SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Troy St. Trojans

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Larry Blakeney (13th year, 103-41-1)
2002 record: 4-8
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 176.3 ypg (42nd in nation)
Pass: 127.3 ypg (110th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 105.3 ypg (13th)
Pass: 171.6 ypg (11th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
SE   5   Jason Samples   Jr.  
FL  84  Toris Rutledge  So. 
LT  60  Henry Tellis  Jr. 
LG  69  Kirbie Bodiford  Fr. 
59  Lee Milliner  Jr. 
RG  53  Kenny Griffin  Fr. 
RT   76   Branden Hall   Sr.  
TE   13   Adrian Moore   Sr.  
QB   18   Hansell Bearden   Jr.  
FB   6   Chris Cox   Sr.  
TB  DeWhitt Betterson  Jr. 
Defense (4)
DE  86  Cedric Phillips  Sr. 
NT  91  Torre Lankford  So. 
DT  78  Eric Thomas  Jr. 
DE   94   Demarcus Ware   Jr.  
SLB  41  Robby Farmer  Jr. 
MLB  30  Leverne Johnson  So. 
WLB  27  Bernard Davis  So. 
CB   8   Johnny Faulk   So.  
CB   25   Adrian Ghent   So.  
SS  32  Arthur Adams  Jr. 
FS   10   Derrick Ansley   Jr.  
Special Teams
20  Thomas Olmsted  So. 
20  Thomas Olmsted  So. 
KR  84  Toris Rutledge  So. 
PR  84  Toris Rutledge  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Kansas State 
Sept. 6  at Minnesota 
Sept. 13  at UAB 
Sept. 20  SE Louisiana 
Sept. 27  Marshall 
Oct. 4  at Nebraska 
Oct. 18  Florida Int. 
Oct. 25  at Virginia 
Nov. 1  at North Texas 
Nov. 8  at Middle Tennessee 
Nov. 15  at Utah State 
Nov. 22  Louisiana-Monroe 
In his 12 years as head coach, Larry Blakeney has built Troy State into one of the most successful programs in the South. The Trojans have compiled a 102-42-1 record in Blakeney's tenure, including a respectable 11-12 record since joining the Division I-A ranks.

But last year's experienced Troy State squad struggled through a disappointing 4-8 season. Now, with only 12 returning starters and a roster in which freshmen and sophomores make up over 60 percent of the personnel, another sub-.500 campaign is looming. "There is no question we have got a lot of work to do," said Blakeney. "Winning football teams win with those guys who are there in the spring. For the most part, we'll live and die with the guys we had here this spring."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Troy State has some intriguing talent in quarterback Hansell Bearden, running back DeWhitt Betterson and receiver Jason Samples. Too bad there's not much up front to protect them.

Blakeney described the offensive line as "discombobulated." Returning starter Branden Hall has a lock on the right tackle spot. After that, it's a free-for-all. The line's three best players after Hall -- Donnie Bostian, Wes Garmon and Kyle Smith -- all missed spring practice with shoulder injuries.

Bearden, who struggled in last year's spread offense, could blossom in the I-formation being implemented by new offensive coordinator Mark Fleetwood. The leading candidate for the backup assignment is junior college transfer Franco Johnson. Kacson Maddox also could play his way into the mix.

Betterson shared time at running back last year and was nearly as productive as the departed LeBarron Black in about half as many opportunities. Redshirt freshman Marlo East turned heads in the spring and has great potential.

Samples is back after leading the team in receptions and yardage last year. His hard-nosed, rugged approach is complemented well by tall and talented Toris Rutledge.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Last year Troy State was fourth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 277 yards per game. The good news is that the team will utilize virtually the same scheme and terminology in 2003. The bad news is that only four starters return.

The Trojans' pass rush showed signs of tenacity this spring in the form of tackle Eric Thomas and Demarcus Ware, a "great talent," according to Blakeney.

The linebacking corps was wiped out by graduation, but Leverne Johnson, who appeared in every game last year as a freshman, has shown great promise in the middle. The same can be said for Bernard Davis who steps up at weak-side linebacker. Strong-side backer Robby Farmer is the most experienced returnee.

The secondary features an enviable blend of youth and experience. There are two returning full-time starters, cornerback Johnny Faulk and free safety Derrick Ansley. The other corner will be Adrian Ghent, who started five games last season. Arthur Adams is being counted on to produce at strong safety. Cornerbacks Rayshun Reed and Freeman White are recovering from knee injuries and were held out of contact drills in the spring.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Thomas Olmstead returns to handle all punting and placekicking chores after earning Freshman All-America honors in 2002. The Trojans must find new punt and kick returners.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

If Troy State is to bounce back from last year's 4-8 mark, it will have to do so with improved road play. For the second consecutive year, Troy State will play eight games away from home. Last year the Trojans were 1-7 away from Memorial Stadium.

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