Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The men's team is HERE.
The women's team is HERE.
The Troy women are the 6 seed from the East and play 3 seed from West North Texas Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Troy men are 11th seed and play 6th seed South Alabama Saturday at 6 p.m.
A complete list of everything you need to know for the Sun Belt Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark., is HERE. I won't be in attendance, though may have something to think about if Troy makes a run to the finals.
Finally got a chance to see Troy play in person. HERE is my game story and HERE is the box score.
***Boone Shear was dropped in the order to sixth, and responded with six RBIs. He had the bases loaded three times when he came up and he delivered. Right behind him in the 7 spot, Josh McDorman got a couple of RBIs as well and Danny Collins went 3-for-5 from the cleanup spot. Troy (4-3) has used six different lineups in seven games.
***Chris Fisher made his first career start and I thought he did well. He didn't get the win, but settled down after some balls were hit hard off him in the first inning, one being a great catch by McDorman in left, and proved that he's fully back from Tommy John surgery when he was in junior college in 2010. Fisher only threw 63 pitches because he has a chance to come back Sunday and get a shot to join the weekend rotation. However, Troy has a Sunday game at Bethune-Cookman and then a Tuesday home game vs. UAB and a Wednesday home game vs. East Carolina. On the surface, BCU on a Sunday is the weaker team, but that's a tough road series so you try to figure out where to start Fisher, and then which pitchers to start over the other two games.
***Troy's other two pitchers were the all-conference pitchers. Nate Hill hadn't pitched since Friday and Pierce said he's a guy that can't go too long without pitching, and he was dominant. I talked to Hill after the game and he's sporting a beard. Maybe in a couple of weeks it'll look like Will Goggans' beard. Can you imagine a 5'8 lefty with a wicked slider like that and eventually a longer beard coming at you? Tyson Workman didn't pitch his best, but Pierce said he has the tendency to do that when he comes in and the game is not on the line. But, he didn't pitch at all at Southern Miss and needed the work.
MOVING TO OTHER SPORTS
***Troy's 2012 football schedule will be announced on March 1 (Thursday) at 9 a.m. These games you do know: Sept 1, at UAB; Sept. 15, vs. Mississippi State; Nov. 3, at Tennessee; Nov. 10, at Navy. I doubt there's any ESPN Tuesday night games but my guess is that there's at least 1 game on ESPNU. I reserve the right to be wrong about an ESPN Tuesday night game.
***Caught a little bit of basketball practice, well just shooting and drills. I'll be interested to see how young big men Breon Dixon and Sidki Muwallif develop over the years. Muwallif cut off his long dreads and he's got a nice short J, but needs to get stronger. Dixon has been working more at the 4 position instead of the 5 - so if he's able to develop a consistent 3-point shot, and it looks decent of now, a 6-8 guy playing that position for Troy will work wonders in the future. Troy has 3 scholarships open in the spring period and ideally would like to add a big man, wing player and point guard. It's also important to note that Muwallif is a walk-on and could get put on scholarship next year or the year after.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The midweek games are ones you think you can experiment in, but ones of vital importance for the mid-majors whose conference strength won't carry them like the SEC would. Samford is a great test for Troy. Head coach Casey Dunn, whom I've known for a long time having covered him when I was an intern for the Birmingham News and he was the head coach at Spain Park High School, has beefed up the roster now that the school has made the jump from the Ohio Valley to the much-tougher Southern Conference.
Samford has hit 14 home runs in 8 games, led by 6 from Brandon Miller. Troy went homerless in a 3-game series at Southern Miss, but the Trojans have some guys who can hit it out as well. I'm thinking we'll see at least a couple of home runs in this one.
Midweek games are where teams need to be hitting well, because both teams may have to go deep into their bullpens for various reasons.
Troy starts junior RHP Chris Fisher (0-0, 11.25), and he may be pitching for a Sunday spot. If that's the case, I can't imagine he would throw more than 70 pitches. Redshirt freshman Clay Holcomb looks like he's staking a claim to be the full-time center fielder. Holcomb has started the last four games there and has been described as an electric player by head coach Bobby Pierce.
I will be at the game. You can follow me on twitter @dothaneagletroy.
For a deeper look at this game, check out Samford's notes HERE and Troy's notes HERE.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Here's former Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi performing drills at the NFL Combine (Associated Press photos). HERE is Massaquoi's NFL.com profile, giving his strengths and weaknesses.
Massaquoi measured at 6-2, 269 and his workout results were as follows: 4.89 in the 40-yard dash, 20 reps in the bench press (225 pounds), 33.5 inches in the vertical jump, 120 inches in the broad jump, 7.38 seconds in the 3-cone drill and 4.53 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
Massaquoi has been listed as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, and THIS STORY mentions Massaquoi and talks about how "endbackers" are tough to predict success.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Troy is now 3-3, but scored just four runs in the three games. I get the feeling Bobby Pierce will some things to think about for the Tuesday home game against Samford.
Full recap HERE and box score HERE.
Some things to look at for why Troy is only 3-3
**Adam Purdy couldn't make it past one inning in his second straight Sunday start. Pierce alluded to another pitcher getting a chance next Sunday.
**Danny Collins has five errors in six games at third. Tyler Hannah had five errors the entire season playing third last year and he's at short. But Collins is Troy's leading hitter at .360, and he can swing it so he needs to be in the lineup, but is it at third or DH?
**Troy only has two regular hitters hitting .300 or better - Collins and Logan Pierce (.300). You have Hannah (.278 and 9 strikeouts), Boone Shear (.200) and Josh McDorman (.188 and 7 strikeouts) as returning players who coaches need to step up at the plate. Remember, though, it's still early. Clay Holcomb, a redshirt freshman, is hitting .308 after a solid weekend but he needs a few more at-bats to qualify for Sun Belt/NCAA leader categories
**Troy's two catchers are hitting a combined 1-for-21. Brandon Brown is 1-for-18 (.056) and Jake Harrell is 0-for-3 with three Ks. He didn't practice in the fall because of a finger injury. The other guy who could catch, Blake Martz, didn't play at all against USM for whatever reason (he hit 1-for-9 last weekend).
