) and cornerback Bryan Willis (hamstring) are questionable, defensive tackle Emanuel Dudley (ankle) is going to try to play this week.