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Yamini’s turn to lead the linebackers

Sports Editor

Take away 289 tackles from a defense and odds are somebody’s offense is going to hurt you.

But that’s something the Troy State Trojans are going to have to deal with this year.

Corey Sears, gone. Jimmy McClain, gone. Ben Waldrop, gone. Those three players ranked first, third and fourth in tackles last season, meaning the weight of their departure will be felt once the season begins on Aug. 31 at Nebraska.

McClain, who signed with the NFL’s Houston Texans’ organization during the offseason, will probably be the most missed. The Enterprise native was an emotional leader for Troy State’s defense, quick and fast to the football and an all-around great athlete. He proved that in 1999 when he snagged two interceptions against South Florida and returned them both for touchdowns. Sears was a player dear to head coach Larry Blakeney’s heart because, after a lowly 1999 season, the fifth-year senior put the extra work needed into the weight room and led the team in tackles in 2001. Waldrop earned a starting position after transferring to Troy from Florida State.

The lone starter returning for the Trojans is senior Naazir Yamini.

Yamini brings a wealth of talent to the playing field (105 stops in 2001), but will be surrounded by largely untested athletes.

"Naazir is the only guy who has started," defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt said. "He has been a

great leader for us this spring. But we’ve got two other players in Gordon Williams and Robby Farmer who have played some. They have got to step up now and become quality players for us. During the spring, I thought they did that."

Williams brings a 6-foot, 220-pound frame to the Trojans’ weakside linebacker position. He played in 31 games last season, recording 24 tackles.

Farmer also played in a reserve role last season, prior to suffering a broken leg in the Trojans’ win over Nicholls State on Sept. 22.

Blakeney and Bolt’s biggest surprise, however, has come in the form of Deloise Moore. A JUCO transfer to Troy State, Moore was originally slated to join the offensive backfield as a running back. He was then moved to safety on the defense, but Bolt finally settled on the 6-1, 220-pounder at linebacker.

"He’s probably the strongest guy on the team," said Blakeney. "He squats the gym, benches over 400 (pounds) and can run around a 4.5 (40-yard dash)."

"He was a pleasant surprise to us," agrees Bolt. "He worked hard and won the job. He is athletic and aggressive. He’s a little undersized, but he will hit you and make plays. That’s what we need."

Three redshirt freshmen, Leverne Johnson, Keith Staple and Bernard Davis, will also get a considerable look from Bolt.

"Those guys are the future," said Bolt. "They are good now and will only get better the more they play. All of them can run and like to hit. They’re in it for the long haul."

Also, the Trojans signed three linebackers out of high school as well and with Blakeney hoping to go two-deep behind the Trojans’ starters, Torrence "Boo" Smith, Chris Dickerson and David Johnson may be thrust into early playing time.

Lack of experience aside, Blakeney said he feels good about the overall talent at linebacker and the effort that’s been made to get better.

"I’ve seen a lot of changes," he said. "Richard Shaughnessy (TSU Strength and Conditioning coach) reports to me regularly. Now, we have players like Naazir who does not love the weight room. I think Naazir loves the weight room about as much as I would. But he does the work he has to do. Then we have players like Deloise and Gordon who live in the weight room."

This is the sixth in the a multi-part series breaking down the Trojans by position.