Friday, August 31, 2012

Robinson, Trojans have unfinished business

Since the game is so early in the morning, I figured I'd post my game preview story in the Saturday Dothan Eagle online now. Besides, who will be interested this at 4 p.m. tomorrow? It's on HERE.


BIRMINGHAM – Troy quarterback Corey Robinson doesn’t have fond memories of Legion Field, but it is the place where the junior put up some career-best numbers.
Robinson, who will lead the Trojans into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against UAB, threw for a career-best 404 yards two years ago in just his third college game, but it was overshadowed by UAB’s come-from-behind 34-33 win.

Now, Robinson and the Trojans are ready to avenge not just that, but last year’s 3-9 season. The Trojans  wore t-shirts that read “Unfinished Business” on the bus ride to Birmingham.

Coaches say that Robinson, who won Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in 2010, is light years better than he was even last year. At Troy’s media day on Aug. 11., quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan said Robinson’s fundamentals were “night and day” better than they were at this time last year.

Robinson said he spent the summer watching hours and hours of film. He studied New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of the NFL’s best and Robinson’s favorite quarterback, on ways to improve.

“I’m just trying to learn from the best,” Robinson said. “I watched a couple of things he did to help himself get better. My pocket presence, I feel like, has improved night and day and that’s what Coach Reagan was talking about. My fundamentals, my arm angle, small stuff like that – little stuff that makes a good quarterback be a better one.”

Robinson needs just 551 yards to set the school’s career passing yards record, which is currently held by Sim Byrd.

“I hope he gets (the record) soon,” Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said. “Right now I think he’s more concerned with just executing the offense, managing the game and I think if he does that, it’ll come.”
Robinson said the Trojans have mostly been watching film of their game last year at Arkansas, a 38-28 loss. 

That’s because first-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee came from Arkansas, where he served as offensive coordinator. UAB defensive coordinator Reggie Johnson also coached on the Arkansas staff last season.

As far as records go, Robinson didn’t want to talk much about them.

“I’ve got to get there first,” he said. “A lot of things can happen between now and then. We’ve just got to get there. That’s all I want to say about that.”

McGee said earlier this week that the UAB defensive staff must figure out a way to slow Robinson down and not give him much time to throw the ball.

“We cannot allow him to just sit back and pitch off of a mound and not apply pressure to him, and not give him different looks,” McGee said. “Our defensive tackles have to push the pocket in the middle to push him off of his set point.”

Make your season prediction

Stolen off Kyle Wilborn's twitter, this is Troy's team riding the bus to UAB
Would like to hear everyone's season predictions on the blog comments.

So, make them. Here are mine

Leading passer: Corey Robinson
Leading rusher: Shawn Southward
Leading receiver: Chip Reeves
Leading pancake blocks: Zach Johnson
Leading tackles: Brannon Bryan
Leading sacks: Tyler Roberts
Leading interceptions: Zach Miller
Final regular season record: 7-5

7-5 is the record that pops into my head. I can't really look at the schedule and peg certain games as automatic Ws or Ls, but I think based on the Trojans normally playing well at home, probably being on a bounce back year yet still probably having a game where they stumble and lose as a favorite.

Troy aims to improve run game

Khary Franklin and the Trojans hope to run the ball better this year.

This story is in the Friday print edition of the Dothan Eagle and on HERE.


TROY – One of Troy’s hidden treasures throughout its run of five straight Sun Belt Conference championships was its ability to run the ball.

Last year, that aspect went way out the window, along with its season. Troy ranked 117 th nationally, rushing for just 88.7 yards per game. It was a steep decline from the previous four seasons, when the Trojans averaged 164 yards per game.

“Even though we were thought of as a spread pass team, we won a lot of the run game battles,” said John Schlarman, Troy’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator. “As a line, we were disappointed in that and as coaches, we were disappointed in that. In this offseason, we’ve gone back to establishing that mentality that, even in the years where we won those championships, if you look at the statistics, we won the run game battle.”

Schlarman pointed to a few things that needed to improve by the offensive line for the run game to get back to where it was, but the main aspect was consistency. It didn’t help last year that Troy ended up losing three players during the season to injuries (Jacob Creech, Kyle Wilborn, Jimmie Arnold) and the only two positions where players started all 12 games were at left tackle (James Brown) and center (Zach Swindall).
Troy played two freshmen for most of the season on the right side in Zach Johnson and Terrence Jones. 

While there were growing pains last year, the two are now grizzled veterans with a bright future.

“We have to be more consistent on assignments and more consistent on technique,” Schlarman said. “We absolutely placed a lot of emphasis on that for this season and hopefully it shows. It’s not that we have to come up with some new formula, but we have to be more consistent and we weren’t last year. In years past, we were, and that’s the big difference.”

Troy’s offensive line will start three seniors – Jarred Fleming, Cody Woodiel and Kyle Wilborn, from left tackle to center, and Johnson and Jones. Fleming started games last year at right tackle and left guard and Woodiel played sparingly last year as a tight end, beefing up this season.

Two top backups are also upperclassmen in junior Jimmie Arnold (one start last year) and senior Andrew Phillips. Sophomore Chris Hawkins and redshirt freshman Dalton Bennett also round out the rotation.

Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said that the Trojans are “going to improve on” the run game. He added that Troy has been able to pound the ball in the fourth quarter in the past more often because the Trojans were winning. Last year, Troy held a lead in part of the fourth quarter in only two if its nine losses.

“When you get down and turn the ball over, you have to get away from (the run game) that a lot sooner than you want to and that was the case last year,” Edenfield said. “You want to be able to dictate when you run and throw the ball.”

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney also agreed that the Trojans should be better in the run game. Troy returns seniors Shawn Southward and D.J. Taylor, though Taylor is out for Saturday’s 11 a.m. season opener at UAB, and several young players are vying for carries.

The addition of junior college transfer quarterback Deon Anthony also gives Troy a threat. Corey Robinson is the undisputed starter, but Anthony could see somewhere around 10 snaps a game in the ‘Wildcat’ formation.

“He’s a Wildcat guy that will throw and that gives him a chance to come in there in Wildcat situations and have them deciding if they’re going to load the box and stop him or cover the receivers and give them a chance to stop him,” Blakeney said.