The full stats are HERE.
**Ace Tyler Ray is 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA.
**Saturday starter Jimmy Hodgskin is now 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA, but he pitched pretty well on Saturday, holding USM to just four hits in seven innings. I think he's on the road to a pretty good season but he needed some run support.
**Nate Hill and Tyson Workman have been good, but some other guys in middle relief pitched well in their opportunities. Thomas Austin, Cass Abercrombie, Jeremy McGowan and Joe Hernandez pitched well in limited opportunities, and they'll surely have more going forward.
The great thing about baseball? Troy still has roughly 50 games left and even 2 weeks from now, you could be talking about how the hitting has turned around and several guys are on hot streaks. You'll see many guys turn things around as the season goes on and some hot hitters dip into slumps.
Here are a few Associated Press photos of James Brown performing drills at the NFL Combine on Saturday. The defensive linemen go Monday, so I should be able to update Jonathan Massaquoi at that point.
The NFL.com site lists Brown's official time in the 40-yard dash as 5.30. I had seen a better time on NFL.com for Brown but this is what's listed now.
HERE is Brown's NFL.com profile with all the combine results, weights, analysis, etc. Brown did 24 reps on the bench press of 225 pounds, vertical jumped 25.5 inches, broad jump of 102 inches, 7.70 seconds in the 3-cone drill and 4.78 in the 20-yard shuttle. His grade was 82.2.
From Patriots.com, here is what Brown had to say before the combine about playing tackle or guard. That full report is HERE.
James Brown (6-4, 305) of Troy could be another tackle in the second-round range. He has a wealth of experience, having started every game of his college career after red-shirting in 2007. However, at the Senior Bowl, coaches moved him to guard to test his versatility.
"Quite frankly, I'll play anywhere they want me to play," Brown told reporters, and that's exactly what the Patriots coaches like to hear.
Brown may have starting experience, but he's still clearly a raw talent that could benefit from the tutoring of someone like New England o-line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
"I definitely need to work on my technique, flexibility and leverage," conceded Brown. "I'm a better run blocker. I've been told that I have a great punch, and that helps me out in the run game and the passing game, too."
One candidate I do know of, and I'll stress that he's just a candidate for now, is West Georgia assistant head coach/secondary/special teams coordinator James Colzie. You can read his bio HERE.
I mention him now because the name is finally being mentioned on one of the "coach scoop" sites. I don't really like to link to those because they're not always right. The same site mentioned that Kenny Edenfield had interviewed with North Alabama for that vacancy, and that wasn't true. I guess 1 out of 2 isn't bad.
Troy isn't commenting on the situation officially until a coach is hired, and that should come this week. Troy head coach Larry Blakeney did stress through a spokesperson to me that no one had been hired as of late Friday afternoon. I got a "no comment" from West Georgia head coach Daryl Dickey on Friday and I may not have much more until a hire is announced.
But Colzie's name is a popular one. And no, he won't coach defensive tackles if he is hired. But, his name is out there.
|Alan Jones after his dunk vs. WKU/Thomas Graning (AP) photo|
Alan Jones, a sharpshooter at 5-foot-9 (listed at 3 inches taller), who has incredible hops, has found his consistency and helped Troy finish the season with a 10-17 overall record, 5-11 in league play. That's not the ideal record, but Troy's playing much better now than it was 2 months ago, and most of this team returns to open the new Trojan Arena.
Jones hit 7-of-11 shots, 2-of-4 from 3-point range, as Troy beat FAU 83-82 on Saturday. He's scored in double figures in 4 of the past 5 games. In those 4 games, Troy is 3-1 with the 1 loss being an OT loss to the Sun Belt West champion UALR. Jones is averaging 15 points per game in that 5-game stretch to get his scoring average into double digits.
A few games ago, I said Troy needed a good 2-guard to step up, either on his roster or in recruiting, for next year. It's looking like that will be Jones, who can create his own shot and is quick to the rim. He won't get it over the taller guys real close to the basket, but has some nice high arc on his floaters. He had a few games where he missed a lot of shots, but either he's on fire or he's taking better shots. My guess is the latter.
Earlier this year, I was pretty sure Troy wouldn't win the Sun Belt title with so many newcomers and Mo Weathers battling an ankle injury (he's obviously healthy now), but needed to play well at the end to take some momentum into next year, with the new arena, and add a couple of pieces to the puzzle, to be competitive. I can't sit here and say they'll compete for a conference title, as it seems like other teams will still be a little bit more experienced and deeper, but Troy will be better next year and Don Maestri will win his 500th game next year.
Heading into the Sun Belt Tournament, Troy will play South Alabama at some point Saturday, then likely face Denver if the Trojans are able to upset USA. The Jaguars swept the season series, but Troy can play with those guys. It won't be easy.
Looking at Sunday's baseball finale against USM, got to say the Golden Eagles have the momentum because they're at home, but that can be taken away with a big first inning. If Troy can stake whoever the starting pitcher is to a 1 or 2-run early lead, and that pitcher won't have as much pressure to match zeroes. Troy needs to up it offensively (3 runs in 2 games) but the pitching has been outstanding. If the starter is Adam Purdy and he or either Chris Fisher can get it to the fifth, Troy's back end with Nate Hill and Tyson Workman will be rested and ready to close it out.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
The Trojans rallied from 19 down in the second half to win at FAU. Will Weathers scored a season-high 28, including hitting three free throws with 14 seconds left to give Troy an 83-82 lead, which is the score it won by. Alan Jones scored 18 and he's been playing some good basketball lately.
