This may be a different year for Troy. For a team that arguably underachieved considering their talent level in 2009, this will be a change for the Trojan program as they are not projected to be the best team in the Sun Belt for 2010 (or at least they are grouped with the contenders with no decisive favorite). Can Troy overcome this obstacle and win the Sun Belt yet again?
THE OFFENSE: The offense for Troy last season exploded onto the scene without much prior warning. The Trojans started off the year a bit cold against Bowling Green and Florida only scoring a combined 20 points, but beyond that point, the team never scored fewer than 27 in a game. Ranked 3rd in total offense and 4th in scoring offense a year ago, there will be a replacement at QB with Levi Brown off to try and make an NFL squad. Will it be Jamie Hampton's chance to shine? Hampton was planned to take over in 2008 when Brown took the job and never looked back. Hampton was able to sit out 2009 via redshirt, but will he be sharp in his return? The junior was relatively unimpressive when starting in '08, but maybe some more maturity will do him good. Corey Robinson, a redshirt freshman, will compete for the starting job if Hampton is weak. At running back, Troy has a very interesting situation. Without Brown hurling passes, the backfield has to be more present than in 2009, even though they provided decent production. DuJuan Harris will have the most experience as a senior and he was steady last year, but possibly the most dynamic option could come by way of sophomore Shawn Southward who saw more playing time late in the year with two 100+ yard games. Jerrel Jernigan is the star of the offense. With his diminutive stature, it's easy to overlook him, but he is a great downfield threat to go along with his running ability and YAC potential. I think the rest of the receiving corps could be an issue, but Tebiarus Gill showed some flashes last season and Brett Moncrief adds some depth coming in from junior college. Troy's offensive line isn't exactly a problem area, but they were mediocre last season and need to replace a few important pieces. Tyler Clark, last year's LG, will shift over to play C.
THE DEFENSE: This area drastically underachieved. With defensive ends such as Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield, the sack production and the plays made behind the line of scrimmage were great, but the secondary couldn't put that dominant pass rush to use. Filling for the departed Lang and Sheffield combination will be DEs Mario Addison and Jonathan Massaquoi. The duo has strong potential and will probably be adequate replacements. Bulk is an issue, and the rush defense will probably suffer for it. Riley Flowers is one of the bigger guys and will have to step it up at defensive tackle. The LB situation will also be depleted after Troy legends Bear Woods and Boris Lee have officially left. It'll be up to Xavier Lamb at MLB to try to replace the production as well as Donnell Golden at the OLB spot. The other outside spot is projected to be filled by Daniel Sheffield, but he is a little small for that side. He makes up for that with his athleticism, however. Nobody of note really returns in the porous secondary besides KeJuan Phillips who sat out due to academic suspension. Phillips is inexperienced, but was a projected starter for 2009. Hope is that Barry Valcin's switch from corner to safety will make for a more natural fit as well.
Sept. 4 Bowling Green
Sept. 11 at Oklahoma St
Sept. 18 at UAB
Sept. 25 Arkansas St
Oct. 5 at MTSU
Oct. 16 UL Lafayette
Oct. 30 at ULM
Nov. 6 at North Texas
Nov. 13 Florida International
Nov. 20 at South Carolina
Nov. 27 WKU
Dec. 4 at Florida Atlantic
Troy's notorious non-conference schedule of taking on the big boys has been scaled back somewhat. Still on the slate will be road dates against Oklahoma State and South Carolina, with rival UAB in September. The Sun Belt slate isn't anything to get worked up over, but road dates against Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will be rough.
Don't Even Think About It:
Ehhhhh.....Maybe.....: @ Oklahoma State, @ South Carolina
Good/Probable Shot At It: Bowling Green, @ UAB, Arkansas State, @ MTSU, UL Lafayette, @ UL Monroe, @ North Texas, Florida International, Western Kentucky, @ Florida Atlantic
THE OUTLOOK: Troy may, or may not, win the Sun Belt this year. It's kind of a tossup between them, Middle Tennessee, and that inevitable third challenger that arises from the rest of the pack. The defense is a huge question mark after finishing 104th in total D a year ago even with the four stars, Sheffield, Lang, Lee, and Woods. Without them, things should be even more difficult, although some switches in the secondary may end the bleeding there. That could make more of a difference than we make it out to be. Also, the QB situation will sputter a bit at first whether the starter is Hampton or Robinson. Either way, this is Troy, who have stocked the cupboards full for just these types of occasions. The no-name defense will give rise to a couple of future stars, the QB production will be alleviated by Jernigan's playmaking skill and a more emphasized running game, and Troy will win 8 or 7 games. I'm predicting a second-place finish in the Sun Belt for 2010, but a bowl game is for certain.