A grueling offseason program helped the offensive linemen add strength. If they can use that and stay consistent with technique and assignments, the Trojans should be much better offensively this season.

“We’ve gotten a few schemes where we’ll be a little more hard-headed,” Blakeney said. “It won’t always be pretty, but we’ve got some things that will help us in the run game. We’ve got to get the ball to the right people in the right places.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Troy hoops finalizes roster

Troy's men's basketball team has 13 scholarship players. The final addition to the team was sophomore guard Jarrett Calhoun, a 5-foot-11 combo guard from Hill (Texas) College. Calhoun is the younger brother of signee Tevin Calhoun, a 6-foot-7 wing player. The Calhouns are from Camden, N.J. As a reserve at Hill, Jarrett Calhoun averaged 3.6 ppg. He was probably in line for more playing time this year at Hill but was eligible to sign with Troy.

Jarrett Calhoun joins the program after Alan Jones, Troy's second-leading scorer, left the team.

"He's a point guard, 2-guard type who is a very good shooter," Troy head coach Don Maestri said. "He's an athletic guy and he fills our roster up to the 13 (scholarship players). We didn't want to take a guy in at midyear."

So, Troy's roster looks like this going into the 2012-13 season.
SR Justin Wright, 6-5 G/F
SR Emil Jones, 6-2 G/F
SR Ray Chambers, 6-6 F/C
JR R.J. Scott, 6-4 G
JR Westley Hinton, 6-8 F
SO Deonta Jethroe, 6-4 G
RFR Breon Dixon, 6-7 F
RFR Sidki Muwallif, 6-8 F*
JR Tevin Calhoun, 6-7 F**
JR Josh Warren, 6-9 F/C**
JR Antione Myers, 6-2 G**
JR Jeff Mullahey, 6-3 G**
JR Hunter Williams, 6-0 G**
SO Jarrett Calhoun, 5-11 G**

* - walk-on
** - New scholarship player

These are the only scholarship players on the roster. If another walk-on or two is added, you'll probably see it on Troy opens the 2012-13 season against Mississippi State at home on Nov. 9.

To watch Jarrett Calhoun take some jump shots

To watch Jarrett Calhoun dunk

Thursday blog notes

Is this really a UAB home game? One end zone for Saturday's game

So I've always thought UAB was getting the shaft by the city of Birmingham by it having to open its season at 11 a.m. on what could be a hot September day. This is the first of three games at Legion Field this weekend, but UAB-Troy looks to be playing undercard to Saturday night's game between Alabama A&M and Tuskegee.

Certainly, the crowd will be good for head coach Garrick McGee's debut. I think it could have been much better had he and UAB deservedly been given the night game. That's regardless of what's painted in the end zones.

"I think they knew they could probably get a better crowd for each game by putting us in the early game," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "I just hope it's not blazing hot because it was blazing hot up there (in 2010, 3 p.m. kickoff). We were in the sun and they were in the shade for most of the time. At 11:00, it looks like everybody will be in the sun for three hours."

McGee believes his team is equipped for the morning kickoff and it'll be early to bed, early to rise for the Blazers this weekend.

"We are one of those crews that believe the hay is never in the barn," McGee said. "We will have a walk-thru at 6:45 Saturday morning and wewill learn more about our opponent and ourselves that morning. We continue preparation up until kickoff.”

Both coaches have respect for each other's programs. McGee was quarterbacks coach at Arkansas in 2009 and QBs coach/offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2011 when the Razorbacks hosted Troy.

"I’ve got a lot of respect for Garrick McGee and the guys he kept and the guys he brought," Blakeney said. "They’re trying to get off on the right foot just like we are."

Here is what McGee had to say on Monday during his press conference: "Their offense is at a fast tempo that can give you a lot of problems and it’ll let their quarterback get into a rhythm; he (QB Corey Robinson) can really control the game, control the tempo of the game, and control completion after completion. The defensive front has always been one of the top defensive fronts that we’ve seen and nothing has changed. They’ve got two really good junior college defensive tackles (Derrek Upshaw & Xavier Melton). Two guys that I know personally, that I recruited that are from the same school, so I know those kids. Troy’s coaches have been together for a long time, so they have a way of going about their business. We have all the respect in the world for Troy.”

Tackle Chris Hubbard is UAB's only returning starter on the offensive line and here's what he had to say about Troy: "Troy has some very quick defensive ends, so matching their alignments is going to be important for us."

HERE is a story from the Birmingham News on UAB's inexperienced offensive line hoping to quiet some critics. Interesting story, since Troy has a defense hoping to quiet some critics. 

HERE is a game preview, with predicted score, from The Sports Network, with a good look at both teams.

Wilborn settles in at center

Story today focuses on senior Kyle Wilborn, whose versatility will be a key for the Troy offensive line. You can read it in the Thursday Dothan Eagle (which has our prep football tab in it as well!) and on HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.comm

TROY – Kyle Wilborn might be jokingly known for the scars on his body following seven surgeries, but his versatility is what Troy coaches will help carry the offensive line through this season.

Wilborn has been a starter throughout his career at Troy, save three games where he sat out because of injuries. He started for a season and a half at right tackle, then another season and a half at left guard. Now, he’ll be the Trojans’ center as Troy readies for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at UAB.

Wilborn started snapping about three weeks ago when projected starter Andrew Phillips got hurt. Phillips, a fellow senior, is healthy but listed as the second-team center behind Wilborn on the depth chart.

Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said coaches always had it in the back of their minds that Wilborn could play center, but never had to try it until about three weeks ago.

“It gave us a free opportunity to work him and he really did a nice job there and it gave us another guy (left guard Cody Woodiel) an opportunity to get on the field,” Edenfield said. “We struggled with injuries early but once we got him in there, you could see our continuity fall in line.”

Wilborn said the biggest adjustment came from snapping the ball, but added it’s been more fun to play center than guard or tackle. In Troy’s offense, the center is the quarterback of the offensive line and calls out the defensive alignment. He decides when to snap it after getting the go-ahead from the quarterback.

