Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday thoughts/video

It was the second year wide receiver Jamel Johnson had become academically ineligible. He showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2010 and in the spring of 2011 and 2012. It's unfortunate he couldn't pass enough classes to stay eligible at Troy, but maybe he can go somewhere else and make a good showing.

Last year, when Johnson and Chip Reeves were declared ineligible, in May, I didn't think it would matter. Surely, receiver is the easy position to step in. Just catch passes, right? Boy, was I wrong.

Sometimes, Corey Robinson didn't look like the QB he was as a freshman, but it had a lot to do with very inexperienced receivers. Robinson had his struggles, but the QB/WR dynamic took a long time to adjust.

Well, that should be different this year. Eric Thomas blew up as a sophomore and has a chance to replicate those numbers this season. Chandler Worthy got pretty good at the end of the year. Justin Albert did as well. Felton Payton is a guy that Robinson keeps talking about when asked which receivers will step up. Jaquon Robinson looked solid before hurting his foot, and he is back. These guys are all in their second year of full-time action and should be much better. With Thomas and Reeves, who is back and still fast, manning the outside positions, Troy should still be very good through the air. Troy is looking for sophomore B.J. Chitty to step up and at least one freshman - Brandon Brooks, Michael Lindsey and Bobby Walker - to be ready. Brooks said today he would play the Y (inside). I have to believe Lindsey is an H, and that probably puts Walker as an outside position. Don't forget about redshirt freshman Bryan Holmes, who is very fast. Hopefully Sam Haskins can get cleared because he was pretty good this spring and he has two years of experience at Troy.

Here is a video from quarterback Corey Robinson earlier today. HERE is the story in the Tuesday paper.

Reporting Day notes: Johnson ineligible

This is the turf. From what I was told, the end zones won't be painted in.


Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said that wide receiver Jamel Johnson, who had to go to junior college last year because of academics, is again academically ineligible and won't be with the Trojans this fall and probably not ever again.


That makes Chip Reeves the starting X-receiver and Eric Thomas the starting Z-receiver. That's still a very good duo, but having Johnson would certainly have helped.

"He’s probably done," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "I wish him the best. He definitely needs to do something besides go to school. He didn’t let me know. I knew already. We made sure we waited until all the grades were in and everything and it had been documented.
"Chip is eligible. We’ll move him and Eric opposite of each other and try to give them some good, quality people to rotate with."

Junior receiver Sam Haskins is also being held out for now because of a heart problem, Blakeney said. He has not been cleared yet to resume practicing.

"He’s going through an evaluation for some kind of heart problem.," Blakeney said. "It’s not something that is life-threatening, but there’s a percentage chance that they’re going to rule him unable to participate.
"He’s a good, hard-nosed player, and he has recovered in school substantially. I hope he gets to (compete), but that will be up to the doctors. Their evaluation is much higher up the scale than me."

**A couple of other freshman notes. DB Montres Kitchens and OL Tyler Lassiter were slated to grayshirt but will be on the 105 and here this fall. LB Terris Lewis is slated to grayshirt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thursday links

We've got two Troy stories in today's Dothan Eagle

You can read THIS story on Danny Collins and his torrid summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The rising junior has already set the league record for single season home runs with 16 (through 38 games so far) in a wooden bat league. It also has some bits about Logan Pierce and signee Austin Sullivan, a pitcher.

HERE is a longer feature on golfer Tolver Dozier, who just finished his freshman year at Troy and graduated from Dothan High School.

***Of note, I will be taking a few days off before football gets cranking and will be back on Monday. Troy had a big prospect camp, hosting about 200 players, and may well get a commitment or two before the weekend. If so, I'll follow up on it when I get back. If there's more breaking news, I'll refer it to our staff and we'll get it out to you.

Sun Belt video

Check out this video by the Sun Belt Conference during the recent Media Day. I'm on there a few times, as well as Larry Blakeney and Corey Robinson. It was a busy Monday, that's for sure.


Fall camp practice schedule


Practice is open to the public. Bear in mind, times could change, but here's what you are looking at if you want to get a glimpse of the 2012 Trojans early on. From Troy's sports information department:

Thursday, Aug. 2 
First day of practice – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 3
Practice – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4
Practice – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 5
Practice – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 6
Practice – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 7
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Practice – 3:15 – 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 8
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 9
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Practice – 3:15 – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 10
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 11
Scrimmage 11 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 12
Fan Day – 1 – 3 p.m.; Location TBA
Monday, Aug. 13
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
 Tuesday, Aug. 14
Practice  – 8:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 15
Classes Start; schedule TBA

Radio update

Can't think of a busier day in Troy athletics than this one. We had an athletics director resign, some breaking news on a basketball player who scored in double digits not coming back next year, a baseball pitcher who has been a weekend starter transferring and a football commitment.

I'm scheduled to be on the radio at 8:05 a.m. with John and Barry on 740 AM in Montgomery. You can listen HERE.


Sometime after that, I'll be on with Lance on WOOF 560 AM/100.1 FM in Dothan. You can listen HERE.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Alpharetta, Ga., WR commits to Troy


Troy picked up a commitment Tuesday when Alpharetta, Ga., wide receiver Blake Rowlinson committed to the Trojans.

“They have a great campus,” Rowlinson said. “I brought my mom and grandmom on a visit last week and they were very surprised and very pleased with how new everything was. They’re putting money into the school. It’s Division-I football in the Sun Belt Conference. Troy has done very well and I’m excited to be a part of it."

Rowlinson, 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, had 25 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns for Alpharetta, which plays in the state’s largest classification. He missed three games with an ankle injury, but fits well into Troy’s offense.

“They run the exact same plays we do,” Rowlinson said. “Coach (Kenny) Edenfield feels like I can play the Y (inside) but he also feels like I can play both outside receiver positions, too.”

Rowlinson’s primary recruiter was quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan. He got his offer from Troy in June, after being invited to a camp. Troy was Rowlinson’s first offer.

Rowlinson said he plans on majoring in something related to law and business. He also said he’s relieved to get his recruiting process over.

“This whole summer, I had been focusing on helping the team out and trying to figure out where I would go to school,” Rowlinson said. “Now I can focus solely on helping out the team.”

If you click on THIS LINK, it will take you to Rowlinson's junior highlights.

2013 commitment list

Baseball notes/Hodgskin transferring

I talked to coach Bobby Pierce, who is up in Vermont right now watching Logan Pierce play in the Northeast Collegiate Baseball League. Logan and Danny Collins are having very good summers, as you can read in this Troy release. I've got a story planned on Collins later this week as he's been smashing the ball. Signee Austin Sullivan, a pitcher, is also in that league and did well while he was pitching as a reliever, which he was recruited to do at Troy.

Pierce said LHP Jimmy Hodgskin is transferring to the University of Tampa, a Division II school, for his junior season. Hodgskin was a 43rd round pick by the Phillies out of high school, but never really developed into that consistent pitcher for Troy. He battled arm problems last year, going 1-1 with a 7.12 ERA, and went 3-7 with a 4.68 ERA as a freshman.