FAU was up 80-67 with five minutes to go, but Troy finished the game on a 16-2 run.
Game recap HERE.
Game story from FAUOwlAccess.com HERE.
From the Sun-Sentinel, a game story HERE and check out Ted Hutton's blog.
With FIU beating South Alabama, I do believe this puts Troy as the No. 11 seed vs. No 6. South Alabama, but I am betting the Sun Belt will announce the pairings/times, etc.., on Sunday after Denver and North Texas play.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Not much offense for Troy, but it wasn't a game where you expected a lot of offense. Troy's going to win a lot of these Friday games with Ray starting and a rested Hill/Tyson Workman at the back end.
Game recap HERE and box score HERE.
Teams play at 2 p.m. today with sophomore LHP Jimmy Hodgskin on the mound.
Troy closes out the regular season today at Florida Atlantic. Should be a tough game, even with FAU really struggling. I do think Troy is catching FAU at a good time because the Trojans are starting to play well and FAU is off, but the Owls can get hot and turn a big deficit into a blowout, as we saw back in January.
Game is at 6 p.m.
1. Middle Tennessee (14-1)
2. UALR (11-4)
3. Denver (10-5)
4. UL-Lafayette (10-5)
5. North Texas (9-6)
6. South Alabama (8-7)
7. Florida Atlantic (7-8)
8. Western Kentucky (6-9)
9. Arkansas State (6-9)
10. Florida International (4-11)
11. Troy (4-11)
12. UL-Monroe is ineligible because of APR sanctions
*Denver holds a tiebreaker over ULL because of its win over MTSU
*Western Kentucky holds a tiebreaker over Arkansas State because of head-to-head win
*FIU holds tiebreaker over Troy because of its victory over South Alabama
Troy at Florida Atlantic, 6 p.m.
Arkansas State at UALR, 7 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky, 5 p.m.
South Alabama at Florida International, 6:30 p.m.
UL-Monroe at UL-Lafayette, 7:15 p.m.
North Texas at Denver, 2 p.m.
**So, as you can tell, several spots in the standings will be impacted by this weekend's games, but here is what you have so far.
First round - Saturday, March 3
(6) South Alabama vs. (11) Troy
(7) FAU vs. (10) FIU
(8) WKU vs. (9) Arkansas State
Second round - Sunday, March 4
(1) Middle Tennessee vs. WKU/ASU winner
(4) UL-Lafayette vs. (5) North Texas
(2) UALR vs. FAU/FIU winner
(3) Denver vs. South Alabama/Troy winner
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Troy played well against UALR, but UALR's talented, bigger, better shooting and more experienced, and came out on top. Trojans went down to FIU, who has some talent but isn't a good 'team' (remember how Isiah stunk it up in the NBA? Well, what's he done at FIU?).
Regardless, Troy 75, FIU 70. Both teams are now 4-11 in Sun Belt play. Recap HERE.
Emil Jones scored 17 and Alan Jones scored 15. Box score HERE.
Troy is at FAU Saturday to close out the regular season.
BASEBALL: Troy opens up its series at Southern Miss Friday night. For more information, including game audio, live stats, notes, HERE.
|Boone Shear celebrates after hitting a home run vs. CMU/Troy University photo|
**Head coach Bobby Pierce said Wednesday morning that he hadn't decided on a Sunday starter in the upcoming series against Southern Miss. It'll either be RHP Adam Purdy (0-1, 18.00) or RHP Chris Fisher (0-0, 11.25). Both pitched against CMU on Sunday, with Purdy starting, lasting just one inning and taking the loss. Fisher threw four innings in relief and gave up a few hits and runs as well. Though, as of this posting, Pierce may have already made the decision. He said the two were supposed to get some bullpen work in on Wednesday.
Purdy gave up five hits and six runs, but just two were earned. "He just wasn't able to get going," Pierce said. "He didn't appear to be ready to turn it loose. He had to gear it down (in velocity) to get it in the strike zone."
"But Central Michigan was a very good offensive team. We thought they were a better club than I had anticipated. But we'll still need Adam and he'll still get a chance."
**What went right? Pierce praised starting pitchers Tyler Ray and Jimmy Hodgskin, though Hodgskin had some trouble late in his outing, and relievers Nate Hill and Tyson Workman, who were very good.
**What to work on? Being more consistent offensively. "We had a few big innings, but we've got to put more pressure on the opponent per inning," Pierce said. "We had too many 1-2-3 innings and we need to cut down on strikeouts.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Brown has a genetic issue with both hips that has hindered his performance. The first plan was to try to play through it this year, but the pain has gotten to be too much.
"He's not able to practice or do the things he needs to do to improve," Pierce said. "He'll get his hips fixed and have time to rehab and start back playing in the summer."
Brown has to have both hips fixed, but Pierce said they could possibly do both at the same time. The rehab would be six weeks, but there would still have to be time to build the hips back up.
Brown was 0-for-1 with a strikeout in Troy's season-opening 3-game series over Central Michigan. The Beauregard, Ala., native hit .233 (7-for-30) with 5 RBIs in limited action last year.
Brown is the backup to starter Logan Pierce at first base. Bobby Pierce said that if Logan needs a break, either Blake Martz or Boone Shear will take over at the position.
Brown heads up there today, and has four busy days. He'll do all of his skills tests on Saturday.
Massaquoi is set to arrive Friday, and his skills tests are Monday.
You can read the entire schedule HERE.
If you have the NFL Network, I believe you can watch the skills tests (40-yard dash, etc.)
