This is the first of a series of 8 brief previews of Troy's positions as we lead into Sun Belt Media Day, which is July 16 in New Orleans. After that, we'll focus on what's going on with Troy's opponents and that may even overlap into the start of fall practice, which is OK.
Most of these previews will come from my amateur observations and conversations earlier this spring.
The skinny: Troy lost almost everything - every kick, every snap, but the holds and some of the return game. Chandler Worthy (23.5 yards per return) was the leading kick returner last year and he's back. Justin Albert was the primary punt returner and showed some game-breaking ability in his first real year of college action. Albert has a chance to be an all-conference performer as a punt returner, and Troy will have several guys returning kickoffs. Will Scott, a junior college transfer, battled with grayshirt freshman Ryan Kay and redshirt freshman walk-on Jed Solomon for all the kicking duties this spring. Jaquon Robinson was the holder last year and the long snapping battle is between a pair of juniors in Hunter Graham and Kendall Gibson.
Likely starters: It's still going to be a battle through fall camp, but Scott is a guy that could be the Trojans' placekicker and punter. The last time that happened was with Greg Whibbs in 2007, when he had to take over punting duties in the fourth game. Scott earned some junior college All-America honors during his career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Expect Scott to be the primary punter, with the kicking battle going down to the wire. Whoever the kicker is will be stepping in inexperienced at this level.
Young guys to watch: Coach Larry Blakeney called Solomon a gymrat and said some of the best kickers he's ever had are guys who were, pound for pound, among the strongest on the team. Solomon is listed at 5-7, 152. Kay is a bigger guy, listed at 248 pounds, but that number could be lower as Blakeney said Kay has done a great job of dropping some weight since spring practice. Kay has punted and kicked, and Solomon is a guy that could handle kickoffs. There is a place on the field for both of these guys before their time at Troy is done.
Top special teams moment of the Drew Champlin era (since 2005): It wasn't a clutch field goal, though Mikey Taylor's 48-yarder to send it to OT in the GMAC Bowl, or an electrifying Leodis McKelvin or Jerrel Jernigan return, but a successfully executed onside kick by Whibbs and the kickoff team against Middle Tennessee in 2006. Fred Turner dislodged the ball from a MTSU hands team member and Henry Chubb recovered. Down 20-14 with 2:19 left, that's what started Troy's run of five outright or shared Sun Belt championships.