On Saturday the Troy Trojans will come marching into "The Rock" as a very confident team. The Trojans (1-1) last week were one of the big stories of the college football day Saturday as they took #2 Clemson down to the wire. Though they fell 30-24, they certainly got the attention of the nation with that showing and Head Coach Neil Brown will have them ready to compete.
One thing is for sure, this is a much different team than took the field last year as they went 4-8 and had their share of struggles. Very similar to Southern Miss and their rebuild, Brown has brought in some JuCo guys and other transfers to add to 14 starters that return from a year ago.
The series with the Golden Eagles has gone in the favor of Southern Miss to this point, with the Eagles having a 7-1 overall edge when they've matched up. The last time these two met was a thriller in 2008, when Michael McGee blocked a field goal attempt to preserve a 30-27 USM win. In games in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss is 4-1 against them. After this game, the two will play in 2019 at Troy. Troy won their first game of the season 57-17 over Austin Peay before the near upset last week against Clemson.
Here is a little of what to expect from the Troy Trojans on Saturday:
"The one thing you saw from us and it is what we have preached all year, is that we were very physical against Clemson," Head Coach Neil Brown said in a recent press conference. "That is who we are and what we are going to be."
Physical, they certainly have been. At times against Clemson, Troy was able to assert their will. They rushed for 143 yards against a stout defensive front from Clemson, and had 386 yards of total offense.
Troy runs a very similar offense to Southern Miss, they will spread it out and attack but have seemed very content to keep the ball on the ground more this season. And for good reason. They currently rank 4th in the nation by averaging just over 6 yards per carry on the ground. They've had three rushes that have gone for over 40 yards, ranking them 3rd in the nation in that category. Freshman Jabir Frye had a 66 yard carry for a TD against Clemson.
Junior RB Jordan Chunn is a load at 6'1, 231lbs. They'll mix in the freshman Frye who brings speed and explosive big play ability and at only 5'7 can be tough to locate. They also love to use him out of the backfield in the passing game mixing in screens.
Quarterback Brandon Silvers is 6'3, 215 lbs, and the junior has had a good start. He's 55-81 to start the season, but does have 3 INT's already and has only been sacked once. Silvers is not the most athletic QB, but they'll certainly have him pull it down and take off. He's got decent speed, but he'd rather stay in the pocket and throw it around. Troy will try a few QB runs though, again similar to Southern Miss, just to keep the defense honest.
Troy has a pair of really nice receivers. Athletic Sophomore DeAndre Douglas is strong and has really good hands in traffic. He's also got enough speed to hit the home run when necessary. Andre Flakes (who Southern Miss recruited hard) is also one to watch across the middle. Ismail Saleem is a play maker and runs out of slot. They try to find creative ways to get him the ball because of his speed. Though he's only 5'8, Saleem is very quick and tough to tackle. Watch for some jet sweeps and screens to both Frye and Saleem.
Troy is very multiple in their sets, running most out of the shot-gun but they'll also take it under center. They are up tempo and try to keep a very fast pace. Frye's long TD run came off an odd set with Silvers under center and handing it off to him out of a sweep. They've certainly given the Southern Miss defensive staff a lot to prepare for.
Troy on Defense:
We've said this a lot, but the Trojans really mirror a lot of what the Golden Eagles like to do on both offense and defense. On defense, they are very active before the snap and their line runs a lot of twists and stunts to try and confuse the QB and offensive line. They'll also bring pressure from their quick LB's, who gave Deshaun Watson fits last week. They've added some JuCo transfers to the mix and they look athletic and gang tackle well.
They are one of 12 teams to not have given up a defensive rushing TD yet so far this season. They are also very opportunistic and create turnovers. They picked off Watson twice last week, and have 4 INT's on the season along with a fumble recovery.
They are led by a pair of seniors on the ends. At true defensive end is Junior Gnonkonde, who at 6'4, 260 really gets after the QB and has been effective against the run. Troy also uses a Bandit end, and senior Rashad Dillard is the perfect fit for that position. They'll use him all over the field in QB rushing situations and he'll also be used to drop into coverage because of his speed. They are also experienced at LB with two seniors leading the way in Justin Lucas and William Lloyd.
They use what they call a "Cat" safety, Kris Weatherspoon, a Junior from Natchez, MS. Weatherspoon is all over the field and they like to creep him up either to get after the QB or to help stack the box against the run. Southern Miss will have to account for him in the pass game as well, as he's quick to jump routes. They have good cover corners led by Jalen Harris, a 6'1 Junior from Mobile.
Neil Brown is the 4th youngest head coach at the FBS level. He's an offensive guy who is creative and energetic. He's 5-9 in his career at Troy and is in the start of his 2nd season. He's coached in 102 games, and his offenses have never been shut out in any of them. He was also the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, where his offenses lit up the scoreboard. He was even mentioned as a candidate for the job at Southern Miss when Todd Monken was hired.
Brown has adopted a phrase or motto for the team this season.. "Rebuild the wall" The saying is crafted from Greek mythology and the Iliad. The city of Troy had a mighty wall that surrounded the city before it was eventually destroyed thanks to the Trojan Horse. Brown has certainly infused energy and life into the Troy program, and has them on the right track as they'll be a dark horse to win the Sun Belt conference this season. He's recruited well and has brought in an infusion of talent through JuCo players and transfers as well.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoK-FoebPXc (Neil Brown Press conference)