Sheppard hails from Bainbridge, Ga., just about 65 miles east of Troy, Ala. The senior defensive tackle has heard about Troy most of his football days.
"They are really fiesty," Sheppard said when asked to describe what the Hogs should expect from Troy.
"Troy is about one hour from my home. I went there on a couple of recruiting visits. They recruited my younger brother quite a bit. So I knew about them growing up. Our guys should expect a very fiesty team."
Crim had contacts from Troy both as a high school player in Tallahassee, Fla., and when he was finishing at Butler County Junior College.
"Troy is not far from home," Crim said. "They were recruiting me all along, so I know all about Troy. It's a very good team. They probably didn't have good records years ago, but lately they've been a very good football team and have beaten good teams. Our guys know to expect a good team. They are going to be a solid challenge."
"That's the challenge this game brings," Crim said. "They do have a good deep passing game. They have that in their offense. But I think we are continuing to improve. We know that our defense hasn't gotten a lot of respect either before the season or even lately. But we think we are improving. You want to prove people wrong and step up. That's what we'll try to do again this week."
Troy features a spread passing game. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson said the scheme resembles Auburn in pace, but not in formation.
"This is more of a four wide team than Auburn," Robinson said. "Auburn used some two back and they used some formations with tight ends. We won't see that as much from Troy.
"They do have a good little running game. I say little because it's not a lot of plays, but they use those few simple plays to setup the passing. You better stop those running plays first. But they are explosive and they are going to throw it. They are very good in their execution. The quarterback is strong. When teams have gotten pressure, he's gotten the ball off with people hanging on him and been accurate."
The decision Robinson will have to make is whether to load the box and bring pressures in hopes of getting to the quarterback, or defend with numbers. That could mean Jerell Norton, moved to cornerback last week because of depth issues, goes back to safety this week. And, it could mean the Hogs go with more defensive backs than linebackers.
Norton said he's fine at corner (his spot last week) or safety and could play both against Troy.
"We have packages," Norton said. "This week I think I'm more at safety but it all depends. Troy does a great job of spreading the field and a great job of spreading everybody out. They run a hurry-up offense where we have to rotate guys and be fresh. Again it goes back to us being consistent. I feel like we've gotten better as a group and now coaches can trust everybody and we can put guys out there that maybe haven't touched the field as much because we come out here on every down Tuesdays and Wednesdays and prove to each other that we can get the job done. It's a positive by us rotating and being fresh we can get the job done."
How did moving to safety help?
"A lot especially with the move back and forth to corner, safety and nickel," Norton said. "I feel like the move to safety was the best thing for me because it helped me learn the defense as a whole instead of just my position. I knew off and how to play press, but as a safety I unerstand where my help is and understand what help I have to give. That's the biggest thing last week when I moved to corner - I knew where the guys on the field with me were supposed to be. Knowing that and knowing what their leverage was I could play my position better."
How much did you need that performance last week?
"I needed that more than anything for my personal accomplishments," Norton said. "For me to be able to come in there as the old man kind of being thrown into the game. It was interesting watching spring and summer go by and watching these young guys, trying to get back from injuries and try to get healthy. Actually completing a season for the first time since my sophomore year has been a challenge. Our training staff has done a great job and being able to get out here and contribute has been great."
He's gotten more reps in practice and in games of late. He's just glad to be on the field.
"I played football," Norton said. "Consistency is the big thing. With our secondary I feel that's something we've been searching for all season and me in my whole career. As a corner you have to have it and as a safety you have to have it. FOr us it's been a big deal with new packages coming in, getting in there and seeing extra film and extra study on your opponent to where when game time comes you're confident when you get on the field. That's the biggest thing for me. My freshman and sophomore year we didn't really run much more than press man so there wasn't really a lot of film watching for zone.
"I've had tutors as far as Matt Harris who has done a great job in getting me prepared from week to week in little things I slip up on and correct before the play. That's the biggest thing for us is that we talk now on the field before things happen instead of letting things go downhill and then trying to correct them as players. Our coaches do a good job of keeping us up, too."
Wendel Davis, the starter at middle linebacker, was out of practice Wednesday. Robinson expects him to return Thursday and play against Troy despite an undisclosed injury.
"He'll be back," Robinson said. "He may not have gotten the physical reps this week, but he got mental reps. He'll have to make up for what he missed on the field with a little more (film) study. He'll be fine."
It's the last Fayetteville game for a handful of seniors, Sheppard included.
"I don't get emotional so it's not so much about my last game here as it is just getting ready for an important game," Sheppard said. "College is supposed to be four years and it's going to be that way for me. I've known that all along. It's the last time going through the A here in this stadium for some of us, but we need to focus on the game and our preparation and not that it's the last time.
"I'm going to stay in touch with this place. I'm going to be an interested alumni and so I'll have more times back here. It won't be like I just go away forever. But as far as playing my last game here, nothing is forever. I have known all along it was going to be four years of football here and then something else. No use getting all emotional at this point. It's been a great four years and I'll keep up with folks here that I've grown around and I'll keep up with my teammates after college."