“I enjoy playing it way more than any offensive line position I’ve ever played before because I can control when I come off the ball,” Wilborn said. “I’m the first one to hit (somebody), so the explosiveness of playing center is the most fun aspect of it.”

Wilborn said he takes pointers from fellow centers Phillips and Evan McKissack. Though the players are competing for the same job, it hasn’t stopped them from helping each other out.

“With the offensive line, we have a different type of mentality,” Wilborn said. “Everyone’s there to help each other out. This is the closest offensive line we’ve had in a long time. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of them and ask for a favor and likewise I know they wouldn’t hesitate to call me.”

Running backs getting healthier: Troy will be without senior D.J. Taylor at running back Saturday, but two others are getting back to health. Junior Khary Franklin (shoulder) is expected to be cleared and redshirt freshman Daron White (high ankle sprain) has a chance to play as well.
White had a long kickoff return in last Saturday’s short scrimmage, coming up just short of a score.
“He looked like he was improving,” Blakeney said. “He ran like a deer and he got up limping. A high ankle sprain is a tough injury. I’ve talked to him a lot along the way. He’s getting better and we need him to get better. If he takes care of the ball, he’s pretty darn good.”

Walk-ons awarded scholarships: Two previous walk-ons were awarded scholarships before the season began. McKissack, a junior offensive lineman from Hoover and running back Jared Lee, a junior from Panama City, were placed on scholarship. Lee could have a bigger role this season as a blocking back if senior D.J. Taylor is slow to return from heat-related issues.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Troy announces ribbon-cutting ceremony

Touched on this a few weeks back, but Troy University sent out the official details for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Trojan Arena.

It's set for 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 8., which is hours before the 6 p.m. kickoff of the home football opener against UL-Lafayette. It gives fans a chance to get inside the new arena, which is a fabulous piece of architecture.

The school's release is HERE.

From the other side: UAB

This annual feature is back, as we hit up beat writers for Troy's opponents and get their take on the program. This week, it's with Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News/, who has covered UAB for the last several years and seen all of the same Troy-UAB thrillers as I've seen.

1. What has been the general reaction to the Garrick McGee hire?
There is an entirely different atmosphere around the UAB football program right now and it's all due to the job that McGee has done. I think most UAB people think McGee will turn the program into a winner. Time will tell if that happens but he's been impressive thus far. You might want to check back after a rugged September to see what the mood is at that point.

2. UAB listed an OR between Jonathan Perry and Austin Brown's name on the QB depth chart. How do you see that position playing out?
I would be surprised if Jonathan Perry is not the starter all season unless he gets injured. At this point, I think he's the better option of the two. I also think he's capable of doing really good things in UAB's offense. I think the only reason that there is a question is both are capable of playing well. This isn't a case where there is no separation because neither is playing well. Brown looked good during preseason practice. He has the best arm on the team and is a good athlete but he's also never taken a college snap.

3. Strengths/weaknesses of the offense?
The strength of the offense is the amount of playmakers that McGee and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm can utilize. In my opinion, no one in Conference USA has a deeper stable of talented running backs and UAB is deep at receiver. Most think that the offensive line, which returns only one starter, is a weakness. McGee insists he's not worried about the offensive line. We'll see on Saturday.

4. Strengths/weaknesses of the defense?
Middle linebacker Marvin Burdette is sensational. He shed more than 30 pounds during the offseason, which makes him a sideline-to-sideline type guy. The defensive front is potentially very good. The biggest unknown is a secondary that is filled with freshmen. I think UAB has some talent in the secondary but you never know how they'll react in a game.

5. How do you see this game going?
I think it comes down to the final play. Corey Robinson will throw a Hail Mary pass that Eric Thomas catches with all but his feet in the end zone. The officials will rule Thomas down at the 1-yard line and the replay official will agree, allowing UAB to escape with the win. Just kidding. I do think it will be a final possession type game like it was the past two seasons.

Wednesday links

You can read today's story from me by just scrolling down one blog post.

From the Birmingham News/, HERE is a story on how UAB must pressure Troy QB Corey Robinson to have a chance. Remember, Robinson threw for 404 yards in the last meeting at Legion Field in only his third college game.

Some Thurday practice notes on UAB and what it may do with its quarterback system. Jonathan Perry, a junior who is a returning starter, was listed on the depth chart with OR by his name at QB with redshirt freshman Austin Brown.

Troy had one of its better defensive games last year against UAB with Perry at quarterback. Two years ago, Troy started out dominating on defense with UAB starting QB David Isabelle in the game, but then backup Bryan Ellis came in and Troy's defense couldn't adjust to the difference in passers and Ellis looked like a mini-Tom Brady, throwing for some 360 yards in basically three quarters. Not sure how similar or different these two quarterbacks are.

For, I filmed a podcast with them on Sunday. You can go HERE for the show, and my part is around the 22-minute mark.

South Alabama had to move its scheduled Thursday night game against Texas-San Antonio to Saturday afternoon because of Hurricane Isaac.

Last but certainly not least, Troy football sideline reporter Chris Blackshear took a convincing win in the race for Phenix City Councilman.

Scott to handle all 3 kicking duties

Today's story on junior Will Scott, who is the Trojans' kicker, punter and kickoff specialist this year, and how he became that. Story in the Wednesday print edition of the Dothan Eagle and on HERE.


