Welcome to WNSP’s Sun Belt preview series to get you ready for football season! Each day, we will preview a new team in the Sun Belt conference and get you ready for football season. We’ll take a look at what Vegas has their win total set at, make a prediction, and talk about their season outlook. Today’s team: The Troy Trojans
Players to watch:
Offense: QB Gunnar Watson, WR Tez Johnson, LT Austin Stidham
Defense: DE Javon Solomon, LB Carlton Martial
As the Sun Belt conference enters a new era in 2022 with four additional teams, the Troy Trojans are embarking on a new era themselves headed into this season. From 2016-2018, the Trojans rattled off three consecutive ten win seasons that all ended in bowl victories. This led to head coach Neal Brown departing to take the job at West Virginia following Dana Holgorsen’s sudden bolting for Houston. The three following seasons did not go well, each ending in 5 wins. The school fired Brown’s replacement, Chip Lindsey, before the final game of 2021.
Enter Jon Sumrall, a defensive specialist who has most recently served as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Kentucky during their resurgence. But he knows the Troy program well too, having served as the associate head coach and special teams coordinator under Neal Brown while the Trojans were enjoying Sun Belt success. The Trojans, although they did not do well last season, return as much talent as anyone in the conference, including ten starters on offense.
There is no quarterback battle, but Troy did struggle to push the ball down the field last year and Watson will have to do a better job of that. Having his top receiver back from last year in Tez Johnson should help. Four starters return from a decent offensive line including Austin Stidham, who is a legitimate NFL prospect, as well as both leading backs from last year.
The defense returns a good deal of talent as well and will have a new defensive coordinator in Sheil Wood from Army. At least seven starters are returning and some of them are absolute studs. Statistically, Troy had the best pass rush in the Sun Belt last year and that should continue with star edge Javon Solomon returning off a season in which he had 11 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Carlton Martial, though undersized, is a playmaking machine and finished with 127 tackles last season from the middle linebacker spot.
The Trojans have a tough start to the schedule with Ole Miss and Appalachian State to open conference play after a week two Alabama A&M matchup that should be a tune up win. They come to Mobile to play South Alabama on October 20th. With a new regime and so much talent returning, I think this team can make some noise this year. Troy will win at least 7 games, if not even more than that. Anything less will be a disappointment for Sumrall in year one.