The player list at the combine is HERE.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
2012 Troy Spring Practice Schedule
Practice 1 – Sunday, March 18
Practice 2 – Tuesday, March 20 (day of Troy vs. Alabama baseball game)
Practice 3 – Thursday, March 22
Practice 4 – Saturday, March 24
Practice 5 – Tuesday, March 27
Practice 6 – Thursday, March 29
T-Day – Saturday, March 31 (2 p.m.) - day of Troy vs. Arkansas State baseball
Practice 8 – Tuesday, April 3
Practice 9 – Thursday, April 5
Scrimmage 2 – Friday, April 6
Practice 11 – Tuesday, April 10
Practice 12 – Thursday, April 12
Scrimmage 3 – Saturday, April 14 - day of Troy vs. Middle Tennessee baseball
All practices are open to the public
Monday, February 20, 2012
So, 2-1 is good. Certainly things to work on, as the pitching after Game 1 had issues and some spots in the lineup started off slow, but that's why they play 56 regular-season games (or maybe it's 55 for Troy if they don't reschedule the lost fourth game with CMU).
No midweek game for Troy, which goes to Southern Miss next weekend for a 3-game set. The Golden Eagles took 2 of 3 against Nicholls State over the weekend.
11 a.m. add- Troy is ranked in this mid-major top 10 poll. I have no idea how Purdue is considered a mid-major.
OF Boone Shear (.308, 2 HR, 7 RBI)
3B Danny Collins (.462, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
1B Logan Pierce (.417, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
Tyler Ray (RHP, 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 8 K)
Nate Hill (LHP, 0-0, 2 IP, 5 K)
Tyson Workman (RHP, 2.2 IP, 5 K, 2 SV)
Troy pitchers struck out 37 CMU hitters. Trojans did make 6 errors, with 3 of them coming from Collins at third. From where Troy's infield defense last year was outstanding, this group has a little ways to go to get to that point, but again, that's why it's a marathon and not a sprint.
You can look at the full team stats HERE.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
HERE. (Photo of Steven Cunningham from the Associated Press taken by Thomas Graning of The Messenger)
But, UALR got hot - and hit some well-contested threes - at the end. I talked to UALR point guard D'Andre Williams (didn't quote him in the gamer) and he said they were blessed. Well, they're also very good defensively and that sets up good offense.
Troy returns most of these guys next year, losing center Tim Owens and forward Steven Cunningham. Both had nice stories to get to where they are and both will be successful in life. Troy needs to find another big man with some bulk & bulk up the returning guys. I also think they need another point guard to back up Mo Weathers and another consistent shooter. I think Alan Jones is getting better and he's a guy that can shoot and also create his own shot.
Troy's focus is on the Sun Belt Tournament now, even with games this week at FIU (Thursday) and FAU (Saturday). It looks like Troy will be the 11 seed and play whoever is 6th.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Of note, Troy's baseball game got postponed midway through because of rain. Recap HERE. It's currently 8-7 Troy in the fifth, and it'll continue at 11 a.m. Sunday, with a second game to follow. So far, Boone Shear has two hits, including a homer, Danny Collins has three hits and Jo-El Bennett and Logan Pierce have two hits. Blake Martz also homered. The series against Central Michigan got shortened from four games to three.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Recap, with link to box score HERE.
I listed to the first couple of innings and the postgame show. Troy only had 2 hits, but pitchers struck out 13. Pierce mentioned on the postgame a couple of great defensive plays by third baseman Danny Collins (which I did hear) and second baseman Jakob Nixon, two newcomers to the program.
Trojans play a doubleheader tomorrow vs. CMU, and it got moved up to 11 a.m. to try to beat the weather. I'll see some of it, mostly so I can beat the weather before basketball. It's going to be messy, but I am glad to get to see some baseball, even if I'm not really writing much about it.
The final home basketball game of the year is Saturday night as the Trojans host UALR. It's the last game at Sartain Hall, as you probably read on Wednesday.
But, I did write a game preview today and asked coach Don Maestri what went wrong in the big loss at Arkansas State. You can read that HERE.
There should be a big crowd so hopefully it'll be a vocal one as well.
On the hardwood, Troy lost big at Arkansas State, which is an average team. Bottom line, the players aren't as good as the other teams in the league. If they were, they'd be better than 3-10 overall. But for whatever reason, it just hasn't clicked this year. Recruiting in the offseason will be huge and Troy needs 3 impact players who can start or push for a starting spot.
Troy baseball opens the season this weekend against Central Michigan. Weather permitting, it should be a good one. However, I'd be surprised if Troy doesn't at least go 3-1, and they should sweep. Tyler Ray faces off against Zach Cooper, an MLB Draft pick from a season ago. Info for live stats, audio, etc., can be found HERE
I am not sure if I'll be able to make it to any games this weekend - perhaps Saturday before hoops, depending on the weather.
But, I think Troy has a chance to be very good if the pitchers stay healthy. My bold prediction is that Troy finishes in the top 10 nationally in home runs. They're going to hit a bunch of them.
For my part today, I wrote THIS STORY on senior catcher/DH Blake Martz, who has great power, but is striving to hit for a better average this year. He's relaxed and hopefully primed for a big year.
Troy pitcher Tyler Ray was named to the Golden Spikes Watch List. That's a prestigious list. College baseball has more watch lists and All-America teams than any sport imaginable, so I don't link each one, but this is a good one.
So we all know about Karl Benson being introduced to the media as the Sun Belt commissioner. My story is HERE. If you have a long time, you can go HERE and listen to the audio from the Sun Belt's site. The teleconference lasted about 40 minutes, and Benson, to his credit, answered every question.
Here are some other links.
**The San Antonio News-Express looks at how UTSA and Texas State could be perceived as expansion candidates.
**A perspective from the Denton Record-Chronicle since Benson tried to get UNT to join the WAC a few years ago. Now, he could be trying to keep UNT in the Sun Belt, as well as both or either FIU/FAU, since the new CUSA/MWC doesn't have a presence in Florida or in the Dallas area. I'd guess those are your top three candidates to leave the Sun Belt, if someone does, and if teams join, you'd have to consider Louisiana Tech, UTSA and Texas State.
