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Troy's got a new coach and a new offense, but for now there's going to be struggle

Todd Bennett/Getty Images

Transition is not a new concept for Troy, not in the modern era. The Trojans' football program had humble beginnings at the NAIA level, and 30 years ago they were playing in Division II. They did not move up to the FBS level until 2001.

Head coach Larry Blakeney manned the helm for that entire transition, and he led the program to success (and titles) at the lower levels of college football. The start of Troy's FBS tenure under Blakeney went pretty well, all things considered, with a string of seasons with 8+ wins. The Trojans have been to a handful of bowls since 2001, which is hardly a bad run for a mid-major program.

But over the last half decade or so, the Trojans have been all over the place, and they cratered in 2014, compelling Blakeney to announce his retirement. Over the last five seasons, their win totals have fluctuated like this: eight in 2010, three in 2011, five in 2012, six in 2013, three in 2014.

Now Troy is laboring through a different sort of transition: Blakeney has been replaced by Neal Brown, who is a disciple of the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach school of spread-em-out-and-throw-em-to-death. Brown, who was a wide receiver, played for Mumme at Kentucky and later spent time as offensive coordinator with Texas Tech. He also has history as an assistant for Troy.

Troy Offense Off. S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2014 102 (out of 128)
5.3 (88) 4.3 (68) 6.7 (81)
2013 63 6.0 (39) 3.9 (89) 8.0 (26)

Based on recent history, the program's hope for improvement defensively is pointless. The imperative is the offense, where Brown's influence could create some immediate results. The Trojans introduced a new starting quarterback in 2014, and their scoring dropped from 34.1 points per game in 2013 to 21.8

Quarterback Brandon Silvers completed 70.5% of his attempts in 2014, but the offense was so dink-and-dunk, that's an almost meaningless number. Troy's precipitous drop in passing yards per attempt cost the offense quite a bit, even when we factor in a modest raw improvement on the ground.

Troy lost its leading receiver from last season, along with the right side of its offensive line. There are solid contributors at receiver who could have bigger years, and leading rusher Brandon Burks returns. So does Silvers, who is on into his redshirt-sophomore season as an old man, in football years.

Silvers only averaged about 25 pass attempts per game last season, though; is he ready for the changes within the offense? Are his receivers? The fact that he threw only three interceptions in 271 attempts is an encouraging sign. But is there enough support around him to ease this transition into an offense with different priorities? This is where progress lies, or fails entirely to show up.
Troy Defense Def. S&P+ national rank Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2014 123
6.4 (112) 5.7 (124) 7.5 (96)
2013 112
6.7 (116) 4.3 (71) 9.5 (123)

Troy's defense has allowed an average of 30+ points per game in each of the last five seasons; the last time you might legitimately argue the Trojans were decent at this end was 2008. Last season they allowed more than 40 points on five occasions, including a 66-zip drubbing at Georgia and a 42-10 loss at Georgia Southern. Troy also gave up 38 points at home (in a loss) to Abilene Christian, which just recently moved up to FCS.

They really need to put a cork in their opponents' ground game, but with the personnel they have on hand, that's not likely going to be a quick fix. NC State should have little difficulty taking control of the line of scrimmage, regardless of the Pack's shuffling at offensive tackle. This is not the ideal matchup for Troy, at least not this early in the season.

There were only five FBS defenses worse than Troy's last season, according to S&P+. That defense is something that can be improved--what with there being hardly anywhere to go but up--but it's not something that gets fixed in one offseason. Certainly not at a place like Troy. Ain't no five-stars walkin' through the door.

So, for Troy, in the earliest stages of a rebuild, progress is in competitivity (football term) and Brandon Silvers. If the Trojans show some life offensively, show that they are making Brown's concepts work, that'll be a decent first step. They are not going to win, but that's kinda beside the point.