By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Troy Trojans continued to establish themselves as the most dominant program in the Sun Belt, as they captured their fourth straight league title in 2009. In his 19th year at Troy, head coach Larry
Blakeney led the Trojans to a perfect 8-0 league record and the program's
first nine-win campaign since the I-AA days.
Troy however, got off to a slow start in 2009, as the team dropped its first
two games to Bowling Green (31-14) and Florida (56-6). Things changed in a
hurry though, as the Trojans ripped off seven straight victories to take
control of the Sun Belt and their season. Included in that run was a crucial
and convincing 31-7 victory over Middle Tennessee, which won 10 total games
and finished runner up in the Sun Belt at 7-1.
A 56-20 loss at Arkansas ended the team's winning streak, but Troy bounced
back with solid victories over Florida Atlantic and UL-Lafayette to close out
the regular season. The Trojans would then suffer a heart-breaking, 44-41,
double-overtime loss to Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl, denying them their
first 10-win season since 2000.
OFFENSE: Kenny Edenfield steps in as the new offensive coordinator for Troy,
taking the place of Neal Brown, who departed for Texas Tech after helping the
Trojans rank 16th in scoring (33.7 ypg) and third in total yards (485.7 ypg)
Edenfield's first order of business is to find a replacement for quarterback
Levi Brown, the 2009 Sun Belt Player of the Year. Jamie Hampton (6-1, 212) is
the lead candidate to take over, as he opened the 2008 campaign as the starter
prior to suffering a knee injury. He redshirted last season, but still has the
most experience on the roster. Corey Robinson (6-0, 214), a redshirt freshman,
is pushing for the starting job as well and he was voted Kentucky's Mr.
Football in 2008.
"Quarterback is a big job we have after losing Levi," Blakeney said. "We have
some good candidates to fill that job. We are going to open up the competition
and give them all a chance."
The quarterback that does win the starting job will have the luxury of
throwing to one of the most dangerous receivers around in Jerrel Jernigan. The
5-9, 184-pound Jernigan is a two-time First-Team All-Sun Belt pick and he
piled up 1,101 yards receiving, 266 rushing and 897 on kickoff returns last
season. He will surely push for Player of the Year honors in 2010.
The Trojans also have a backfield tandem that not many teams in the Sun Belt
can match, as DuJuan Harris (5-7, 195) and Shawn Southward (5-8, 184) are both
welcomed back. Southward led the team with 602 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns
last season, earning him the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year award. Harris
meanwhile, went for 583 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground last season and
he is a terrific athletic with blazing speed.
Both backs should run wild with the return of three starters along the line,
including Tyler Clark, who will move over to center after earning first-team
All-Sun Belt accolades as a guard in 2009.
DEFENSE: Troy didn't rely on its defense much last season, ranking 104th in
total yards (424.5 ypg), and replacing eight starters from that group isn't
going to help in terms of improving.
"We have a lot of work to do," Blakeney said about the holes that need to be
filled on defense. "We have some guys who I think are ready to play, but it is
going to be an important set of practices for our defense."
The defensive line returns no starters, so the Trojans are going to need some
fresh faces to step up immediately. Jonathan Massaquoi is one player that
could help ease some of the losses, as the 6-2, 246-pound end was rated as
Georgia's top prep defensive player in 2007. He spent 2008 at Butler County
(Kansas) Community College, where he had 11.5 sacks.
Daniel Sheffield is the lone returning starter along the front seven and the
6-3, 206-pound linebacker made 54 tackles last season. Xavier Lamb (5-9, 222)
and Donnell Golden (6-0, 236) are expected to join Sheffield after combining
for 75 stops in 2009.
The secondary is the most experienced part of the defense, as both corners
return in Bryan Willis (5-9, 180) and Barry Valcin (5-11, 184). As just a
freshman last season, Willis emerged as one of the team's most dependable
players, posting 73 tackles and leading Troy with four picks and 10 PBUs.
Valcin meanwhile, made 51 tackles in 12 starts last season and he is expected
to return to his recruited position of safety this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Michael Taylor hit on 11-of-14 field goals and 43-of-44 extra
points last season and he will once again take on the place-kicking duties.
Punter Will Goggans also returns after averaging 40.8 yards per boot last
OUTLOOK: The Trojans lost a significant amount of players, including several
all league performers and Player of the Year Levi Brown, but don't count them
out just yet. Blakeney has built a tradition of winning over his long tenure
at Troy and the 2010 club still has plenty of talent to continue that success.
Expect the Trojans to score in bunches to help aid an inexperienced defense,
as this team once again competes for the Sun Belt title.