Benson mentioned going after current FBS schools, and didn't mention any names, so I'm not exactly sure where UTSA/Texas State stand since they are currently transitional, but they make sense since I don't foresee the Belt being able to snatch, say, Southern Miss or UAB. He also pretty much shot down the idea of bringing in some WAC teams from way out west.
But my feeling is that the Sun Belt will be at 12 football members soon, and Troy will be in that 12. And that's not a bad thing. There are plenty of CUSA/MWC teams that are going to really be stretching the travel budgets when all is said and done.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
We had about a 40-minute teleconference with new Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, who is now still the WAC's commissioner.
Here is some quotes from the Sun Belt before I have time to get into it more:
Opening statement – Dr. Jack Hawkins, Troy University
“On behalf of the presidents and chancellors of the member institutions of the Sun Belt Conference it’d be a pleasure for me to offer comments and then to introduce our next commissioner. Our conference was established in 1976 and has a distinguished record of service in Division I of the NCAA.
In 2001 the sport of football was added, and today the Sun Belt Conference is one of only 11 BCS conferences. Our football programs have enjoyed much success. This bowl season, for example, saw three Sun Belt teams compete. Since 2005, our teams have won 50 percent of their bowl games and this exceeds the success rate of five other BCS conferences. The Sun Belt Conference is highly competitive in all sports and in baseball we rank sixth among 32 Division I conferences.
Academically, our student-athletes are successful. Ninety percent of our teams have earned a multi-year academic progress rate of 925 or higher. One of the real strengths of our conference, we believe, is the geographic footprint it enjoys in the southern Untied States Geographic proximity fosters natural rivalries, saves dollars and reduces travel costs and makes senses, not only to our fans but particualry to our student-athletes who are very sensitive to time away from the campus.
As I introduce our new commissioner, I hasten to salute the outgoing commissioner, Wright Waters. Commissioner Waters has been at the helm of the Sun Belt Conference for 12 years. And today, the Sun Belt Conference is stronger academically, athletically and financially than at any time in its history. Wright can be proud of the leadership that he’s provided.
Now it’s my pleasure to welcome to the Sun Belt Conference Mr. Karl Benson. Since 1994, Mr. Benson has distinguished himself as commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference. From 1990 to 1994 he served as commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. He has also served on the staff of the NCAA. Mr. Benson will begin his service with us in April and will assume the role of commissioner, full-time, July 1.
Commissioner Benson, it is a pleasure for me and on behalf of our institutions to welcome you and ask you to make a comment.”
Opening statement – Karl Benson
“Thank you very much Chancellor Hawkins and good afternoon everyone. I appreciate that you all have taken the time to participate in today’s teleconference. I’m truly honored to have been selected to lead the Sun Belt Conference and thank the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors for having the confidence and trust for placing me in this position.
While this may be a time of uncertainty in the college sports landscape, the Sun Belt is well positioned to take advantage of this uncertainty. Because of the leadership of the current and former presidents and chancellors, athletic directors and Wright Waters, the Sun Belt Conference is a different conference than it was five years ago, and even more different conference than ten years ago. As Chancellor Hawkins stated, the academic characteristics of the Sun Belt have improved tremendously. Its graduation rate and incoming freshman ACT/SAT scores for the general student population and even more for the student-athlete population have increased dramatically.
Athletic characteristics have too improved, as new stadiums and arenas are being built, fan attendance at contests has risen, operating budgets are getting larger, more contests are being televised, and teams in all sports – men and women – are winning games and gaining national attention.
The demographics of the 11 Sun Belt members have too changed and are changing each year in a positive way. Three Sun Belt members have student enrollment of over 30,000, three have enrollment of over 25,000, and alumni figures are growing as well. Sun Belt fans have rallied around their alma maters as gifts to the athletics departments are increasing. This is a time of tremendous growth in the Sun Belt with a tremendous upside and I’m looking forward to providing the leadership to these coming years for the Sun Belt to maximize this great potential.”
Question and Answer Session with Karl Benson
On future plans as far as adding teams to the conference…
“Again as we settle in and look at the potential and looking at the future of membership is an important one. The Sun Belt currently has ten football-playing schools and one non-football-playing school in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Without getting specific in terms of numbers, I think that there’s an advantage to getting to at least 12 to take advantage of additional post season opportunities. Know that in the coming weeks, the Sun Belt board will establish a committee that will look to evaluate the current membership and the future membership. Chancellor Hawkins mentioned the Sun Belt footprint in terms of geography and how conducive that is for the student-athletes from a travel standpoint, a participation standpoint, and fan travel. The Sun Belt footprint also provides a pool of possible numbers that are already in that footprint: current FBS members, as well as FCS members that have indicated interest in perhaps in moving to FBS. Again it will be a very important piece in the coming months.”
On what is attractive for current members to remain in the Sun Belt…
“The fact that there has been Sun Belt members mentioned as part of the Conference USA-Mountain West merger is a testament to the program growth that the Sun Belt individual institutions have made along with the Sun Belt as a conference in general. The Sun Belt has established itself as a credible, as a bona fide Division I BCS conference. I think that we hope to be able to demonstrate in the coming weeks that the future is bright for the Sun Belt that in light of the changes that have occurred in Conference USA, in the Mountain West, in the WAC, that the Sun Belt position in terms of the hierarchy of the so-called non-AQ conferences has increased tremendously, and the opportunity for the Sun Belt to succeed in a manner that will provide the current membership with greater bowl opportunities, with greater television opportunities, with greater revenue opportunities that we will be able to demonstrate that the Sun Belt is on par with any other of the non-BCS conferences.”
