Star head coach Neal Brown is moving on from the Sun Belt after going 31-8 over his final three years with the Trojans, but he leaves a lot for replacement Chip Lindsey (previously OC at Auburn and Arizona State).
The bar will be high for Lindsey, but this has been a stable program for the past 30 years with back-to-back-to-back 10+ win years, and there are enough names on the roster that repeating that in 2019 isn’t out of the question.
QB Kaleb Barker (13 touchdowns, two interceptions) looks to be recovered from an ACL injury last year and set to lead the Trojans into their next chapter. It had seemed for a while like senior Sawyer Smith could challenge, but a month ago Smith announced he was transferring. Barker is a great runner and showed loads of potential before the injury last year.
In the ground game the top two backs are back led by B.J. Smith (1,186 yards, 13 touchdowns, 5.4 YPA). Junior Jabir Daughtry-Frye shone in just over 50 carries last year (371 yards, two touchdowns, 7.0 YPA). Four of five starters are back on the line, including three potential all-conference picks between G Tristan Crowder, G Kirk Kelley, and T J.L. Gaston.
The one issue with the offense comes from the pass-catcher. The cupboard is empty among receivers as the top three from last year are gone. Juniors Tray Eafford and Luke Whittemore are the top two returners, and I’d look for a pair of JUCO transfers in Khalil McClain and Reggie Todd to step up into the spotlight.
New OC Ryan Pugh (Formerly OL coach at BYU and UTSA) gets pretty much everyone back outside of the pass-catching game, and if the Trojans can find a few reliable hands there this group could top last year’s numbers.
Troy’s defenses was really solid in 2018 (5.0 YPP, 22.0 PPG) and unlike on the offense, they are promoting from within for the new coordinator in Brandon Hall, who was the LB coach last year (previously co-DC at FCS power Jacksonville State).
This group loses stars like Tron Folsom, Cedarius Rookard, Hunter Reese, Blace Brown, Marcus Jones, and Trevon Sanders (combined 321 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 21 TFL, 22 PBU’s, nine interceptions) yet still may have the best defense in the conference.
Jarvis Hayes and Antione Barker are back on the ends (combined nine sacks, 11 TFL last year) and Marcus Webb and Will Choloh will plug up the middle. Mike linebacker Carlton Martial is back after shining as a freshman, as are CB Terence Dunlap, S Melvin Tyus, and NB Tyler Murray in the secondary.
I expect a step back due to the losses and coaching change, but all in all, this should be one of the conference’s best defenses once again.
Huge wins over LSU and Nebraska in recent years put Troy on the map, the question is will Lindsey be able to keep the Trojans there. An October opportunity @ Missouri is the only power five opponent they’ll face, but this team could very realistically win the Sun Belt.
The Trojans draw their two top rivals in the East (Appalachian State & Georgia Southern) at home, and they avoid Arkansas State from the West. Appalachian State is still the favorite, but the favorable schedule puts a little bit of juice behind the Troy for Sun Belt champion argument.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|26-Oct||at Georgia State||120||8.8|
|2-Nov||at Coastal Carolina||128||12.6|
|16-Nov||at Texas State||112||6.1|
Average Projected Record: 8.1 wins, 3.9 losses (5.5 wins, 2.5 losses)