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New ballgame:

Trojans head into 2002 season with high confidence level

By KEVIN PEARCEY

Sports Editor

Amount paid by Adidas to stamp its logo across Troy State football jerseys:

$90,000.

Amount Nebraska paid the TSU Athletic Department for two football games in Lincoln:

$ 1 million.

Media exposure Troy State garnered in its first year of Division I-A:

Priceless.

Head coach Larry Blakeney admitted as much on Monday at the Troy Country Club, the Trojans first stop of their annual preseason media tour.

"We could have not paid a public relations firm for the kind of national exposure we got last year, just by scheduling Nebraska and Miami," he said.

The Cornhuskers and the Hurricanes met for the 2002 National Championship in the Rose Bowl. Troy State was the only team to play both during the regular season last year making Blakeney and his coaching staff hot commodities prior to the match-up. Various media, including CNN and ESPN, sought Blakeney’s opinion about the two teams.

Like last season, the Trojans open at Nebraska on Aug. 31, one of eight away games on the schedule, including a Nov. 9 contest in Mobile against Florida A&M.

Blakeney called this year’s schedule the "toughest in school history."

Of course last August, said Blakeney, he stated the same thing about the 2001 schedule.

"Johnny Williams (TSU Athletic Director) is here so I’ll call the schedule awesome. But when he’s not around I call it awful," Blakeney joked.

The Trojans finished the year with a 7-4 record, which included a 21-9 win over the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.

State returns to the schedule this season, along with Arkansas and Big 12 foes Iowa State and Missouri. The Trojans also travel to UAB and Marshall.

Blakeney said he puts a particular emphasis on instate games like the one in Birmingham on Sept. 7 against UAB.

"If you look at our record against instate teams you’ll see why," he said. "I’d like to see it become a rivalry game because I know how their people feel about playing us and we should feel the same way about playing them."

The Trojans return the bulk of their offense with Hansell Bearden the heir apparent at quarterback, taking over for 48-game starter Brock Nutter. Charlie Goodyear was the lone player lost on the offensive line. Leading rusher Demontray Carter is gone as well.

On defense, linebacker appears to be the only question mark with both the secondary and defensive line solid. A part-time starter last year, Naazir Yamini will head-up the linebacker corps from the middle. Gordon Williams and Deloise Moore will be the other starters and Blakeney said he hopes to be two-deep in linebackers come the end of August.

Blakeney, who enters is 12th year at Troy, said his perception is that Trojan supporters are even more excited about this season then last.

"But we’ve got TSU grads that are in Auburn, in Tuscaloosa and in Tallahassee, who could be coming here (on Saturday)," he said. "People have got to get back to being loyal. That’s the thing I’ve been trying to state all along; we need them back for the long haul."