No other roster notes, as far as changes. Pierce had good injury reports on guys like catcher Brandon Brown (thumb), pitchers Shane McCain and Ryan Sorce (missed last year after arm surgeries), infielder Kyle Brown (hip) and outfielder Josh McDorman (shoulder). Those guys should be good to go this fall. The pitching staff will especially be bolstered by the return of veterans like McCain and Sorce, both of whom had key roles on the 2011 Sun Belt championship team before getting hurt.

Hawkins on Steve Dennis

Did get to speak with Troy chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., and here's what he had to say.

***First off, mark your calendars for two events, Hawkins said. One you know about is Aug. 10, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Trojan Arena. Hawkins also said that a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Trojan Arena would be on the Saturday afternoon of the UL-Lafayette home game on Sept. 8. It'll be a deal where everyone can walk in and get a good look at the arena. Troy will send out an announcement closer to time, I'm sure.

***Hawkins said Dennis called him on Monday and wanted to come up to his Montgomery office to talk to him. Hawkins was surprised it turned out to be a resignation.


"He told me he had given it a lot of thought and he felt like he needed to make this change in his life. It caught me by surprise," Hawkins said. "I’ve been around a lot of honorable people in my life and none with any more integrity, character and class than Steve Dennis."

"It’s adequate to say he was looking for a new challenge, and this was his way of offering that. In his heart, Steve is a coach. He’s a great role model for young men. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he gravitated toward his first love."

With Dennis staying on board until Sept. 30, there really is no need for an interim athletics director unless Dennis gets an opportunity long before then that causes him to have to leave. Make no mistake about it, the search for Dennis' replacement is underway.
 
"There is no pre-forged deal," Hawkins said. "We will look for the best leadership we can find. We’re on the fast track and we won’t drag our feet. There are too many big things to be done within that athletic department. You better have your roller skates on when you go to that job."

Hawkins mentioned character, integrity, good fiscal management, great speaking ability and entrepreneurship as candidates for Dennis' successor. He mentioned how Troy's athletic budget is less than $20 million, which doesn't quite compare to the Ohio State and Texas of the world.

"Entrepreneurship is at the cornerstone of being a good athletic director," Hawkins said. "You’re always looking for new ways to do it. At Troy, we spend wisely. You have to be a good fundraiser.

"We’re looking for a superman or a superwoman to succeed a gentleman I would call a superman. We won’t restrict anyone’s application. We’re not concerned about gender or race, height or weight. We want to find the best leader we can find."

Jones leaving Troy basketball program

Troy men's basketball coach Don Maestri said Tuesday that guard Alan Jones is leaving the Trojan basketball program.

Jones was Troy's second-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game. He played in all 28 games, starting six, and led Troy with 63 3-pointers made.

"He just told me he wanted to get back closer to home," Maestri said.

Jones is from Wichita, Kan., and played his early high school ball in Celina, Tex.

Troy's only other returning double-digit scorer is senior forward Justin Wright, who scored 10.3 points per game last year. Rising senior point guard Will Weathers (12.2 ppg) elected not to come back for his senior season as well.

"The last few games of the year, Alan played pretty well," Maestri said. "Especially at home against Western Kentucky and on the road at FAU and FIU and a couple more games."

That leaves one scholarship spot open for the 2012-13 season, the first in the new Trojan Arena. Maestri said the coaches were hoping to sign another guard before school starts.

Steve Dennis announces resignation

This just in from Troy's athletics department, and I'm pretty surprised since I just heard him speak last Thursday and would never have guessed this so soon..  (Story is also being updated on dothaneagle.com HERE)

Dennis has been at Troy since March 2005.

Statement from Steve Dennis. Will work more to update this


Troy University is a special place and I have been privileged to play a role in the growth and development of its athletic program over the past seven-and-one-half years. The University will always hold a special place in my heart and my family will always be a TROY family.
I have presented my resignation as Director of Athletics to Chancellor Hawkins effective September 30. Our athletic department has accomplished a great deal at TROY, and I believe this is the right time in my life to explore other opportunities. In announcing my departure, I thank the members of the coaching and support staffs of the Department of Athletics and I cannot thank Chancellor Hawkins enough for giving me this opportunity.  He is a tremendous leader but most of all he is a great human being and it has been a privilege to work for and learn from him. I am sure that great things lie ahead for Trojan athletics and I look forward to watching the growth and maturity of the program in the years to come.

11:15 a.m. - Was told Steve wouldn't have any further comment and was standing by his statement. Not that it means I won't try, but that's where it is now. Steve informed the staff this morning that he was stepping down.

11:40 a.m. - Spoke with Larry Blakeney, who was on the way to speak at a Kiwanis luncheon in Montgomery. He was surprised by the news as well and Steve told him this morning.

"I was surprised, totally," Blakeney said. "I know this job is not an easy job and one that will wear on you, I'm sure. Steve is a hard-working guy and a high-energy guy. He is a friend and he and I have been shoulder to shoulder before."

"More than anything, I'm there for Steve. The timing element is never perfect or never good, really. I've got to try to support him and help him do what he wants to do. The powers that be, I'm sure, will get a search committee going."

I did ask Blakeney on what kind of qualities he'd want in an athletics director.

"Whoever it is, Steve's pretty good," Blakeney said. "He's been in it seven and a half (years) and I think the average is five (years). We need someone that can find a way to raise money to do the things we need to do to grow. It also needs to be somebody who has the power to run the department. Those things are paramount. We have good people who are super in their jobs, especially Tony Ferrante and Sandy (Atkins) and everyone else over there. I don't know where it'll go. I care where it goes and I'll only do what I'm asked to.

"My No. 1 is to be there for Steve, Lisa (wife), his boys and his little girl." 

11:45 a.m. - Figured I'd place a call to Johnny Williams, who was the athletics director before Steve. He was on vacation and found out when I told him. Williams runs Creative Marketing and Management and has done so since 2007.

"I've got a lot of projects going on and I certainly hope it all works out," Williams said. "Troy has a lot going on and has a bright future."

Would Williams be interested in the position at this point in his professional career?

"Never say never," he said. "I don't know what their situation is. I've got a lot of projects going on with my business. I wish them well." 

12:20 p.m. - Spoke with Don Maestri. He had this to say about Steve Dennis:

"Steve was a hard worker and anybody that takes this position has to be a hard worker. He was traveling a lot and always on the road fundraising. His positive attitude was another thing that Steve brought. He always thought you were going to win the next game, no matter what."

Dennis always had positive support for Maestri.

"We had a few good years and when we made that run in 2009, he battled to get us in the CBI Tournament (postseason)," Maestri said. "Then in 2010 we won the conference, but I always evaluate people by how they treat you when things aren't going well. In 2008, we had a tough year. Steve always backed us in the tough times and that's one thing that will always stand out in my mind. He never changed in terms of his support and always asked how he could be of help." 

Tuesday quick links

A couple of stories in the Tuesday Dothan Eagle that might be worth reading...