TROY – Troy signed Will Scott thinking he’d shore up the punting position, which had an opening. Turns out, the Trojans will get more than they bargained for.
Scott, a junior who transferred to Troy from Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College in January, also won the kickoff and placekicking duties race with freshmen Jed Solomon and Ryan Kay.
He’ll handle all kicking chores Saturday when the Trojans travel to UAB. Special teams coach Shayne Wasden noted that Scott was the most consistent with field goals and kickoffs. He captured the punting duties early on.
“We knew that his first year in junior college, he did both,” Wasden said. “We knew he had a chance to do that. He kept telling me that he was better than the guy they ended up using to kick (in his second year).”
Shifting to punting only turned out to be a blessing for Scott as a junior college sophomore. He averaged 42.7 yards per punt, earning second team All-America honors.
“To be honest, I was really upset when I was just punting to begin with,” Scott said. “I think it ended up helping me because I could just focus on that, and I got pretty good at it. Now that I’m here, I’m able to focus on both again.”
Scott said his family and hometown of Lucedale, Miss., is bracing for Hurricane Isaac this week near the coast of Mississippi. Seven years ago, the family rode out Hurricane Katrina. While they had no electricity, Scott started kicking footballs through a makeshift goalpost, with uprights on top of a soccer goal. His father Derrick built it for his birthday.
His house was fine, Scott said, but a barn on his family’s property was blown away.
“That was when I knew I wanted to kick,” Scott said. “I had been practicing soccer on it, but it was getting close to football season.”
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Scott said he was about the same size in seventh grade (“I haven’t grown much since, unfortunately.”), so he played center on the offensive line. He moved up to be a varsity kicker in ninth grade and, after a short look at safety, he stayed at kicker.
Scott said he looked up to NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri and punter Pat McAfee, but had more admiration for David Brentz, who kicked at George County High School a few years before Scott and then at Carson-Newman in Tennessee. Now, Brentz is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, just like Scott’s father.
“The guy taught me everything he knows,” Scott said. “He came back (home) and recognized me as a talent. He mentored me all the way up. Now, he does what my dad does. My dad is his mentor and he’s mine.”
Brentz works at UAB, but “he’ll be pulling for me (Saturday). I’ll make him.”
The kicking duties have different leg angles, so Scott has to do his warm-ups in each aspect. Early on, he struggled with overkicking but Wasden said he has corrected that.
“He’s been pretty smart about that,” Wasden said. “Early on, he had a little leg fatigue and hurt his groin a little bit because he overkicked. I think he learned from that and backed off.”
The Trojans will travel Solomon, who redshirted last year, as Scott’s backup, and likely redshirt Kay. Wasden said they would continue to utilize the rugby punt as an option.
Scott said he’s been happy to have a position to focus on, rather than moving back and forth from the offensive line to the secondary. He even did some long snapping a few years back.
“I don’t know if it was me being a bad safety or a good kicker,” Scott said. “(Coach) didn’t want me getting hurt. (The offensive line) could eat me. I don’t really miss it.
“(Brentz) knew that if I wanted to play a position at the next level, it needed to be something I could work on every day.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

VIDEO: Corey Robinson

Here is some video from quarterback Corey Robinson on Monday. He talks about his favorite quarterback and how he improved from last year to this year.

Troy defense appears improved, other links

What's in THIS STORY for today's paper is mostly in the blog yesterday, and it's also in the Tuesday print edition of the Dothan Eagle.

The press conference transcript from the TV room is HERE. Also from the Birmingham News, THIS STORY on receiver Jackie Williams, who caught the hail mary at the end of the game two years ago to help give UAB the win.

From over at UAB, read what coach Garrick McGee has to say about the Troy game HERE. Here's some more videos from CBS42. UAB has a bye week after this game.

I'll add links today if I see them. I'm on the radio with Barry and John later this morning at 9:30 a.m. for my weekly segment with them, and with Lance Griffin on The Game Plan in Dothan Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. Those links are posted on the right side of this page.


TROY – This week, Troy defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell doesn’t feel pressure or urgency following last year’s disappointing season on defense. He just wants to win, and feels like his unit is much better and deeper than it was last year, when the Trojans ranked 113 th nationally in yards per game allowed.

He’ll find out how much better they are Saturday at 11 a.m. when Troy opens its season up at Legion Field in Birmingham against UAB.

“I feel better about us defensively than I have in several years,” said Rowell, now in his eighth year as defensive coordinator. “We feel much better about where we are as a unit. Not just 11 (guys), but 22 and 24 and beyond that. We’ve got some guys who can play for us. Are they the best players we’ve ever had? I can’t tell you that right now. But there are more of them that will be going that we will feel good about.”

Last year, Troy was plagued by injuries across the board and not as talented. As a result, coaches brought in several junior college transfers. In turn, it pushed the returning players to up their level of play. The only newcomer listed as a starter is cornerback Zach Miller, though defensive tackles Xavier Melton and Derrek Upshaw, linebacker Mark Wilson, cornerbacks T.J. Bryant and Chris Davis and defensive end Marty Stadom are in line to play, among others.

“I don’t care what you say or he says or they say or anybody else says. Does that bother me? Not one bit,” 
Rowell said. “The bottom line is win. Were we good last year? No. Did we coach any less hard? No. We weren’t as talented. When you’re not as talented, I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter about me. It matters about those 11 guys on the field.”

Rowell pointed at Oklahoma State, which went 12-1 and was ranked No. 3 in the polls last year, as a comparison. The Cowboys were 107 th in the country in total defense (yards per game allowed) and Troy was 113 th . OSU was on the field for 1,089 total plays (last out of 120 teams) while Troy was 96 th with 928 total plays. The top team, Alabama, was on the field for just 720 plays.

The difference there is that Alabama uses a lot of clock with a power run game, while schools like Troy and OSU aim to play faster offensively.

“Look at Oklahoma State’s defense,” Rowell said “Did anybody consider them bad? During the game a lot of times no, but statistically they were because it’s based off of plays.

“Our offense is different than a lot of the guys that were up in the top. They’re going to play less snaps and obviously they’re going to be different statistically which is obviously what a lot of people go by.”

But the Trojans were able to develop depth and will play second-teamers and sometimes third-teamers Saturday. Troy head coach Larry Blakeney feels like the front seven is deeper than it has been recently and the secondary is deeper than it ever has been. Whatever group of 11 players are on the field should be fresher and better, Rowell said.

“No question,” Rowell said. “And in turn, you’re going to be better.”

Troy senior linebacker Kanorris Davis said of last year’s defense that, “it was like somebody put a gun to their head and told them they had to be there. This year, people come out and have a lot of pride and they are ready to work and want to be there.”

Davis said new cornerbacks coach Julius Brown challenged the defense to force at least three turnovers per day in 11-on-11 drills at practice in fall camp. If they didn’t get three, there would be extra running after practice.

“We didn’t make it about three or four practices out of 20,” Davis said. “We’ve been pretty good at that. Hopefully it carries over into the games.”

