THE BEEF: Normally a very good group for the Trojans, the line wasn't as strong last year due to inexperience, but mostly injuries. Jacob Creech had his season end early, Kyle Wilborn played most of the year with a bum shoulder and knee before having to sit the last two games, Jimbo Arnold had a foot injury that caused him to miss the last game and have surgery. Jarred Fleming started games at two different positions. Fleming and Terrence Jones flip-flopped most of the year at right tackle. Troy started two freshmen - Jones and Zach Johnson - for most of the year. The line didn't get much consistency and Troy struggled to run the ball. That should change this year as most of the group is back, though all-conference pick James Brown is in the NFL, but there are more bodies and talking to offensive line coach John Schlarman toward the end of last season, he felt like this could be a good group. It should certainly be able to withstand a couple of injuries better than last season, but hopefully that won't be the case.
PROJECTED STARTERS: If I had to guess, looks like it would be senior Jarred Fleming at left tackle, senior Kyle Wilborn at left guard, senior Andrew Phillips at center, sophomore Zach Johnson at right guard and sophomore Terrence Jones at right tackle. They'll start the best five players and get them in the best five spots. Phillips has dropped some weight and looks to replace Zach Swindall, who was solid last year as a fifth-year senior in his first year as a starter.
THOSE CHALLENGING: There's a more experienced and deeper group ready to jump into that starting five, and I'm thinking the projected starters that I just posted is going to look different at least midway through the season, but I don't know where. Senior Cody Woodiel played sparingly as a tight end last year and coaches like him. He played left guard in spring but hurt his toe. He'll factor in. Coach Kenny Edenfield gave high marks on sophomore Chris Hawkins, a junior college transfer, after spring and he'll challenge for a tackle spot. Junior Jimbo Arnold played a good bit in relief of Wilborn last year in games when he had to come out and he can play the interior line positions. Wilborn could also snap if needed. Redshirt freshman Dalton Bennett appears ready to contribute. True freshman Luke Lawrence, listed at 6-3 and 294, has the size to play right away. A guy I'm intrigued by is Tommy Stephens, a rising sophomore who moved over from the defensive line midway through spring and at least looked the part. Maybe he's found a place where he can be a contributor.
BOTTOM LINE: This group, unless there's a bunch of major injuries, should be better even after losing James Brown, a three-year starter at left tackle, and the Trojans should be able to run the ball much better.
TOP MOMENT OF MY TIME COVERING THE TROJANS (since 2005): The Junior Louissant touchdown run was a year before me, so this clip of 330-pound Wes Potter catching this deflected pass for minus-2 yards in the 2008 game at North Texas stands out above the rest.