Former Alabama head coaches Bill Curry (Georgia State) and Dennis Franchione (Texas State) are looking forward to a transition to the Sun Belt. Story from talking to them last week in New Orleans - HERE.

Jon Johnson, sans mustache now after having it since he could grow facial hair, wrote THIS on Troy golfer Tolver Dozier, who went to Dothan High, qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship, to be held Aug. 13-19 at the Cherry Hills (Colo.) Country Club.

***Nice picture in this Macon.com blurb on wide receiver commit Shannon Smith. At his 6-foot-2 size, I'd think he develops into an outside receiver in the mold of Jamel Johnson if he gets bigger.

***Troy can't win all the recruiting battles, as Dothan High standout Adrian Kirkland picked UAB over Troy over the weekend. It's a good year for individual talent so far in the Wiregrass. Clark Quisenberry of Enterprise (Troy), Kirkland (UAB), Marquez White of Northview (Florida State), Kamryn Melton of Dothan (Auburn), and Roman Buchanan of Daleville (South Alabama) have all committed to FBS schools.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Macon, Ga., WR commits to Troy

Troy picked up a wide receiver commit when Shannon Smith of Macon, Ga., (Westside High School) committed to sign with the Trojans next February.

"When I went to visit, Troy made me feel like I was at home and part of a family," Smith said. "That's what I was looking for in a school. They also had my major (physical therapy)."

Smith, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, caught 32 passes for 606 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Several schools were in on Smith this spring. Troy was actually Smith's fourth offer, and he earned offers from Colorado State, Georgia State, Western Kentucky and Charlotte.

One of the places Smith camped at was at Vanderbilt, and the Vanderbilt rivals.com site said this about Smith on twitter @VandySportscom: "Smith was 1 of the top WR's at Vandy's camps this summer. #Underrated"

Smith visited Troy with his family in June and plans to come back for a visit during preseason camp in August. He committed on Friday.

"I thought about it and decided I wanted my recruitment to be over so I can focus on my senior year and our season," Smith said.

Smith was recruited to Troy by cornerbacks coach Julius Brown.

"He's a good person and I feel like he can teach me to be a man," Smith said. "Not just him, but all the coaches."

Troy 2013 commit list

Here are some YouTube highlights of Smith from his junior season.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Steve Dennis comes to Dothan

Troy athletics director Steve Dennis is interviewed by WTVY's Paul Stockman.
Troy athletics director Steve Dennis was in town Thursday, serving as guest speaker for the Dothan Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon at the Wiregrass Rehab Center. Myself and media from WDHN, WDFX and WTVY talked to Dennis beforehand and I stayed during the lunch to hear what he had to say. A story will be in tomorrow's paper, but here are some bits:

*** Bids have been sent out for the construction of the 3 new practice fields. Those have been mentioned before in previous stories, but now it's becoming a reality. Construction is expected to begin on that soon, Dennis said, maybe even in a couple of weeks. Surely it would take a few months to get done, but maybe not. A whole boatload of trees at the corner of Wallace and McKinley will be bulldozed to make this happen. As far as total logistics, what will be a parking lot, what won't be a parking lot, what will be covered, etc., it's too early for me to say. I'm sure Troy's athletics department will send out some plans. One of the 3 fields will be an intramural field. Dennis said it would be some 300,00 cubic yards of dirt placed before the fields are formed.

*** No new update on the football complex which would go in the north end zone, only that they're trying to get it to come to fruition as quickly as they can.

*** The new turf on the main field is supposed to be done by the end of the month. Good thing, as Troy starts practice Aug. 2, a Thursday.

*** Somebody did ask the "Why don't we play Auburn or Alabama" question to Dennis, which he gets all the time. He maintained that he has a good relationship with Mal Moore and Jay Jacobs, but it's not at the point where Alabama and Auburn will play them in football. He said the relationship was such that they play them in other sports. He also mentioned how Arkansas won't play Arkansas State in anything. Of course he's in favor of Troy playing the in-state schools because of geography.

Southward on watch list

Troy senior running back Shawn Southward was named to the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list on Thursday. Southward has been a key part of Troy's offense since he arrived, earning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in 2009.

The Troy release, as well as a list of other watch list members, is HERE.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Notes: Mullen talks about Troy

I was listening in to SEC Media Days this morning while waiting for pest control to make a scheduled visit and also before a lunch meeting with Dothan Post 12 17u manager Jon McLain, since they prepare for the state tournament. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was up, and I started to pay more attention as a media member introduced himself as Ken Rogers from the Dothan Eagle.

Ken, my co-worker, asked Mullen about playing Troy and why they're going to Troy. Here is the note that Ken sent for our SEC Media Days coverage.

Mississippi State’s non-conference schedule includes Jackson State of the SWAC and three Sun Belt schools – Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee. The game against the Trojans, however, will be in Troy, the first time an SEC opponent will play there.
 
“I try to play non-conference games within our region as much as possible,” Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen said. “One, for our young men. Their families can watch them play without having to buy plane tickets. Our fan base can come watch our team play.
 
“I think last year we played up at Memphis, a lot of our fans came, players’ families got to come and watch their sons play. That’s a huge deal. This year, it happens to be at Troy, which, for us as a team, we’ll bus to that game.”
 
Mullen said that was an economic decision as much as anything else.
 
“Skyrocketing budgets, how do you handle it,” he asked. “We schedule a non-conference game that’s not going to cost us millions of dollars to get on a plane.”

***Former Troy receiver TeBiarus Gill was one of 17 shot in the mass shooting at the CopperTop bar in Tuscaloosa early Tuesday morning. I came across his name when I read Josh Bean's story on al.com. You can read it HERE. Since then, Gill, who was in fair condition today, appears to have been released, as the latest al.com story HERE mentions only 2 people still hospitalized, and neither of them is Gill.

Gill was one of Troy's top receivers during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, sort of in Jerrel Jernigan's shadow, but Gill was very good in his own right and he went out in style, doing his best Randy Moss imitation on the Ohio defense in the New Orleans Bowl, scoring three touchdowns in the Trojans' 48-21 win.

Gill always has a smile on his face when I see him and can take a good-natured ribbing, like when he showed up to fall camp his senior year just shy of 230 pounds. It didn't affect his production one bit. He's now an assistant coach at Vigor High School and was in Tuscaloosa for a football camp. 

Troy adds transfer from Indiana


Troy added some more depth to its secondary when defensive back Lenyatta Kiles, Jr., decided he would play his final season of eligibility for the Trojans.

Kiles, 6-foot and 192 pounds, confirmed his decision to the Dothan Eagle Wednesday. He said he had purchased a plane ticket to Montgomery and was set to arrive on July 29. Cornerbacks coach Julius Brown played a big role in Kiles' recruitment, he said.

Kiles is from Los Angeles, Calif., and spent the last two seasons at Indiana University. He did not play as a senior, using that as a redshirt year, but was able to graduate this spring and due to the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, can be eligible for Troy if he picks a graduate major not offered by Indiana.