On handling teams currently in the WAC…
“One of the reasons that we are trying to move my position with the Sun Belt earlier than later is to address that exactly. This is a time of uncertainty and there are many moving parts with the Conference USA-Mountain West merger ongoing and the announcement they made on Monday that they are now officially moving toward that. I know that the WAC board of directors has met a couple of times to establish a transition period, a transition plan, and I will expect that they will be making an announcement soon regarding that.”
On how he’s approaching potentially adding teams from the WAC to the Sun Belt…
“Right now I’m focusing on the 10 football playing members of the Sun Belt along with the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and focusing on how to make the Sun Belt a stronger conference, a more attractive conference and once I officially move into the chair, into the position, there will be a transition period where Wright [Waters] and I will be working together in the Sun Belt office. At that time I will then focus on the bigger picture. It’s not the first time a commissioner moving from one conference to the other. There may be sensitivity and perhaps some awkwardness. I think everyone understands that once you change positions that you are now responsible and obligated to that conference. I will certainly do that with the Sun Belt.
On what leaving the WAC means on a personal level…
“I was privileged to serve the WAC for 18 years and enjoy many successes, and I look not to take that that to the next stage in my career to the Sun Belt to create new experiences and new successes. I had the privilege of being on the sidelines three times for a BCS game with a WAC team, and now I’m looking forward to being on a BCS sideline with a Sun Belt team. I look forward to putting the Sun Belt hat on and use the experiences I’ve had in the 22 years that I’ve been a Division I conference commissioner at the MAC and the 18 at the WAC and provide that experience to the Sun Belt, again in this time of tremendous opportunity and growth for the Sun Belt.”
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Obviously the game isn't until Saturday, but my boss assigned me to write THIS FAREWELL STORY in the Thursday paper because it was the best day to run it. (photos from Troy)
Saturday against UALR marks the final game in Sartain Hall. I've seen a lot of basketball over the years. The best game I ever saw Troy play was the 76-49 win over Western Kentucky in 2006. It was a one-point game at halftime, thanks to an alley-oop from Bobby Dixon to Sammy Sharp that went in after the buzzer, but referees called it good. Dixon nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 16 assists and 9 rebounds.
Most of those assists went to Boo Ramsey, who drilled 7 3-pointers. WKU had a very good team that year, but Troy was just hot.
Others recounted some more memories in the story linked above.
Oh, Troy has a game tonight as well, at Arkansas State. Trojans are 8-15, 3-9, while Arkansas State is 10-17, 4-8. ASU has some good players, but it's certainly a winnable game for the Trojans. Game is at 7 p.m.
Here's the third and final preview before Troy's season-opening baseball weekend. Troy's outfield looks to be pretty deep and talented. A good bit of options here.
"It's a nice group of players," Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said on Monday. "We'll try to utilize each guy's strengths all season and look to use the hot bats from week to week. Matchups and health issues will determine which direction we want to go. Whoever ends up starting, I couldn't really call out three names right now."
Senior Boone Shear has been the most consistent of the bunch, Pierce said, and he'll play left and right field and hit in the 4 and 5 spots.
Senior Josh McDorman is expected to have a big statistical jump from last season with regular at-bats. He's been a big power guy and can swing from center field to left field or even get some at-bats at DH.
Look for those two to have a consistent spot in the lineup. The rest just depends on what else is going on.
Sophomore Ali Knowles suffered a concussion last week, and the hope is that he's ready to go. "He's still our best overall defensive outfielder," Pierce said. "Due to injuries here and there, his offense hasn't progressed where we want it to be, but we feel pretty good about him. If Ali is not in the game as a starter, he's definitely a player you want to get in the game late to take advantage of his skills."
Freshman Jo-El Bennett is a talent that should find himself in the lineup more often than not. He spurned an 11th round draft offer by the Pittsburgh Pirates to play at Troy.
Junior college transfer Chase Mathis has been hot and cold, Pierce said, but he'll play some and he'll bring some power from the left side of the plate.
Redshirt freshman Clay Holcomb has shown some big-time promise.
"He's the fastest guy on our team and a very electric player," Pierce said. "There are ways we can use him - spot start, baserunning, defensive replacement - where we feel like he can be effective."
Sophomore Hayden Hillyer (pictured above, Eagle file photo) had some good moments as a freshman from the left side of the plate. Right now, he's been sidelined by a shoulder injury that seems to be affecting the nerves as well, Pierce said, and his early status is questionable. He also missed the fall with an injury.
"He was unable to even practice, much less play last week," Pierce said. "We need a healthy Hayden so hopefully we can figure out what the problem is."
Pierce didn't mention Tyson Workman with the outfielders, but Workman played outfield all last season. While it looks like he's full go with second base and relief pitching, I suppose Workman's an option here if need be.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
If true, I'm guessing it'll be officially announced soon. What it means to me is that Benson sees a stable situation in the Sun Belt. Wright Waters is retiring this year.
Don't know if that means the rest of the WAC is out of luck, merging with the CUSA/MWC or if he's bringing some schools with him, such as Louisiana Tech, to the Sun Belt.
In other Sun Belt news, North Texas head coach Dan McCarney recently had a stroke and was hospitalized. McCarney issued a statement, which you can read HERE updating his health. McCarney went 5-7 in his first year with the Mean Green and now fans of that school can see a light at the end of the tunnel after several disappointing seasons.
Troy is on three times, and that'll be four if the Trojans reach the Sun Belt Tournament finals.
***I put this out on twitter yesterday, but some baseball injury notes. Catcher Brandon Brown and outfielder Ali Knowles suffered concussions in the scrimmages last week. Catcher/DH Blake Martz was hit in the shoulder and was struggling to lift his shoulder on Monday. Outfielder Hayden Hillyer is dealing with shoulder/nerve issues.