Quarterback Corey Robinson, who coaches say has improved “night and day” on his fundamentals, gave that same comparison to the defense. Nine of Troy’s 11 listed first-teamers on defense are either juniors or seniors. The others are sophomore linebacker Dimitri Miles and redshirt freshman bandit end Tyler Roberts, though he’ll split time with senior Jacoby Thomas.

“When we go against a good defense in practice, it makes us better in a game,” Robinson said. “It’s very encouraging that they’ve gotten that much better and I know it’s going to carry over into a game.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday notes/video

Here's a video with linebacker Kanorris Davis that I think you will want to watch.

Wish I had more player personnel stuff to give you, but I don't. That's probably good news. The depth chart doesn't look any different than what I saw last week. Injury-wise, obviously RB D.J. Taylor is out. CB Ethan Davis, I would imagine, is also out as he hasn't practiced yet this fall. Freshman running back Daron White could be ready to play, but he's had a high ankle sprain.

"(In Saturday's mock scrimmage) he ran a kickoff back for a long run," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "He didn’t quite score. He looked like he was improving. He ran like a deer and he got up limping. A high ankle sprain is a tough injury. I’ve talked to him a lot along the way. He’s getting better and we need him to get better. If he takes care of the ball, he’s pretty darn good."

Otherwise, "A few little dings but I think it’s football dings you have to overcome and play. I think all of them will be fine."

Blakeney on senior receiver Chip Reeves, who is back from academic woes: "He made some lemonade out of lemons. I hope he can stay well and have a great year."

**Asked defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell about pressure on improving from last year statistically, or was it urgency to get better. Here's what he said:

"Anybody can put any word on it," Rowell said. "You want to win. I don’t care what you say or he says or they say or anybody else says. Does that bother me? Not one bit. The bottom line is win. Were we good last year? No. Did we coach any less hard? No. We weren’t as talented. When you’re not as talented, I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter about me. It matters about those 11 guys on the field.

(And are those guys better?) "No question. And in turn, you’re going to be better."

Rowell made reference to Oklahoma State, last year's No. 3 team in the polls but 107th in total defense. Troy was 113th. OSU was last in the country in total defensive plays with 1,089. Troy was 96th with 928 (source Alabama, which was first, was on the field for 720 defensive plays. Obviously types of offense can dictate that as well. What Rowell was getting at was that this year's team has 20-something guys who he feels like can play where last year, they had maybe 11. That's a big deal when your defense is on the field for X-many more plays.

"What we’ve got to do is have more guys which we feel good about, and we do," Rowell said. "If you’re going to play more snaps, you’ve got to play more people. We feel much better about where we are as a unit. Not just 11, but 22 and 24 and beyond that. We’ve got some guys who can play for us. Are they the best players we’ve ever had? I can’t tell you that right now. But there are more of them that will be going that we will feel good about."

From there, which position group has shown the most improvement?

"It’s hard not to say all," Rowell said. "We struggled last year. We didn’t have a lot of guys. The first group of guys, we still weren’t great but we could hang around a little while. After that, we ran out of gas. We’re better in every unit and not just talent, maturity, depth, all of it. How good we are? I’ll give you a better idea after Saturday.

"I feel better about us defensively than I have in several years."

**Turning this into story form for tomorrow's paper, but wanted to share some quotes from Rowell.

**No idea what rain from Tropical Storm (or is it Hurricane now??) Isaac would do to Troy's practice plans. Blakeney assumed we were all meteorologists and asked us. Troy takes Monday off but may encounter wet weather on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

**Follow @SteveIrvine04 and @Tyler_Cantrell for some UAB tweets. I did a podcast with Tyler on Sunday for @BlazerTVdotcom and I believe that will be online sometime Tuesday.

Chitty making strides for Trojans

B.J. Chitty makes a play last season at Clemson / Kevin Glackmeyer
Wrote this story in the Monday Dothan Eagle on sophomore wide receiver B.J. Chitty, who has gotten much more physical and has a chance to have a big season for the Trojans. You can read it on as well HERE.

Monday marks the first weekly press conference of the season for the Trojans. I'll post updates on twitter and later in the afternoon on the blog.


TROY – Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a part of Troy sophomore B.J. Chitty’s transformation to a more physical player, but the Northview standout certainly put in the work on his own.

Chitty, a receiver who played quarterback at Northview, is poised to build off a season where he had 16 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers aren’t bad for a freshman, but he was challenged in the offseason to become better.

“I didn’t have such a good season last year,” Chitty said. “This year, I’ve got a year under my belt. I feel a little older. I feel better with what I’m doing. (The coaches) told me I needed to gain a few pounds.”

Plenty of schools around the country wanted Chitty out of high school, but he settled on Troy. When he got here in 2010, he was around 175 pounds. Now, the 6-foot-2 Chitty weighs in at 203 pounds and isn’t nearly as skinny as his high school teammates may remember him.

The result on the field? Not only has Chitty made the transformation from quarterback – which isn’t as easy as it sounds – but he’s learned to become a better blocker and use his body to catch passes in traffic.

“As I’ve gotten to learn the position more, it was a whole lot of changing I had to do,” Chitty said. “I had to develop a whole different swag.

“You can’t be out there with a quarterback mindset. You’ve got to block. You’ve got to hit people. You’ve got to catch balls in traffic and you can’t run out of bounds when you want to.

“You’ve got to toughen up out there.”

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said that most young skill players don’t know how to block or choose not to block. He said Chitty’s improved on that, as well as other areas, and had one of the best preseason camps among anyone. Troy opens its season at UAB on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“I really like B.J Chitty,” Blakeney said. “I probably don’t talk enough about him. He is really one that has dedicated himself to getting better and getting bigger and stronger. That’s going to help him when we line up and play.”

Chitty said when he first got to Troy and made the position switch, he had a hard time blocking. That, plus a broken hand early in camp, led to a redshirt in 2010.

“I was getting thrown out there,” Chitty said. “It was technique. You don’t have to be a big person to block. You’ve just got to know how to do it.”

Now, Chitty has upped his bench press to around 315 pounds, he said. Along with eating more protein, he said he would take a peanut butter (smooth) and jelly (grape) sandwich to class for a snack in between meals.