“It’s definitely true. I am going to Troy,” Kiles said. “They have my graduation transcript and everything. Troy was one of the first schools to contact me and they’ve always been in contact with me. I felt like Troy was the best opportunity for me and a better fit for me to get some exposure.”

Recently, T.J. Bryant transferred to Troy from Southern Cal for his final year of eligibility.

Kiles prepped at Culver City (Calif.) High School. He played two years at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif., earning all-conference honors as a sophomore with two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and 30 tackles.

At Indiana in 2010, he moved from cornerback to safety and played in seven games. He had seven tackles and a fumble recovery that season. He moved back to cornerback during the 2011 spring practice, but did not play last season. He left the team midway through the 2011 season as younger players got playing time under the new IU coaching staff.

Kiles said he would play cornerback at Troy, but has experience at safety. He signed to play under Bill Lynch at Indiana. He suffered a groin injury that required surgery, and after that, Lynch was fired and Kevin Wilson took over.

“We didn’t leave on bad terms,” Kiles said. “It was a mutual decision. With me being a senior and on scout team, they didn’t want me being around if I wasn’t going to play, but they let me use the workout facilities and let me stay on and graduate. I have no hard feelings.

“I’m a strong believer in that things happen for a reason and Troy is the reason things have happened. I’m eager to get to Troy, get on the field and meet my new teammates.”

Kiles had interest from Bethune-Cookman, Southern Illinois, Montana and Miami of Ohio, among others, as well as Troy.

Georgia running back commits to Troy

Douglasville, Ga. (South Paulding High School) running back Josh Anderson gave his commitment to sign with Troy next February on Wednesday. Anderson is listed as a three-star recruit on scout.com.

"I committed today," Anderson said. "Troy has what I really want in a school. I like their field and everything. It just felt right. How they want me in their offense fits what I like to do.

Anderson, 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, picked Troy over heavy interest from Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Georgia. Anderson also plays linebacker, but figures to be a H-back at Troy.

"I'll pretty much be on offense," Anderson said. "I'm mainly being recruited as an offensive guy, but if they need me to play on defense, I can adjust. I'm a physical, straight-forward runner and explosive."

Anderson said it was a relief to get his commitment out of the way before his senior season.

"Troy said they had two slots open and they had offered three guys already," Anderson said. "Whoever the first to commit had those two slots. I didn't want to waste my time and worry about it. At the same time, I feel good about my decision."

Here are some highlight videos of Anderson.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Troy post-spring depth chart

This is the post-spring Troy depth chart that was listed in the media guide provided at Sun Belt Media Day on Monday. Bear in mind this doesn't have any newcomers. It's listed first string/second string/third string, etc.

OFFENSE
QB - Corey Robinson/Deon Anthony/Dallas Tidwell
RB - Shawn Southward/D.J. Taylor/Chris Anderson
RB-H (blocking back) - D.J. Taylor/Jarod Lee
XWR - Eric Thomas/Chip Reeves/Felton Payton
HWR - Chandler Worthy/Justin Albert/Trey Page OR Chris Williams
YWR - Jaquon Robinson/Sam Haskins/K.D. Edenfield OR Chris Williams
ZWR - Jamel Johnson/B.J. Chitty/Bryan Holmes
TE - Jim Teknipp/Tommy Blevins
LT - Jarred Fleming/Chris Hawkins
LG - Kyle Wilborn/Cody Woodiel
C - Andrew Phillips/Jimmie Arnold
RG - Zach Johnson/Dalton Bennett
RT - Terrence Jones/Chris Hawkins

DEFENSE
DE - Tony Davis/Aaron Williams/Brandon Timmons
DT - Shermane TeArt/D.J. Johnson
DT - Kyle Lucas/John Clark
BAN - Jacoby Thomas/Tyler Roberts/Jawaun Jones
WLB - Dimitri Miles/Ty Burt
MLB - Brannon Bryan/Brach Bessant/Eli Canton
SLB/N - Kanorris Davis/Wayland Coleman-Dancer/De'Von Terry
RCB - Shaq Beverly/Ethan Davis/Chris Davis
RS - Barry Valcin/Chris Pickett/Gabe Newman
LS - Brynden Trawick/Camren Hudson/Joe Lofton
LCB - Bryan Willis/Jeremy Spikner/Dionte Ponder

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK - Jed Solomon/Will Scott
P - Will Scott/Ryan Kay
KOS - Will Scott/Jed Solomon
H - Jaquon Robinson/Corey Robinson
KR - Chandler Worthy/Bryan Holmes
PR - Justin Albert/Bryan Holmes
LS - Hunter Graham (punts)
SS - Kendall Gibson (field goals/PAT)

Update on Troy's 2012 signing class

As you know, Troy football signed 23 guys in February. The media guide and roster online is up to date on which players the coaches are expecting this fall, and I went over it with Troy head coach Larry Blakeney yesterday.

The following players are listed in the media guide with pictures and that means they enrolled on scholarship this summer: WR Brandon Brooks (Jacksonville, Fla.,), RB Brandon Burks (Daleville), OL Antonio Garcia (Riverdale, Ga.), OL Luke Lawrence (Tuscaloosa), DB JaQuadrian Lewis (Fitzgerald, Ga.), WR Michael Lindsey (Elba), DL Xavier Melton (Butler CC, Kan.), DE Garrett Peek (Millbrook), DL Derrek Upshaw (Jones County CC), WR Bobby Walker (Fruit Cove, Fla.).

Cornerback Shaq Beverly was announced as well, but he enrolled in January and in the media guide, he's listed as a first-team corner.

Three players aren't eligible - Thomasville DB John Knight, Tallahassee DB Juan Neloms and Panama City RB Andre Allen. Blakeney mentioned that Allen could sit out the year as a non-qualifier. Troy has three players on the roster that have done this and overcome that obstacle - Kanorris Davis, John Clark and Ethan Davis.

Don't forget that defensive end Marty Stadom is also a newcomer and eligible. He signed in 2011 but was not eligible last year. He's a projected impact player.

Defensive lineman Braylon Williams, a JUCO transfer, isn't coming, but you knew that earlier this summer if you follow the blog.

Lindsey, who was involved in that Elba High School vandalism, will be with the team this fall, Blakeney said.  HERE is what we wrote on that whole deal back in June when the teens involved got deferred prosecution.

Blakeney said six players are in line to grayshirt - QB Brandon Silvers (Gulf Shores), OL Tyler Lassiter (Hazel Green), LB Mitchell Roland (Auburn), DB Rishad Goode (Madison) and DB Montres Kitchens (Waynesboro, Ga.). Now, bear in mind, stuff could change that could get one or more of these on the roster for fall camp. Some may be in school already paying their own way. Troy effectively uses the grayshirt method and it's produced players like NFL starting safety Sherrod Martin, all-conference player Boris Lee and current starting quarterback Corey Robinson, among others.

A couple more guys don't have photos in the media guide, but do have bios - DB Zach Miller of Butler County CC and LB Terris Lewis from Linden. They're projected to be here, but like some signees at every single school in the country, you never know until they get here and are eligible.