Head coach Bobby Pierce said Monday that it looks like Brown, Troy's starting catcher and Knowles, Troy's best defensive outfielder, could be ready on Friday, but with new tests for concussions these days, you never know if they'll be fully cleared. Martz is Troy's backup catcher and a DH candidate, and Hillyer is certainly in the mix for playing time. Pierce said that none of the four injuries are ones that should linger for a while, which is good.
This is the second of three previews, and it should be a long one as we preview five different positions.
CATCHER - Troy brought in Brandon Brown from Middle Georgia College and he hasn't disappointed, taking charge of the starting role as it was wide open. Brown did suffer a concussion in the scrimmage last weekend, though, leaving the tiny chance he may not be ready for Friday's opener.
"He's probably more athletic than most catchers we've had in the past here," Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. "He has a demeanor similar to Todd McRae in that he knows how to work with pitchers. He's a brilliant student and a student of the game. He's adjusting from being the guy that everybody loves in Todd McRae, and it's been a seamless transition as any adjustment I can think of. That's giving both guys a compliment."
Pierce said there's a chance Brown could be a leadoff hitter because he finds his way on base and has a little speed. In the order, Brown projects as a 1-2 or 8-9 guy.
Senior Blake Martz is the backup, and has a chance to be the starting DH, but his availability is in question after he got hit in the shoulder during the scrimmage. Martz, when he's hot, would be in a run-producing part of the order, usually in the 6-7 range.
True freshman Jake Harrell is also in the mix to play this year. He missed the entire fall after a finger injury from last summer lingered.
"I've been very impressed with the short amount of time we've had to spend evaluating Jake Harrell," Pierce said. "He's catching and throwing extremely well, and he's hitting OK. He's certainly a guy we think can contribute to this year's team."
FIRST BASE - The starter is junior Logan Pierce (pictured above, Troy University photo) and his backup is sophomore Kyle Brown. Brown also has a chance to be the DH. Pierce is slotted in the batting order in the 4-5-6 range.
"There were a couple of categories Logan was very good at - scoring runs and driving in runs," Pierce said. "His average was lower than he'd like, but it's not really what we consider when he was getting runs in and getting on base."
SECOND BASE - This is a nice battle with two guys who will play a lot. Senior Tyson Workman, who is also the closer, moves in from right field and is battling with sophomore Jakob Nixon, who transferred from Middle Georgia.
"Workman's more of a leadoff guy with his strike zone awareness," Pierce said. "Nixon is a run-producing type hitter. He's determined and a guy who had a great fall. Tyson, even when he's struggling at the plate, he helps us because he's got great baseball instincts and if you get him out, you're going to get him out in the strike zone."
SHORTSTOP - Senior All-American candidate Tyler Hannah moves from third base to shortstop and he'll open the year as the No. 3 hitter.
"He had played shortstop every year of his life until last year, but if it was the first time you had seen him play, it would have been hard to believe as he did such a great job at third," Pierce said.
There are a couple of guys behind Hannah in junior college transfer Austin Golden and sophomore Tyler Vaughn.
THIRD BASE - The guy here is sophomore Danny Collins, who had a big year last year at NW Florida State College, and he'll be a guy who hits in the 6-7 range with the potential to be a No. 3 hitter as his career develops.
"We really like what we've seen in ball off bat," Pierce said. "He's another guy who is working hard to improve on the defensive side."
I mention Golden more here as Collins' backup because of his versatility. Pierce said that if Golden continues to show he can play third and be a valuable depth guy, then they can redshirt Peyton Fuller.
"Austin is a guy who we've worked at short and some at third base, and a guy that if we pinch run for Danny Collins, he can come in and play third," Pierce said. "We recently started giving him reps at third and we're still making the decision on if we want to use this year for Fuller or redshirt him. If we feel good about using Golden as a backup third baseman, it gives us the ability to redshirt fuller.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Here's the first of 3 baseball previews to run this week. The final scrimmages are done, and the real games are waiting for us. Troy's season-opening series is this weekend (Friday at 6, Sat. doubleheader at 1, Sunday at Noon) at home vs. Central Michigan.
**Troy's top two pitchers are experienced, as Sr. RHP Tyler Ray (pictured, AP file photo vs. OSU last year) will pitch in the opener and So. LHP Jimmy Hodgskin will pitch in the second game. The challenge for Hodgskin, who is sporting a nice huge piece of ink on his right bicep (which is covered up during games) will be to flip that 3-7 record he had last year and be trusted to pitch into the 7th inning of games, where last year he mostly topped out in the 5th due to high pitch counts.
Ray and Hodgskin have a chance to be the best 1-2 pitching combination in the league, depending on Hodgskin's improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.
**Adam Purdy, a Jr. RHP who transferred in from Gulf Coast CC, will open as the Sunday starter, but this weekend that means he pitches Game 2 of the Saturday doubleheader.
"He had a little tender elbow issue in the fall, so he'll be on a lower pitch count than Ray and Hodgskin," Troy head coach Bobby Pierce said. "He's a big, strong kid."
**The fourth starter, Sunday of this week and Tuesday for most weeks, is Jr. RHP Chris Fisher, who pitched a little bit last year and is now two years past Tommy John surgery.
"At the end of fall and into spring, he was throwing pretty well," Pierce said. "He can go back and forth between starting and relief work, and he does have closer-type stuff. We're going to try to get some innings in for him early on to see where he settles in."
**Troy is also very good at the back end. Sr. RHP Tyson Workman is the team's closer in name, but Troy has always had its best teams with two closer-type guys, and that other guy is Jr. LHP Nate Hill. Both were all-conference performers. Hill will close games when Workman's resting or playing in the field, or based on matchups. Or, Hill will pitch the 8th and Workman the 9th if you want to compare it to how professional teams set things up.