BOWL GAME?: GMAC Bowl.
UAB is struggling as a program. In 2009, the team showed flashes of competitiveness, but couldn't close out the year with one more victory to gain bowl eligibility, stagnating at 5-7. Joe Webb is now out of eligibility, so where will the Blazers and Neil Callaway turn to now?
THE OFFENSE: As mentioned, the biggest issue currently for UAB is to find a replacement for Joe Webb. Webb was 6th in the nation in total offense and led the team in rushing by far, operating many spread option-type formations. The QB competition will most likely go down between David Isabelle and Bryan Ellis, with the edge going to Isabelle. Isabelle is an athlete much in the same mold as Webb (obviously not as potent); so even with a giant learning curve ahead of him, don't expect much to change in the offensive gameplan. RB Pat Shed has a real opportunity to shine in this offense. Without Webb, the RBs will certainly be more of a factor and in the spring, Shed outplayed the two seniors in the running to get the most touches in this offense, Daniel Borne and Justin Brooks. WR Frantrell Forrest ought to be the team's top target in 2010. At 6'2 and weighing in at almost 200 pounds, he has a solid frame and should help Isabelle get more comfortable at throwing the ball downfield. Also contributing in the receiving department will be Jeffery Anderson at TE. Anderson is one of the premier college TEs this season and is getting some looks from pro scouts. The offensive line was relatively average last season, even with a scrambler like Webb. This group in 2010 has to be more consistent with an inexperienced QB behind center.
THE DEFENSE: It was rough. Last year, the Blazers finished with the worst pass defense in the nation, clocking in at giving up over 310 yards per game. The good news is that UAB will return 10 starters from last year's defense, so there is some hope for improvement. While lacking raw talent, at least this unit can fall back a little bit on experience and depth. Anchoring the defensive line is DE Bryant Turner. Turner led the team in sacks with 6 last year and will try to provide a pass rush to help the abused secondary. Derek Slaughter and Elliot Henigan also provide experience to the group. LB Marvin Burdette probably has the most potential in the LB group, starting all 12 games and registering tackles in 11 of them, but Lamanski Ware led the group in tackles for 2009. The beleaguered defensive backfield returns the talented safety leader Hiram Atwater, who is back for his senior year. Atwater is one of those players who can do it all at the safety spot, tackle, cover, and he has a good knowledge of the defensive scheme. Terrell Springs will be the number one corner back and should provide some stability there. This isn't a fantastic secondary, but it shouldn't be the worst in the nation with Springs and Atwater patrolling the area.
Sep. 4 Florida Atlantic
Sep. 11 at SMU
Sep. 18 Troy
Sep. 25 at Tennessee
Oct. 6 at UCF
Oct. 16 UTEP
Oct. 23 at Mississippi State
Oct. 30 at Southern Miss
Nov. 6 Marshall
Nov. 11 ECU
Nov. 20 Memphis
Nov. 27 at Rice
The schedule doesn't look that difficult on the surface, but it is deceptive. Non-conference games against fellow non-BCSers Florida Atlantic and rival Troy should be hard games to come away with wins, even with them being at home. They also get road dates against Tennessee and Mississippi State. The draw from C-USA West is so-so with SMU, UTEP, and Rice.
Don't Even Think About It: @ Tennessee
Ehhhhh.....Maybe....: @ SMU, Troy, @ UCF, @ Mississippi State, @ Southern Miss, ECU
Good/Probable Shot At It: Florida Atlantic, UTEP, Marshall, Memphis, @ Rice
THE OUTLOOK: UAB's 2010 season hinges on a couple things. Firstly, Isabelle has to produce. The gaping hole left by Joe Webb simply can't be duplicated by the sophomore, so will it be the RBs who pick up the slack? It's hard to say. The defense can't be giving up 455 yards per game like they did last season, and it's safe to say that it will at least become marginally better with the experience on the defensive side of the ball. That being said, this team went 4-4 in conference play with Webb, and I'd say it's likely this team goes 2-6 in conference play without Webb. The reason you have to keep bringing up Webb in this discussion is the fact that he was that irreplaceable and there was no bowl game to show for it. I'd guess UAB probably will go 3-9 or 4-8 in 2010, and that probably won't be good enough for Callaway to stay.
BOWL GAME?: Nope.
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