Troy picks up transfer from USC


Finally back from New Orleans - long day of travel and phone calls and lunch with a friend. Here's what I've got on T.J. Bryant, who transferred in from USC (the real one) and will be eligible as a graduate student to play just one year.

Troy has added some immediate help to its defensive backfield as T.J. Bryant enrolled at the school for his fifth year of eligibility, Trojans head coach Larry Blakeney said Tuesday.

Bryant, who went to Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., spent his last four years at Southern Cal and graduated. With the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, Bryant is eligible to play for Troy as long as he enrolls in a graduate program not available at USC.

“He finished in four years, so he’s done something right,” Blakeney said. “He has been a player at the highest level and he played high school ball at a place where we’ve signed guys from, such as Xavier Lamb (linebacker who finished at Troy last year).”

Bryant, listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, played his first three years at USC after being rated as a 4-star recruit and a Super Prep All-American. He played in seven games as a true freshman, recorded 22 tackles as a sophomore in 2009 and played in just four games in 2010, battling injuries to his cheekbone and shoulder. Bryant had an interception in 2008 and he returned it 55 yards.

The Los Angeles Times said he was suspended from all team activities and redshirted as a senior, giving him the year of eligibility left to play for Troy.

“To the best of my recollection, he connected with us and he was looking for a place,” Blakeney said. “We got a call about it and decided to work with him.”

Bryant will immediately challenge for a starting spot. The preseason depth chart lists senior Bryan Willis and true freshman Shaq Beverly, who enrolled this spring, as the starting cornerbacks. Troy also signed junior college All-American Zach Miller from Butler County (Kan.) Community College. Miller has not arrived at Troy yet, but Blakeney anticipates his arrival by the start of fall practice on Aug. 2.

Sophomore Ethan Davis played some last year and newcomers Jeremy Spikner (junior college transfer) and Chris Davis (freshman) got some valuable work this spring.

“He gives us another cover corner,” Blakeney said. “We’ve got some guys back that can play, but we think he’s a player. He played at a great place with some great players. He gives us another guy with experienced guys like Willis and (safety Brynden) Trawick who can help shore things up.”

Media Day coverage

I'm about to leave New Orleans, but wanted to share my links from here. Plenty of other media outlets were in New Orleans for this, but I'll try to link those up later.

All three of these stories are in the Tuesday Dothan Eagle.
**The main story I wrote, pasted below, is online HERE.
**A Sun Belt Media Days notebook is HERE.
**A sidebar on South Alabama is HERE.

I was able to talk to just about every coach and will post blog entries on each team Troy plays this year in the coming days before Troy starts practice.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

NEW ORLEANS – Troy found itself in a different position in the Sun Belt preseason poll than it has the last several years – in the middle of the pack.

“We deserve it,” quarterback Corey Robinson said at the Sun Belt’s Media Day.

Troy, coming off a 3-9 season, was picked fifth in the Sun Belt’s coaches preseason poll. Florida International was picked to win the conference, followed by Arkansas State, UL-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Troy, UL-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and South Alabama.

“Obviously from last year, the thing we’re preaching is moving forward and not thinking about that,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to get that completely out of our head and working to get a winning tradition back at Troy.”

Robinson wasn’t selected to the league’s preseason all-conference team, but four teammates were – wide receiver Eric Thomas, defensive end Tony Davis, linebacker Kanorris Davis and safety Brynden Trawick. Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin was picked as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year and FIU defensive end Tourek Williams earned the same honor on the defensive side of the ball.

For Troy, it’s about trying to get back to a place it was from 2006-2010 – at the top of the conference. Troy head coach Larry Blakeney wasn’t surprised at Troy’s place in the preseason poll.

“I would have probably picked us fifth,” Blakeney said. “We’ve got a lot to prove, as far as this team goes. I think our staff has sort of got to reprove. We’ve been pretty good coaches up until last year and all the sudden we’re not very good.

“Our players, they’re in tune to prove we’re still a viable entity in the Sun Belt. It’s taken some work already and it’ll take a lot of continued work.”

After being a part of five straight Sun Belt championships, shared or outright, the returning players had to take a different response to the events of last season.

“I hope (they responded) positively because that’s the only thing you can do if you’re going to get better,” Blakeney said.

It started in the offseason, as Blakeney maintained that the Octagon, a “mind over matter” grueling offseason strength and conditioning program, to help bond the team. Blakeney was pleased with spring practice, and also said the players on this team had done more community service hours since he had been at Troy.

“(There has been) things that tip off the fact that they care and they care about each other,” Blakeney said.

One aspect Blakeney harped on was improving Troy’s run game. Robinson, a two-year starter who played through foot and shoulder injuries last year, has thrown for 7,137 yards and a school-record 637 completions, will only benefit more if Troy is able to establish a stronger run game with three full-time returning starters on the offensive line and the top three running backs also returning.

At just 88.7 yards per game, Troy ranked last in the Sun Belt and 117 th nationally a season ago.

“The only thing we’ve concentrated on (in the spread offense) is trying to develop a more potent or prolific running game, to be more exact or close to exactly the same on running and passing,” Blakeney said. “(We want it where) after the ball snap, you don’t really know if the play is run or pass.

“We don’t want to change a lot, but we’ve got to be able to rush the ball for more than 100 yards per game.”

Troy is scheduled to report for fall camp on Monday, July 30 and begin practice on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Panama City athlete commits to Troy


Troy picked up its first athlete commitment when Dondrell Harris, from Rutherford High School in Panama City, Fla., committed to the Trojans over the weekend.

“I decided it would be better for me because it’s closer to home,” Harris said. “My mom’s side of the family is in Dothan and my other part of the family is in Panama City. I wanted to go to a place where my family can come see me and Troy was a great fit for that.”

Harris did a bit of everything for Rutherford, playing quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. At Troy, he projects as an athlete, and he’ll stick at whichever position – receiver or defensive back – that will get him on the field quickest.

Harris is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. Georgia Tech was recruiting him, but had not yet extended an offer. Jacksonville University and Central Florida were also in the mix.

“Troy has a great program and I’ll learn a lot from their coaches and players,” Harris said. “I’ll do what I can do to help the team. My biggest goal is to win.”

MEDIA DAY updates

Larry Blakeney on the ESPN3 set. His appearance on ESPN3 will be at 2:15 p.m. CST
 
10:05 p.m. - You see the all-conference picks below. Also, the Sun Belt has launched a digital network with XOS Digital, entering into a 7-year agreement. From part of the release:


XOS will launch and manage the Sun Belt Digital Network, enlist and manage the official corporate sponsors of the conference, and implement the XOS Integrated Sponsor Activation PlatformTM on Aug. 1, 2012, marking a first in collegiate sports marketing. The Sun Belt Digital Network will provide the Sun Belt community with video-centric offerings including an officially branded website, applications for mobile, tablet and Smart TV, an OnDemand Game Store, affiliate digital video players and live streaming of Sun Belt games and events. 
The XOS Integrated Sponsor Activation Platform will provide Sun Belt corporate sponsors with the ability to enhance their investment by fully integrating their sponsorships across all elements of the Sun Belt Digital Network as well as the Sun Belt Television and Radio Broadcast Networks. The Integrated Sponsor Activation Platform will provide enhanced interaction with fans as well as comprehensive analytics on fan reach and demographics.


