By Danielle Percival
If defense does, in fact, win championships, the Troy Trojans might have a chance to be in the Sun Belt Conference title hunt again this season.
The defense has been a struggle for the Trojans during the past two seasons but this year under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt, change is occurring.
“I see them growing every day, doing the little things as far as attention to detail,” Bolt said. “Whether it be in the weight room or not being late to class, all that translates to the field.”
“Of course we’re not perfect but we got better and if we can just get better every game we’ll have a chance.”
In week one, Troy surrendered 447 yards of offense to UAB.
Against Savannah State, the Trojans gave up only 147 yards of total offense.
The Tigers had three players with over five carries in the game but only managed 14 rushing yards.
Much of that was thanks to six sacks in the game by the Trojan defense.
“Our main focus was to have more pressure on the quarterback than last year and I feel like we’ve done that,” defensive tackle Antonio Gillespie said. “Our goal is thirty sacks this year.”
The seven sacks the defense has made through two games is over half the number from 2012 when the Trojans accounted for 13.
One player who stood out was sophomore defensive end Jadarius Garner who was honored as the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
Garner finished the game with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
“Jadarius should have played more last week [against UAB],” head coach Larry Blakeney said. “He is a guy that can really help us.”
So far this season, 36 Trojans have seen their debut in a Troy uniform and much of that depth and rotation has been on the defensive side of the ball.
“We got to play a lot of kids and we have played a lot up front,” Bolt said. “The guys in the secondary and at linebacker were the guys that hadn’t gotten as much.
“They got in there and made some mistakes but not many. I thought they did a great job adjusting as the game went on.”
Troy is at the top in the conference in total defense averaging giving up under 300 yards per game, but will be facing the top offense in the Sun Belt on Thursday.
Arkansas State averages nearly 550 yards per game and in the first weekend of the season had four players rush for over 100 yards against Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
“We believe that our run defense is unstoppable right now,” senior safety Camren Hudson said.
“I think being able to contain the run and not giving up the big play whether it be run or pass against Arkansas State will be very important,” Bolt said.
These two teams have held at least a share of the conference title for each of the past eight seasons and these players know what is on the line.
“This is a statement game for us,” senior defensive tackle Antonio Gillespie said. “We know it’s very important as far as bowl play and winning the conference.”