Troy rotates several players at receiver, and now Chitty is listed as the second team Z-receiver behind last year’s leading receiver Eric Thomas. Even if he’s not the starter, Chitty could see upwards of 40 snaps a game.

He’s putting himself in position to be a big-time playmaker for the Trojans, and that could even come this fall.

“I knew coming in I’d have to step my game up in order to be a No. 1 receiver and that’s what I plan on being one day,” Chitty said. “Right now, it’s just a work in progress.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

JUCO game has Troy connections

This came across my twitter feed last night, the game between Hutchinson CC and Coffeyville CC in Kansas. Troy recruits the Kansas JUCOs pretty heavily and has found some good players out of there, with this year's crown jewel being cornerback Zach Miller from Butler County CC.

Hutchinson beat Coffeyville 58-26. Hutch QB Luke Barnes, who spent last year at Troy as a redshirt but had to go to Kansas to get his grades up, set a school record with 459 yards passing. Barnes threw five touchdown passes and ran for a score.

Andre Allen, who signed as a running back for Troy in February, is playing for Coffeyville. Mo Crain, who was fired as defensive tackles coach last January, is the defensive line coach at Coffeyville.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Woodiel beefs up, earns starting spot

Wrote this story on senior offensive lineman Cody Woodiel for Sunday. Woodiel is slated to start at left guard next Saturday at UAB. This story is in the Sunday print edition of the Dothan Eagle. It's on HERE.


TROY – Cody Woodiel had more opportunities to keep playing baseball out of Hernando High School in Hernando, Miss., but followed his dreams for his bigger love – football.

Woodiel, now a senior offensive lineman for Troy, garnered more interest as a 6-foot-5 pitcher/first baseman, but not as much in football, where he played tight end and defensive end in high school.

Cody Woodiel
But he went to Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, Miss., before coming to Troy after a year and a half. Now, he’s literally eaten his way into becoming Troy’s starting left guard. The Trojans open the season at UAB on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“Coach (Richard) Shaughnessy got me on a real good strength plan and good meal plan and I just ate,” Woodiel said.

Woodiel played tight end at Northeast, but Troy coaches felt like he’d eventually help out on the offensive line. He got to Troy in the spring of 2011 weighing around 255 pounds. Last year, he started out at tight end and got up to near 270, but dropped that weight. He played sparingly, just eight games, but moved to the offensive line late in the year.

“He’s done a good job in the weight room and in the dining hall getting to where he is now,” Troy offensive line coach John Schlarman said. “He’s taken a lot of pride in it.”

This spring, Woodiel took advantage of his offseason. While most people drink a Slim-Fast milkshake to lose weight, he added a milkshake after a meal, which included plenty of protein.
“That gave me an extra thousand calories,” Woodiel said. “That was pretty fun.”

Now, Woodiel is in the 280-pound range and has thrived at left guard during preseason practices. The tight end position is clearly in the rear view mirror.

“He’s really bought into making that transition from tight end to offensive line where some guys may not have,” Schlarman said. “He’s really bought in and embraced it and I think that’s why he’s where he is today.”
Woodiel excelled at baseball and football at Hernando High, but said he was recruited more as a baseball player. He actually spent his freshman season as a pitcher at Northeast, but hung up the spikes after that.

“I was a guy just hanging out in the bullpen,” Woodiel said. “Football’s just a lot more fun to me. I like it more. My degree field is in education, and I want to coach when I’m done playing.”

Woodiel chose Troy over offers from Arkansas State and Ohio. He committed to Troy before the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, but Ohio wanted to bring him in for a visit. After watching the Trojans beat the Bobcats 48-21, he decided not to take a visit up north and signed with Troy shortly thereafter.

Coaches originally thought Woodiel would be a tackle, but figured out he’d help the team more as an inside player. Woodiel’s emergence at left guard has allowed the team to shift Kyle Wilborn from guard to center.

“He’s physical, so that’s a big part of it,” Schlarman said. “He plays physical. He’s good in the run game.
“There’s a lot of change going on in there and you’ve got to be able to process it and figure it out and not go to the wrong guy. He’s a real intelligent guy so he’s been able to figure all that out.”

Recap: 2009 signing class

Here is a recap and update of Troy's 2009 signing class.

Here is the 2009 signing class. Some of these guys enrolled in time for spring practice that year.

**Jason Bruce, WR, Copiah-Lincoln, Miss., - Came on toward end of junior season, had a very good senior season.
**James Brown, OT, SW Mississippi CC - Three-year starter at left tackle, signed a free-agent deal with NFL's Chicago Bears
**Tyler Graves, OT, Pearl River Mississippi CC - Solid as he started his senior year.
**Ray Carter, OT, Garden City CC - Was in Troy in spring of '09, had a chance to be a good one, but had to leave school for family reasons. He is from Philadelphia, Pa. Not sure what ever happened to him.
**Jay Stansberry, OT, Bremen, Ga. - Probably would be a starter now if his career hadn't been derailed by injuries. He had to give up the sport.
**Cody Jenkins, OT, Beauregard, Ala. - Was at Troy for three years but left after last season.
**Jeramy Simmons, OL, Ashland, Ala. - Did not qualify
**Nate Newland, OT, Hutchinson, Kan. CC - Started as a senior at right tackle in 2010, had a solid season.
**Dezman Ivory, ATH, Birmingham, Ala. - Did not qualify
**Greg Pratt, RB, Naples, Fla. - Redshirted in '09, transferred to Liberty. Now listed a junior wide receiver there.
**Shawn Southward, RB, Florence, Ala. - 2009 Freshman of the Year in the league. Led Troy in rushing past three seasons and now a senior.
**Sam Haskins, WR, Dinwiddie, Va. - Grayshirt in 09, played sparingly in 2010 and last year and not in the top 3 on the depth chart. Been slowed by heat-related symptoms.
**Anthony Williams, WR, Tampa, Fla. - Left the team after the 2010 season, transferred to South Dakota. Had seven catches last year and now a junior receiver.
**Dominique Bowman, WR, Sulligent, Ala. - Did not qualify
**Jamel Johnson, WR, Montgomery, Ala. - Grayshirt in '09, big role as a freshman, but hindered the last two years by academic ineligibility. Now at Alabama State sitting out the year trying to get eligible for the 2013 season.