Go HERE to the Sun Belt website's Media Day Central. It is filled with everything you want to know.


10:15 a.m. - Larry Blakeney just taped his ESPN3 deal, which will air at 2:15 p.m. CST.

12:45 p.m. -  Well, haven't been able to update the blog like I thought but did tweet out some photos. I did speak with Larry Blakeney and Corey Robinson and other coaches, and there still is plenty more to come. Lots of media here, including Dennis Dodd of CBS and Thayer Evans of FOX. I was asking WKU coach Willie Taggart about modeling his program after Stanford, where he coached, and he said he had the blueprints from it. I asked then if he had his Andrew Luck, to which he replied

"I don't need an Andrew Luck, I just need a little luck."

ULL coach Mark Hudspeth talked about the shining moment last year, said "probably sling-shotted us ahead four or five years from where we may have been if we had come in and just shown a little improvement the first year." Lots of high hopes in Lafayette this year. Offense should be very good and he is confident in the defensive players even though some new ones will be thrown into the fire.

USA coach Joey Jones mentioned how they have some high-quality players, like linebacker Jake Johnson who will be an NFL player, but worried about the depth catching up against other teams who have been recruiting at this level for many more years.

Also, was able to confirm that Rutherford, Fla., ATH Dondrell Harris has committed to Troy and I will blog about it later. He'll play whatever gets him on the field quickest - WR or DB.

5 p.m. UPDATE - About to wrap things up from here after typing up a notebook. Story in tomorrow's paper about Troy coach/player reacting to being picked 5th, a story about South Alabama and some notes.  It was certainly a great event put on by the Sun Belt Conference. Got some good stuff and enjoyed conversations from everyone in attendance.

MEDIA DAY: Troy picked 5th

Troy was picked 5th in the preseason poll. Numbers following are the votes and first place votes are in parentheses.

1. FIU - 92 (5)
2. Arkansas State - 85 (2)
3. UL-Lafayette - 81 (2)
4. Western Kentucky - 70 (1)
5. Troy - 60
6. UL-Monroe - 47
7. Middle Tennessee - 42
8. North Texas - 36
9. Florida Atlantic - 23
10. South Alabama - 14

Troy had four picked to the all-conference team: WR Eric Thomas, DL Tony Davis, LB Kanorris Davis, DB Brynden Trawick

OFFENSE
QB - Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State
RB - Kedrick Rhodes, FIU
RB - Alonzo Harris, ULL
WR - Josh Jarboe, ASU
WR - Javone Lawson, ULL
WR - Eric Thomas, Troy
TE - Jack Doyle, WKU
OL - Zack McKnight, ASU
OL - Rupert Bryan, FIU
OL - Caylin Hauptmann, FIU
OL - Leonardo Bates, ULL
OL - Cyril Lemon, UNT

DEFENSE
DL - Isame Faciane, FIU
DL - Tourek Williams, FIU
DL - Tony Davis, Troy
DL - Quanterus Smith, WKU
LB - Winston Fraser, FIU
LB - Kanorris Davis, Troy
LB - Andrew Jackson, WKU
DB - Don Jones, ASU
DB - Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
DB - Melvin White, ULL
DB - Brynden Trawick, Troy

SPECIAL TEAMS
K - Brett Baer, ULL
P - Will Atterberry, UNT
R/S - John Evans, WKU

PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Ryan Aplin, ASU
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Tourek Williams, FIU

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A look ahead to Media Day

I'm now in New Orleans, a drive made longer thanks to a long traffic delay near Mobile, but here at long last. The Sun Belt Media Day starts tomorrow morning at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal St. - the hotel Troy has stayed at the last two times the Trojans went to the New Orleans Bowl.

You can read my short preview HERE in the Monday Dothan Eagle.

I was told the preseason all-conference team and predicted order of finish, voted by the league coaches, would be released at 10 a.m., but whenever it is, I'll get it up here and out to you.

I don't expect to see many Trojans on the all-conference team. Wide receiver Eric Thomas should be on it, but no guarantees. Safety Brynden Trawick has a chance, since he led the conference in tackles last year, but he didn't have any interceptions so you never know. Offensive lineman Kyle Wilborn may find his way on there.

This is how I think the Sun Belt coaches will vote the poll

1. FIU
2. Arkansas State
3. UL-Lafayette
4. Troy (I still think the 5 titles in a row will give the Trojans respect in this poll despite last year's finish)
5. Western Kentucky (People may think they'll be down after losing Bobby Rainey; not I)
6. UL-Monroe
7. North Texas
8. Middle Tennessee (Thought about flip-flopping, then remembered last year's score with UNT)
9. Florida Atlantic
10. South Alabama

That's probably a good gauge going in to the preseason. Obviously, it won't end up like this come November. Heck, tomorrow's 1-10 could look way off. Share your thoughts and preseason rankings.

Taking stock: Quarterback

The final position preview, and also the shortest. Off to New Orleans on Sunday for Monday's Media Day.

THE SKINNY: Troy returns two-year starter Corey Robinson, who has a chance to shatter records before he's done at Troy and probably do that this year, health willing. Robinson's numbers weren't that different last year from his freshman year, when he had 3 top-notch senior receivers catching passes. But he had a 3-game stretch (ULM, at FIU, at Navy) where he didn't do so hot, and in a 3-9 season, sometimes that overshadows the good, which included 7 300-yard games. Last year, Robinson had an inexperienced and oft-injured offensive line as well as very inexperienced receivers. This year, it's the exact opposite, and Robinson should flourish. The main goal: drop the INT total, which has been 15 in each of the last two seasons.

THE REST: Troy has three scholarship players at QB now, after Luke Barnes had to transfer to junior college because of academics. Junior college transfer Deon Anthony and redshirt freshman Dallas Tidwell will continue their battle to be No. 2 as both performed well this spring. Anthony should be used some in Wildcat packages and Tidwell, at 6-foot-7, has a bright future. Troy signed Brandon Silvers, a strong and athletic quarterback from Gulf Shores, but he probably won't have a role this fall.


TOP MOMENT OF MY ERA (since 2005): A few stand out - Omar Haugabook leading Troy on a 2-TD drive in the final minutes to stun Middle Tennessee 21-20 in 2006; Levi Brown coming out of nowhere midway through the 2008 season to emerge from third string to perhaps Troy's best and most talented quarterback ever (in my opinion), and Corey Robinson, in just his fourth game as a college QB, taking Troy 67 yards in 28 seconds (30 yards to Jernigan, 10 yards to Bruce, 10 to Jernigan, incomplete, then 17 to Southward who was wide open on the wheel route down the right side for the TD) in a 35-28 win over Arkansas State. ASU had scored with 50 seconds left to go up 28-27.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Taking stock: Running backs

This is the second-to-last of some position previews and the quarterbacks preview will get posted this weekend.

