Troy quarterback Levi Brown doesn’t put much stock in preseason predictions. Coach Larry Blakeney knows that past performance isn’t an indicator of future success in football any more than in mutual funds.
Maybe those attitudes can help the Trojans deal with expectations as the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference and succeed in their quest for a fourth straight league title.
First the hype. “I’m not worried about any preseason selections,” Brown said. “I don’t care where we’re ranked in the conference and nationally. I don’t care about any of that because none of it matters.”
Then the streak. “It’s a week-to-week proposition,” Blakeney said. “It’s not going to happen because last year’s team won a championship or a previous team won a championship. It’s going to happen because this team wants to win a championship and these coaches work hard and give me good plans.”
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Plus, “You’ve got to have a little luck.”
The Trojans have some key spots to fill, particularly when it comes to the big men. The front lines have to replace both the offensive and defensive tackles.
Troy has won at least a share of three straight Sun Belt titles and went to the New Orleans Bowl last season, losing to Southern Miss in overtime. North Texas won the league in its first four years.
Blakeney figures the Sun Belt competition presents plenty of challenges.
“I feel good about this team but I also look out at all these other teams,” he said. “I would daresay every team in our league is going to be better. We have to be ready and able to cope with conference foes week in and week out.”
Not to mention nonconference road games at defending national champion Florida and Arkansas, after opening the season Sept. 3 at Bowling Green. It’s the third straight year Troy has faced the previous year’s national champ.
The offense returns its three biggest weapons. Brown was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year despite starting only eight games after Jamie Hampton went down with a season- ending knee injury. He passed for 2,030 yards and 15 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Running back DuJuan Harris is a 1,000-yard rusher, while wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan broke a 40-year-old school record with 77 receptions last season. The receiving corps could get immediate impact from Oklahoma transfer Josh Jarboe and junior college transfer Jason Bruce.
A key question going to fall camp was who would block for Brown on the edges, with both offensive tackles departing.
Defensive tackles Steve McClendon and Dion Gales are both in NFL camps. Their replacements, junior college transfers Eugene Kinlaw and Kevin Dixon, have impressive credentials.
Kinlaw had 31 tackles for loss last season in seven games at Hutchinson Community College. Dixon started for one season under Bill Callahan at the University of Nebraska and spent two years at another Kansas junior college.
Ends Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield combined for 16 sacks and 30 tackles for loss last season for Troy.
The Trojans have a strong linebacking group, too. Boris Lee and Bear Woods each had 100-plus tackles. A third senior, David McDowell, is back after a redshirt season.
Cornerback Jorrick Calvin leads the secondary.
Place-kicker Sam Glusman and punter Will Goggans return.