|Justin Albert against UAB / Kevin Glackmeyer photo|
Today's story is about senior Justin Albert, who recently got work at running back and did well for the Trojans against UAB. Read it in the Wednesday print edition of the Dothan Eagle or on dothaneagle.com HERE.
BY DREW CHAMPLIN | firstname.lastname@example.org
TROY – Troy senior Justin Albert’s eyes lit up when he found out the role he’d be playing last week against UAB.
Albert had been a star running back for most of his life, especially for Class 6A powerhouse Prattville High.
A serious knee injury as a senior slowed the start to his college career, but after transferring to Troy from Auburn, he proved he could play in the Trojans’ offense. Last year, though, there was a logjam at running back and he moved to receiver, where he could start at a slot position.
But with some injuries at the running back position prior to the season, coaches asked him if he would move back, at least for the first few games.
“I love running back,” Albert said. “That’s where I’ve always loved to be but when I got here and I got moved to receiver, I just played my role.
“Coaches came up to me and said I’d go back to running back and be doing both. I was like, ‘Heck yeah, that’s what I wanted to hear.’”
Albert, who is also Troy’s primary punt returner, carried the ball eight times for 50 yards in Troy’s 39-29 season-opening win over UAB. He didn’t catch any passes, but did start the game at the H-receiver position. His first carry was for 7 yards, and on Troy’s first touchdown drives, he ran the ball on three straight plays, gaining 18 yards total.
“It always starts with the front (offensive) line,” Albert said. “Every time I got the ball, I’d see a crease and try to hit it as quick as I can.”
Troy (1-0), which hosts Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0) Saturday at 6 p.m., may have caught UAB off guard by putting Albert in the backfield. He’ll likely stay there this weekend as senior D.J. Taylor, the backup to Shawn Southward, is still out while recovering from heat-related issues.
The third-string back, Khary Franklin, is new to the position, though he had a key 10-yard run inside the UAB red zone on a touchdown drive.
“His play in the game might have been a difference in the game because he gave Shawn (a chance) to stay as fresh as he possibly could,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "Those two guys (Albert and Franklin) giving Shawn a break made all kind of difference out there.”
Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said Albert’s versatility will help the offense thrive early on.
“He’s always had a knack for running the ball,” Edenfield said. “He’s also a good receiver. It puts us a little thin at the receiver spot, but what we’ve tried to do is (have him) rotating at both positions.
“He played about an equal amount of reps at both spots. We’ll continue with that for a while and see how it goes, as long as he can hold up and just go from there.”
Albert was productive last year for the Trojans, catching 40 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown, but thinks he can be even better this year as his teammates are more used to having him on the field.
“I’ve always felt comfortable, but I feel like my teammates are more comfortable with me now more than last year,” Albert said. “How you do in practice and what you do on the field, your teammates gain confidence.
“As an individual, I don’t think everybody was as confident in me as I was. This year I think everybody’s more comfortable with me on the field.”