THE SKINNY: Troy is deep and experienced at running back and while the Trojans weren't that great at running the ball last year, a multitude of things led to that. Bad defense led to some early deficits and injuries and shifting around on the offensive line led to Troy finishing dead last in the Sun Belt in rushing at 88 yards per game last year. That number was good for 117th out of 120 teams in FBS last year. If you can't run the ball, you can't win.

TOP GUYS: Here's why Troy should be better at running the ball this year - the top two guys are too good for them not to be. Shawn Southward and D.J. Taylor, fellow seniors, are good enough to be in NFL training camps next fall, according to strength coach Richard Shaughnessy. Southward was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2009 and Taylor has really come into his own over the last couple of years. Southward's in the 185-190 pound range and a good north and south runner. Taylor's about 230 pounds and a bruising runner who is faster than he looks and good out of the backfield.

THE REST: Senior Chris Anderson was part of that three-man tandem last year but his carries tailed off at the end. He's a fast back that has been part of the rotation the past two years and will get some carries this year. I'm interested to see how junior Khary Franklin fits in, as he has a redshirt year available after his transition from wide receiver, but was pretty good this spring. Redshirt freshman Daron White also has some ability and the future at this position looks bright. Senior T.J. Mitchell also returns and sophomore Brian Exley, a load to bring down in scrimmages, is back, although he was injured during spring.


BOTTOM LINE: This unit must improve for Troy to be better, and I am pretty sure it will.


TOP MOMENT OF MY ERA (since 2005): A couple of things stick out, both related to the same player. In the 2008 48-3 win against UL-Lafayette, DuJuan Harris dominated, running for 234 yards and two touchdowns and even throwing a touchdown. He topped the 1,000-yard mark that year in his first year as a starter. Next year wasn't so good for Harris, as he just didn't perform as well for whatever reason and eventually lost his job to Southward. But he was at his best in the GMAC Bowl, a 44-41 loss to Central Michigan, running with passion and showing great heart in a game where two of the more talented "mid-major" teams I've ever seen squared off. Harris ran for 112 yards and two scores, and caught a touchdown pass. A few days later, his son was born. Harris made the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent

Troy's season opener time set

***As expected, Troy's season opener at UAB will kick off at 11 a.m. in Legion Field. It will be televised by Fox College Sports, if you have that channel. It's the first of 3 games at Legion Field that weekend, with Alabama A&M and Tuskegee kicking off Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Go check out the schedule and you'll see a list of other kickoff times.

Something tells me that Saturday night game will get more fans, and I'm sure new UAB head coach Garrick McGee is thrilled with his first game, a home one at that, kicking off at 11 a.m. I can't imagine the crowd size being nearly what he hoped it would have been. But, it gets everyone back to Troy or Dothan in good time.

***If you want to follow along with the Sun Belt Media Day online, you can read this blog or twitter, but the ESPN3 coverage will start at 2 p.m. CST. The coverage will start earlier as the all-conference list comes out at 10 a.m. and we'll talk to some coaches shortly after.

Trawick on Thorpe Award list

Troy senior safety Brynden Trawick was named to the Thorpe Award Watch List on Friday. Trawick was just one of 35 players from the list. Only two come from the Sun Belt - Trawick and FIU defensive back Jonathan Cyprien.

Trawick had a Sun Belt-leading 123 tackles last year. The Thorpe Award is presented to the best defensive back.

Feature on Kanorris Davis

I wrote a feature on Troy linebacker Kanorris Davis, which you can find in the Friday print edition of the Dothan Eagle or on dothaneagle.com HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

TROY – Kanorris Davis has been hounded by injuries, most of them minor, since he started playing football at Troy. His remedy for the pain is simple: put on a happy face.

“A positive attitude will help you heal faster and it keeps the worry out of the family,” said Davis, now a senior linebacker for the Trojans. “I don’t want my mama to worry. It frustrated me a lot because I do everything I’m supposed to and play the game right. I give it all to make sure I don’t get hurt, but it seems like something always happen.”

Davis has missed at least one game in his three years due to injury, but his most serious injury came in the second-to-last game last season at Western Kentucky, when his hard collision with WKU tight end Jack Doyle resulted in a dislocated right ankle, broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments.

“I was mad and calm at the same time that it didn’t even phase me,” Davis said. “(Head trainer) Chuck (Ash) said, ‘We’re going to have to pop it back in place.’

“The woman who was there said, ‘Chuck, this guy is brave right here. He can take some pain.’ I was like, ‘You don’t even know what I’ve been through. Pain is nothing to me.’”

If that injury was tough to see, the happy ending was the lengths Davis went to recover fully. Head coach Larry Blakeney expects Davis to have no effects from the injury as the Trojans head into the 2012 season.

In fact, Davis was cleared by doctors on April 17, just in time to participate in Troy’s Junior Pro Day and not even five months after the ankle injury. In his first run in the 40-yard dash, he ran a 4.4 (seconds).

“I think this injury is a thing of the past, as far as affecting him athletically,” Blakeney said. “Kanorris is so full-speed. He’s wide open all the time, which is a great thing.”

n n n
Davis is a physical freak of nature, as anyone associated with Troy will tell you. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds and not afraid of anything, whether it be standing up to the team or gearing up for a career with the SWAT team after his football days are over with his criminal justice background.

Davis takes pride in preparing his body for the rigors of football with a strong weight room ethic and steady diet, resulting in nearly zero percent body fat. But the injuries still came. He had ankle surgery as a sophomore and missed all but one play in a game last year because of a sprained left ankle. He’s battled groin and quad injuries, as well as others, throughout his career, but only knows how to go one speed on the field.

“When you’re in a game and you’re having fun and running around and you’re getting hit and hitting, with contact throughout the game, something’s bound to happen,” Davis said. “I keep that in my head so I won’t get frustrated and when I do get hurt, it’ll be because of me going 110 (percent).”

Blakeney said he’s past the point of trying to get Davis to slow down in practice, and that’s not a bad thing.

“You can’t go around protecting too much or you’ll have bad luck,” Blakeney said. “I’m not going to try to coach him to slow down.”

n n n
Davis hasn’t slowed down academically, either. He was declared ineligible as a freshman at Troy and had to spend the entire 2008-09 school year away from team activities as he worked his way up from non-qualifier status.

He did just that, and is six hours away from getting his criminal justice degree. In high school, Davis didn’t learn the value of academics until it was too late, as the level of classes he took early on wasn’t high enough to be eligible for college athletics.

On the field at Perry County (Ga.) High School, Davis was a machine. His four-year career as a varsity player yielded him 398 tackles, some school records for single-season tackles and sacks and several all-region and all-state honors.

At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds early in high school, Davis was a dominant force at defensive tackle before moving to linebacker as a senior. He never picked up a weight until he started playing football in eighth grade, gaining strength as a young child by climbing up trees.