**Vinson Bass, DT, Ellenwood, Ga. - Did not qualify
**Emmanuel Dudley, DT, Northeast Miss., CC - Got a medical redshirt in '09, started some last year, started some in 2011 and played through injuries.
**Riley Flowers, DT, Jones County Miss. CC - Played a little in '09, calf injuries hindered him from being better, but was solid as a senior in 2010 in the DT rotation.
**Antonio Harper, DE, Hargrave Military - Was a 4-star recruit, but redshirted in 2009 and was dismissed after that season. He's a preseason Ohio Valley Conference pick for Tennessee State.
**Demarcus Robertson, DB, Garden City, CC - 2008 resign, was here in the spring of 2009 but didn't come back to the team, I think because of grades.
**Eugene Kinlaw, DT, Hutchinson, Kan. CC - Starter in 2009, didn't come back in 2010.
**Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Butler County CC - Redshirted in '09, emerged as a star last year. One of the top defensive ends in the country.
**Shermane Teart, DE, Orlando, Fla. - Headed into junior season and listed as a starter.
**Aaron Williams, DT, Leroy, Ala. - Now a junior in the mix at defensive tackle.
**John Clark, DE, Oxford, Ala. - Sat out '09 as a non-qualifier, but made his grades. Was recently declared academically ineligible for this season.
**Anthony Payne, DL, Leroy, Ala. - Did not qualify, re-signed from JUCO in '11, but didn't qualify from there.
**Sergio Perez, DB, Tampa, Fla. - Redshirted in 2009, dismissed after that year.
**Mike Robinson, DB, Fairfield, Ala. - Redshirted in '09 but was dismissed
**Caleb Massey, DB, Sulligent, Ala. - Redshirted in '09, played a good bit last year, but was dismissed/left team this spring and is now at North Alabama.
**Tony Gray, DB, Enterprise, Ala. - Did not qualify
**Dontavious Pyron, DT, Tampa, Fla. - Did not qualify
**Daymond Brinson, DE, St. Petersburg, Fla. - Did not qualify
**Barry Valcin, DB, Coffeyville (Kan.) CC - Started at corner in 09, was supposed to start at safety in 2010 before a season-ending ankle injury before first game. Sixth-year senior will start at safety.
**Willard Ross, DB, Mississippi Delta CC - Reserve in '09, started senior season in 2010.. Played through some injuries, including a torn pectoral muscle.
**Bradley Wallace, DB, Dwyer, Fla. - Was at Troy for a week or so that fall, but left and was never heard from again. He was pretty highly thought of as a football player, though.

***Troy's grayshirts that year included Corey Robinson, Gavin Ellis, Felton Payton, Jimbo Arnold and Johnny Thompson. Trojans picked up Sidell Corley, a transfer from LSU, before that fall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Recap: 2008 signing class

As you know, I've done this for the past few years, looking back at the signing classes and seeing where they factor into this year's team. Recruits from the 2008 class would be fifth-year seniors here. Some notable walk-ons include running back D.J. Taylor and linebacker Brannon Bryan and defensive tackle Kyle Lucas.

2008 Troy University Football Signing Class
Mario Addison DE - Redshirted, backup, then pretty good as a starting senior. Now on the Indianapolis Colts and should make the roster. Signed as a UDFA with the Bears but was quickly picked up by the Colts thereafter midway through last season.
Chris Anderson RB - Had to go to JUCO for a year after sitting out 2008 as a non-qualifer. Played two years at Troy but was declared academically ineligible prior to this season.
Jimmie Arnold OL - Grayshirt, redshirt, now a junior who played a little bit last year and is in the rotation as an inside player.
Talris Brown ATH - Did not qualify
Jorrick Calvin DB - Started as a JUCO transfer, ineligible his SR year, still drafted. Spent a year in the NFL and is now, I believe, playing with the New Orleans VooDoo in Arena football.
Kanorris Davis LB - Fifth-year senior now and a team leader.
Tony Davis DL - Two-year starter at defensive tackle, now at defenisve end and also a leadre.
DeAndre Dorn DT - Did not qualify
Gavin Ellis WR - Turned into a tight end, played a little bit last year but transferred to Jacksonville State.
Calvin Francois DT - Did not qualify
Tebiarus Gill WR - Redshirt, then productive 2-year starter at WR
Maurice Greer RB - Backup running back for two years
Stoney Jackson DE - Did not qualify. Resigned out of JUCO but didn't qualify again.
Tim Lamb DT - Xavier's older brother, was here for a year but didn't have the grades to come back.
Kedric Manning DB - Here for 2 years, I think, but barely ever played
Tony Mitchell RB - T.J. Mitchell is now a fifth-year senior RB in a crowded backfield
Darius Morgan WR - Did not qualify
Chigozie Nwankwo DT - Lasted a year or two, then left.
Dan Parker QB - Here for 2 years, transferred to Texas Southern where he redshirted in 2010, missed most of last year with an injury and could be the starter this year.
Felton Payton WR - Grayshirt, redshirt, battled back from torn ACL and is listed as second-team Y-WR but should make an impact this year.
Chris Perry ATH - Did not qualify
Charles Reeves WR - Back for a fifth year after missing last year due to grades. Starting at the X-WR.
Michael Ricks S - Did not qualify
DeMarcus Robertson DB - Came the next spring, but academically ineligible after that.
Corey Robinson QB - Grayshirted, redshirted, about to enter his third year as starting quarterback.
James Searcy DE - Here for 2 years then dismissed
Daniel Sheffield S - Two-year starter at linebacker, graduated in 2010
Jacoby Thomas LB - Now a senior, had his moments, should play at least half the snaps at bandit end.
Johnny Thompson LB - Had some potential but had to give up the sport before last season due to a neck injury.
Kyle Wilborn OL - Started since his redshirt freshman year, now a team leader at center.
Terrence Williams LB - Did not qualify
Bryan Willis DB - Started as a redshirt freshman, started off and on as a sophomore and junior but should be a starter again this year at cornerback.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Senior Bowl watch list

Tweeted this out earlier today, but the Senior Bowl sent out a watch list with some 309 seniors. It's also a list that could have players added. With the game in Mobile, Troy has a player in it just about every season.