**Then you move to the middle guys. The top ones are Jr. RHP Thomas Austin, an experienced guy. "He had a great fall and maybe an even better spring," Pierce said. "He's very consistent with the sinker ball and getting a lot of ground balls. He's a guy we've asked to do a lot of different roles through his career, and we'll probably ask the same of him this year."
Sr. LHP Garrett McHenry is another guy who had a strong six-week run last year early on and faded a bit late, but he's got his command back and should have a solid senior year.
Jr. RHP Joe Hernandez, a transfer from Faulkner State CC, is a guy with closer's experience, but will be a set-up type guy on this year's team.
Two more guys Pierce mentioned are Sr. LHP A.J. Howard and Jr. RHP Ryan Brady, have worked themselves into the mix. Howard is a fifth-year senior and Brady is a junior college transfer.
**Four more are on the bubble, and could work their way into more innings based on how the season goes - RFr. RHP Jeremy McGowan, Jr. RHP William Teal, Jr. RHP Cass Abercrombie and So. RHP Ivan Carter.
"They've all shown flashes of ability to pitch in the middle innings, but we want to see more consistency from them," Pierce said. "Their roles could change into starters or closers as their careers continues to develop."
**You also have two true freshmen who are playing dual roles - Hunter Skipper, a LHP/OF and Peyton Fuller, a RHP/3B. Pierce said he'd be talking to both of them more this week to see if they want to play this year or redshirt.
"These are two guys with a bright future," Pierce said. "The question mark is do you spend a year of eligibility with a limited role, or do you redshirt and get bigger and stronger?"
***Injury-wise, as I've already reported on in months past, Jr. LHPs Shane McCain (labrum) and Ryan Sorce (Tommy John) and Sr. RHP Drew Hull (re-tear of UCL after Tommy John) won't be pitching this year.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
I wrote THIS STORY, focusing on outfielder Jo-El Bennett, catcher Jake Harrell and outfielder/LHP Hunter Skipper.
All three are progressing well. Bennett has a chance to become an every day starter as the season rolls along, Harrell keeps hitting and Skipper has done well, but Troy just has more depth on the mound and in the outfield so he might redshirt. I'd say Harrell has a better-than-average chance of playing.
Bennett is a guy that was drafted in the 11th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's a guy where the sky's the limit and one to really watch. I'd also bet that Harrell and Skipper put up big numbers as their career progresses.
I only wrote about the Wiregrass freshmen in that story, but there are others to watch. Peyton Fuller is an infielder/RHP from Fairhope that could play a little bit this year. Two redshirt freshmen - outfielder Clay Holcomb and RHP Jeremy McGowan - are also in the mix.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I mentioned how Troy needed another guy to step up, and it got one. Alan Jones (pictured above, dunk and post-dunk, Thomas Graning/Troy Messenger/Associated Press photo), got a big steal and dunk, and hit 4 3-pointers. What was also big is that he shot the ball well, hitting 6-of-9 shots and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Jones was shooting about 35 percent from 3-point land. Maybe he's the guy that can step up his game more consistently and hit 45 percent from 3-point land - a tough number to achieve, but not impossible, and Jones has the stroke to do it.
Oh, and Troy rallied from 11 down to beat Western Kentucky 83-77. Troy sweeps the season series and has a winnable game at Arkansas State on Thursday before returning home for the Sartain Hall Sendoff next Saturday against UALR.
Game story HERE.
From WKU beat writer Chad Bishop of the Bowling Green Daily News, reaction from the WKU side HERE.
It's the first time Troy has ever swept WKU since joining the Sun Belt. Troy has swept its other East Division rivals before.
I love me some baseball, but was glad to not be covering the Wiregrass High School Home Run Derby at Rehobeth in the 40-degree and very windy conditions today. Charles Henderson's Jalin Lawson won the event.
It's a winnable game, even with Troy losing four straight and WKU winning 4 of 6. Troy beat WKU at WKU, but WKU has some good young talent - not the level of North Texas, but good enough.
HERE is my game story.
It mentions how, sort of like I said at the end of the Troy-ULL game, that no one has stepped up consistently alongside Mo Weathers, Justin Wright and Emil Jones. Jones and Wright have been the two most consistent guys as of late, and Weathers is getting closer to where he was before he hurt his ankle. Other guys have had their moments, but not consistently enough.
If Troy's main 3 play well, and that doesn't mean all 3 have to score 20 points, and another guy can pitch in 14-16 points because he'll be given some good shots, then Troy has a chance to win.
Follow me on twitter @dothaneagletroy for game updates. Then I've got to book it to get to Geneva for some girls area tournament action. I can't promise the tweets will be as frequent from that game.
Friday, February 10, 2012
In the second inning, infielder Tyler Vaughn hit a shot off Ray's left ankle. A nice little welcome back for the Sun Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
"It just decided my leg was a magnet," Ray said. "I kept pitching, but I was pretty bruised it. It was going to make me sore for a couple of days, but I'm all right now."
Last year, Ray took two shots off the leg against South Alabama. The second one caused him to leave the game.
Ray was able to keep pitching in the scrimmage. By the time this blog entry is posted, he's probably getting ready to pitch in another scrimmage today.
"It felt good to be out there," Ray said. "I was a little rusty, but it was like I expected. Now it's time to focus and get better."
It was the second straight year that Ray had an inauspicious start to the spring scrimmages. Last year - and bear in mind, last year the NCAA made the change to the weaker bats - teammates hit four home runs off of Ray. It was probably colder that day, and after a year of going through the new bats, which reduce the force and lift of balls, the bats are made better now and better offensive results are expected.
"I was kind of disappointed nobody hit a home run off me this year," Ray said. "I think the wind was blowing out that day. I'll make excuses. They were using the new bats, and those bats are worse than the ones we're using today."
The opening scrimmage last year certainly didn't foreshadow results for the upcoming season. Ray went 12-0 with a 2.39 ERA and won Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year honors.
"It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at the time," Ray said.