TSU prepares to finish out season

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Sports Editor

Strangely enough, this Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest with North Texas will be the Troy State football team’s final game of the season.

Since 1993, the Trojans, with the exception of 1997, have always had a postseason Division 1-AA playoff berth to look forward to following the regular season finale.

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With 2001 being the football program’s official transition period into Division 1-A, that’s not the case this season.

However, TSU head coach Larry Blakeney insists the Trojans (6-4) still have something to play for on Saturday.

"At this point in the season, I probably would have took 6-4 at the beginning of the year and I’m sure some other people in the Troy State family would have as well," he said. "But we sure could put a nice bonus on it if we were to win this game on Saturday. Of course, if you lose it doesn’t hurt you, but it would give us some momentum going into the offseason."

Since no playoff game or bowl awaits the Trojans, Blakeney said he and his staff have already "mapped out their needs" as far as recruiting goes.

"We’re going to have maybe 15 or 17 scholarships to give out," he said. "We’re still trying to get to 85 (players) and we should reach that number next season. But what we want to start looking at is quality instead of quantity. There’s a lot of good players in the four state area we recruit, (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia), but we have to deal with some stiff competition."

Blakeney knows there’s plenty to replace.

The Trojans lose a four-year starter at quarterback (Brock Nutter), three senior linebackers, (Jimmy McClain, Ben Waldrop and Corey Sears), and a No. 1 tailback, (Demontray Carter).

Troy State loses 10 seniors in all; a unit which compiled a 35-12 record, winning back-to-back Southland Football League titles in 1999 and 2000, the first Trojan squad to do so since the ’86 and ’87 teams won a pair of Gulf South Conference crowns.

"It’s not a big class, but it’s a quality class," said Blakeney.

It is Carter who has the most potential to play in the NFL and Blakeney feels the Auburn transfer has enjoyed his two years in Troy.

"He had to deal with all the gossip and things that went along with him transferring over from Auburn and he’s done that," Blakeney said. "He had the tag of having problems with turning the ball over (at Auburn) and he’s turned the ball over once since he’s been here. He had academic problems at Auburn and he’s straightened that out. He’s warmed up to us, as coaches, and he’s warmed up to the Troy State program and players."

Carter has rushed for 1,456 yards and 13 touchdowns at TSU. He’s also returned two kickoffs for scores accumulated 694 return yards.

"He’s meant a lot to this program," said Blakeney.

Blakeney and TSU offensive coordinator John Shannon will also miss Nutter’s experience. After a redshirt freshmen year in 1997, the fifth-year senior from Hoover has since started 43 consecutive regular season games.

"He’s one tough hombre," said Blakeney about Nutter’s durability.

"We lose a ton of experience when we lose Brock," said Shannon. "We’ll miss his day-to-day effort in practice. He was very excited about this (offensive) system in February and he learned it quick."

While Shannon deals with the loss of the Trojans’ top rusher and quarterback, defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt will be looking for three new linebackers in the offseason. Waldrop and Sears, both transfers, and Jimmy McClain, a four-year starter, have combined for 267 total tackles this season.

"We’re going to miss those three," said Bolt. "They had a successful year and they’ll go down as our stepping stone to Division 1-A. They’re going to be good alumni, good citizens and they come from good families. I’m glad to have been a part in their lives."