On this list is safety Brynden Trawick and cornerback T.J. Bryant. Next year's Senior Bowl is Jan. 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

You can read the rest of the list HERE.

Thursday notes/Taylor out vs. UAB

Troy players head back to the locker room after lightning
So I came up for Troy practice Thursday, but it ended up they didn't because of lightning and rain, and the fact Enterprise was playing Opelika in a jamboree here, so they didn't feel like they would get enough done. Troy will make that practice up Friday and have a mock game walk-through Saturday morning to prepare for UAB.

***Running back D.J. Taylor won't play vs. UAB, coach Larry Blakeney said. He is back in school and they are focused on getting him well and cleared and he's in good standing academically. The fifth-year senior hopes to be back on the practice field the week of ULL and might play that week but I'd say the third game, Mississippi State, is more likely.

***Senior running back Chris Anderson was academically eligible by NCAA standards, but not by Troy standards, sort of like with defensive tackle John Clark. Blakeney said he expects Clark back next spring but Anderson's a senior so this is it for him.

"I don’t think we have enough support (staff)," Blakeney said. "We don’t have enough communication. We’re doing everything we can to make sure we don’t have that happen."

***Running backs are getting beat around, it seems. Khary Franklin is nursing a shoulder injury but should be ready for UAB. Daron White has a sprained ankle and will probably not be ready to play vs. UAB. Brandon Burks will probably get a few plays here and there.

***Of the young wideouts, Brandon Brooks is the closest to playing, while Michael Lindsey and Bobby Walker are probably going to redshirt. Brooks will be on the travel squad.

“He’s not quite ready,” Blakeney said of Lindsey. “He’s a buck-52 (weight) and needs some time. I like the kid. He’s got ability and he is not afraid. He’ll go in and stick his face on people. That’s something a lot of skill guys will not do.

“Walker’s got ability. He is another one that’s real skinny and 160 and he needs to put on some weight and strength. He has got really great hands and jumping ability. He’s a fast jumper. He can jump up and catch the ball. I really like him.”

***Of the youngsters on defense, cornerback Chris Davis is definitely in the mix to play and they may have a good one in the grayshirt freshman from Thomasville. Davis and senior transfer T.J. Bryant are running behind senior Bryan Willis and JUCO transfer Zach Miller, an All-American at Butler Co (Kansas), but all four will play. Ethan Davis is still recovering from spring knee surgery.

"(Chris Davis has) shown some signs of being a player," Blakeney said. "He’s still got a lot to learn. I’ve been cautiously optimistic about his improvement. He’s a tough kid. He can jump and run pretty good. He’s learning the coverages.

"Zach Miller is what we thought he would be. T.J. is coming on. Bryan Willis has a little back problem but he’s overcome it. I think we’ve got four guys that are good enough to play corner. Ethan is not cleared. He works every day. I expect to get him back sometime. I don’t know how soon."

***True freshman Montres Kitchens has had a good camp at safety, but that's a tough position for a newcomer to play.

"Montres has had a good camp and he’s learning, but he plays deep (safety)," Blakeney said. "The deep guys have to have a Master’s in coverage or they wind up giving up big plays."

Hard work pays off for Southward

Here is today's feature on senior running back Shawn Southward, who I think will get close, if not top, the 1,000-yard mark this year. Southward has been solid from Day 1.  You can read it in the Thursday print edition of the Dothan Eagle or on HERE.


TROY – Shawn Southward didn’t have much trouble falling asleep at night this summer.

Shawn Southward
That’s because the senior running back was determined to be in better shape and not have to miss any practice time or game action because of cramps or dehydration, like he had in years past.

Southward lifted weights at 6:30 a.m. and after lunch and after participating in voluntary 7-on-7 passing drills with teammates at night. He also put in some extra running on his own. Add in class, meals and studying and it’s more than a full day’s worth of work.

The result is that the 5-foot-9, 198-pound Southward, Troy’s leading rusher the past three seasons, is in the best shape of his life.

“He knows what it takes to get through a season at running back in this conference,” Troy running backs coach Jeff Beckles said. “If your body’s not conditioned, you’re not going to make it through a whole season. He realizes that and he doesn’t want his body to get fatigued.”

As a freshman, Southward earned the nickname “North and Southward” for his up-the-field running style and ability to avoid needless dancing around in the backfield. He ran for 602 yards that year, taking over starting duties midway through.

His 139-yard, four-touchdown effort at Western Kentucky and 152-yard, two-touchdown performance at UL-Lafayette paved the way for Southward as he earned Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors.

Southward ran for 627 yards in 2010 and 556 last season. The numbers would be higher for other teams, but Troy uses several running backs over the course of the season. This year, Southward is poised to improve on those numbers and push for all-conference honors.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” Southward said. “I’m still a north-south runner, but I can make a cut now. I’m better at cutting. I did a lot of cutting drills and can make a defender miss in open space.”

Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield first noticed Southward when the player starred for Florence High School and Edenfield coached at the University of North Alabama, also in Florence.

“He is one of those guys that comes to work every day, gives you all he’s got and doesn’t say a whole lot,” Edenfield said. “He doesn’t get in trouble academically, does his work in the weight room and it shows up on Saturday.

“He can stick his foot in the ground and go north and south. He’s added some weight to his frame and you can really tell as he pushes through.”

Beckles said Southward has also improved as a pass receiver and will get every opportunity to play at the professional level.

“Scouts have already been intrigued by him,” Beckles said. “You don’t have a lot of shotgun-style offenses (in the NFL). You have a tailback who’s going to line up in the I-formation and go downhill at full speed. That’s the kind of back he is.”

But Southward is waiting a few months to focus on that goal. Troy opens the season Sept. 1 at UAB.

“I’ve worked out and done extra to get in shape and get stronger,” Southward said. “I just want to have a good year and help my team win. We’ve erased last year. We’re not worried about last year. We’re just focused on this year.”