Trojans open practice with eye on championship
Published 10:00 pm Friday, July 31, 2009
The Troy Trojan football team will begin its pursuit of a fourth straight Sun Belt championship when it opens practice Sunday.
Head coach Larry Blakeney said the goal of being conference champions is nothing new.
“Our number one goal is to win the league, as it always is,” Blakeney said. “That’s where we start, and that’s what furnishes postseason opportunities for us.”
Blakeney said part of the motivation for the team heading into practice is last season’s tough season-ending loss to Southern Miss.
“We left New Orleans stinging a little bit with an overtime loss to Southern Mississippi,” Blakeney said. “We’ve had very few distractions. For the most part, everybody’s tried to do what they’re supposed to do, which is big. We’ve got some leadership quality on our team, I think. That’s always big.”
The drive to win a championship will be a bit tougher due to improvement within the conference.
“I feel good about this team, but I also look out at all the other teams and I would dare say that every team in our league is going to be better and our league is going to be better,” Blakeney said. “We have to be ready and able to cope with conference foes week in and week out. We’ve got plenty of work to do leading up to the season and plenty of work to do from week to week.”
Blakeney said those players from last year’s steam will have to put last year behind them and focus on the season ahead.
“It’s a week to week proposition,” Blakeney said. “It’s not going to happen because last year’s team won a championship or because previous teams won championships.
It’s going to happen because this team wants to win a championship.”
While Troy returns eight offensive starters and five defensive starters, Blakeney said there are positions of need on the team.
“We do have some gaps to fill at safety and corner and nickel,” Blakeney said.
“On defense, there’s a couple of inside guys we have to replace and an end who was one of the most football-savvy guys we’ve ever had here in Kenny Mainor.”
Offensive line is also a concern for Troy.
“Offensively, we lose two war daddy tackles that we’ve got to find a way to replace,” Blakeney said. “I feel like we’re going to be better at outside receiver if we can shore up those offensive line positions.”
One of the returnees on offense is last year’s Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year quarterback Levi Brown.
Brown may have been snubbed a bit by Sun Belt coaches, as he was not named to either the first or second preseason all-conference teams.
However, Brown said preseason prognostications will not affect him or the rest of the team this season.
“I don’t have a problem with not being named first or second team,” Brown said. “But, at the same time, I’m going to use it as motivation.
“I don’t care about where we’re ranked in the conference or nationally where I’m ranked. I don’t care about any of that because none of it matters. We’ll just have to play the season and see how it ends up.”
Blakeney said he would not trade Brown for either of the two quarterbacks picked ahead of him.
“I’d give up preseason quarterbacks on the first team and let Levi be the first teamer at the end of the year all day long,” Blakeney said.
“Hopefully he will be motivated by that to try and make that happen.”