Soon enough, he had surpassed his teammates in bench press max numbers, and though he wasn’t the ideal size, he was playing on the defensive line.

“(Bigger guys) didn’t want it as bad as I did,” Davis said. “I just came in and did work and the coach told me (as a freshman), you won’t ever have to worry about playing with JV again.

“He said, ‘You’re going to leave your friends behind because you outworked them and you proved yourself.’”

n n n
Colleges started calling after Davis’ junior year. Purdue offered a scholarship. Others did as well, but most pulled back because of academic concerns and the fact he hadn’t played much at linebacker. Troy stayed true to him, and Davis signed with the Trojans.

He started his career as a special teams monster, causing two fumbles on punt returns in a key 30-27 win at Arkansas State in 2009. Coaches eventually put in a special blitz package for him that year, but he moved into the starting lineup permanently last season, earning honorable mention all-conference honors.

Davis is hoping to make a career in the National Football League, and has a pretty good chance.

“Coach (Richard) Shaughnessy told me if I can stay healthy, there’s a legit chance I’ll get invited to a camp,” 
Davis said. “Proving myself won’t be a problem. I can do that. If I can (get to an NFL camp), that would be a blessing because I want to do a lot for my mama. I want to retire my mama (works two jobs as a cafeteria worker and for a nursing home) and my daddy (welder). That’s my main goal, but I have backups.”

The backups, of course, are to join the SWAT team because “it’s aggressive. Kicking down doors, bulletproof vests, you name it.”

He’s already cemented his place as one of Blakeney’s favorites.

“This guy had worked hard to go to college and do everything he’s done,” Blakeney said. “He’s one of my all-time favorite guys.

“He is a bona fide leader. He is not afraid of anything or anybody or to say anything to anybody and he will stand up to the team. I have seen it myself. He is a coach’s dream in that regard.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taking stock: Wide receivers

We're getting to the back end of these specific position previews

THE SKINNY: Where Troy was inexperienced going into last season, the Trojans are experienced and get some more weapons back with the presumed academic eligibility of Jamel Johnson and Chip Reeves, both of whom did very well in spring practice. Johnson will be a junior and Reeves a fifth-year senior. Reeves may be the best deep threat in the Sun Belt. Junior Eric Thomas stepped up as Troy's go-to receiver last year and had a school-record (At the FBS level) tying nine touchdowns. Sophomore Chandler Worthy appears ready to take his game to another level as well. Three highly-touted freshmen join several others who got valuable experience last year, such as senior Justin Albert, junior Felton Payton, senior Jaquon Robinson and sophomore B.J. Chitty.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Troy rotates a lot at these positions and will usually play 9-10 guys per game, and have at least 15 players catch a pass. When I refer to positions, X and Z are outside receivers and H and Y are inside receivers. I think the top four would be Thomas (X), Worthy (H), Robinson (Y) and Johnson (Z) with junior Jim Teknipp as the tight end when Troy uses one.

DEPTH: There is a good bit of depth and you'll see guys like Reeves (X), Chitty (Z), Payton (Y), Albert (H) probably be next in line. Many of these players can play multiple positions. Go even further than that and guys like redshirt freshman Bryan Holmes (X or Z), junior Sam Haskins (Y) are in the mix. Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield mentioned walk-on transfer J.J. Harbin and Chris Williams as having good spring practices. Troy is bringing in three freshmen in Brandon Brooks, Bobby Walker and Michael Lindsey. I am not sure where they project, but would peg Lindsey as a slot receiver and perhaps the other two as outside receivers.

YOUNG GUY TO WATCH: Holmes. He's Chip Reeves-lite, and he'll be used a few times this year on deep balls. He's very fast and can burn defenses just like Reeves can on deep balls. He's got the same lean frame. Reeves is a very good football player and does well with blocks, etc., so if Holmes is also good with his assignments, he'll play a good amount.

BOTTOM LINE: There are several guys I've mentioned and not quite enough balls to go around. Competition brings out the best in players, usually, and it will be interesting to see which guys step up. The good thing is that most of these guys are proven and experienced and should help quarterback Corey Robinson put up some good numbers.

TOP MOMENT OF MY ERA (since 2005): Every time Jerrel Jernigan got the ball, you had the chance for a highlight play, and he had many of them. But the most important catch came in that 2006 game at Middle Tennessee as the Trojans were making a late comeback. Down 20-14 in the final minute and facing 4th and 17, Smokey Hampton found an opening in the middle of the defense and caught a pass from Omar Haugabook, getting hit in the air and falling down pretty much on his head, but holding on. On the next play, Troy scored and hit the PAT to go up 21-20 and start at stretch of five straight championships.

But back to some highlights of Jernigan to relive the good moments:


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Saraland tight end commits to Troy

Troy picked up a commitment Wednesday when Saraland tight end Wyndell Archie committed to Troy.

"I had been looking at Troy for a long time," Archie said. "I talked to coach (Randy) Butler about how they would use me in the offense and he had a good answer for me. They also have what I want to major in, which is Environmental Science."

Archie, 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, plays a number of roles for Saraland, which is near Mobile. He said he plays tight end, fullback, running back and wide receiver and will likely end up in that tight end/inside receiver role at Troy.

Archie had offers from UL-Lafayette, Alabama State and Alabama A&M as well as Troy. He said he would visit Troy's prospect camp on July 25th, and has made trips to Troy in the past.

"I'm a guy that gives it my all on the field," Archie said. "I try not to leave nothing behind."

Archie said he's one of five seniors for a talented but young Saraland team. The school had its first graduating class this year.

"I thought Troy was a really good for me and I liked how they wanted to use me," Archie said. "I've been to Troy a few times and thought it was the right time."

You can go HERE for a comprehensive highlight tape of Archie from last year's games and HERE is another recruiting profile.

According to scout.com, Archie had 22 receptions for 319 yards last year with one touchdown and 65 tackles and eight tackles for a loss as a defensive end.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday afternoon notes

**There is now a time lapse video of the turf being removed from the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, done by Mike Frigge. Just click HERE and spend the 1 minute and 25 seconds watching it.

**More of a reminder that Sun Belt Media Days/football season is getting closer is that I got my all-conference preseason ballot to fill out today. I can't disclose who's on it, but this may be a year where few, if any, Trojans make the preseason list. Only the coaches vote on the preseason order of finish and I'd think Troy will be picked around 5th. It's never the end-all, be-all. Remember in 2006, the first of Troy's five outright or shared Sun Belt championships, Troy had just two preseason all-conference members in Greg Whibbs and Leodis McKelvin (as a kick returner). As you've noticed over the years Troy came off conference championships, usually the best teams from the year before have the most preseason all-conference honorees. This will be announced sometime next Monday morning and I'll post the entire all-conference list (just a first team) and predicted order of finish (which we all know will end up being wrong) as soon as I get it.

**Big news on the ticketing front, as you can now order Troy football season tickets online and eventually basketball. Read more HERE. That link was to the announcement, and THIS goes straight to the football order system.

**HERE is a story from the Atlanta Falcons website on rookie defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi.