Blakeney hopes to keep team motivated during D-1 transition season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE – When asked what it would be like on Sept. 1 when his Trojans open up the 2001 season in Lincoln, Neb., Troy State head football coach Larry Blakeney allowed his comments to drip with just a tad bit of sarcasm.

"There’s going to be 90,000 screaming fans and I’ve heard they treat you pretty nice," Blakeney said on Monday at Cambrian Ridge Golf Course in Greenville, the second stop on TSU’s Media Days tour. "They (Nebraska fans) will be expecting for us to get ripped and we just might. There have been some other teams about our caliber…UAB, Central Florida…who’ve went up there and been competitive. But I think Nebraska gave them a little help with turnovers and such. We may need that same help in order to stay in the ball game."

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Blakeney was realistic about the Trojans’ chances this season, adding that TSU football "is going to have to take a few lumps" along the way, which is all a part of making the transition to Division 1-A.

Blakeney’s main worry, he said, will be keeping this year’s team motivated to play one of the toughest schedules in the nation week in and week out.

"After Sep. 1 we don’t have to worry about Nebraska. Then we have to start worrying about playing at Middle Tennessee State and they’re going to have a solid football team this year also. They’ll (MTS) be nothing like the team we beat two year’s ago up there," Blakeney said.

The Trojans start practice for the fall in August and Blakeney said some of his major concerns include finding depth for an experience-depleted offensive line, some quality back-ups for his starters in the defensive backfield and a No. 2 receiver to go along with top returner Heyward Skipper.

Oh, and there’s also a new kicker, punter and the need for the emergence of solid, second-string quarterback behind fifth-year senior Brock Nutter, to dwell upon. Departed punter Matt Allen and placekicker Lawrence Tynes graduated, taking a couple of records out of the TSU record book with them.

Behind Nutter, redshirt freshman Hansell Bearden is listed at No. 2. Bearden had a good spring, but saw limited game action last season.

Blakeney feels comfortable with the Trojans’ current field goal kickers . Junior Kevin Jones or sophomore Eric Pollock are set to handle the kicking duties in the fall.

But Blakeney said, were the Trojans to take the field tomorrow, he would likely go with Derek Bynum as the punter. Bynum is the team’s third-string quarterback.

"That shows you where we are as far as punting. We may have to be a little exotic when it comes to fourth down situations this year," Blakeney joked.

The Trojans’ 11-year head coach said he also didn’t know how this year’s team would be measured in terms of success or failure.

"I do know we’re going into Division 1-A with the idea of being competitive and this is the cornerstone team for that transition," he said. "It’s easy to go Division 1-A and just sit back and collect big pay checks, but that’s not what we’re going to do. We’re committed to doing this right. I’m committed, (TSU Athletics Director) Johnny Williams is committed, and we’ve got a bunch of fans that are committed as well."