Blakeney: ‘We have to continue developing and evolving the program in all areas’

Published 11:11 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney talks to players following the annual T-Day football scrimmage in Troy, Ala., Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Troy Football Series | State of the Program

This is part six of a six part series previewing Troy football during the final week of spring practice.

After 21 seasons at the same school, some might think a head coach would get somewhat complacent… not Larry Blakeney.

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A 3-9 season in 2011 has seemed to increase Blakeney’s motivation.

“We interviewed our entire staff from the top to the bottom and everyone has committed to our expectation for excellence,” Blakeney said. “Everyone has to be held accountable for what happened last season.”

Blakeney says he can tell the team is rejuvenated and ready for the start of a new season.

“I could feel the energy back during winter workouts,” he said. “These guys are working to become the best ingredient as a football player for this team as they can be.”

The Trojans will have an opportunity to return to the top of the Sun Belt Conference standings as they had done for five consecutive seasons from 2006-10 against a quality schedule played mostly at home.

Troy’s schedule features six home games, the most since making to the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The 2012 slate brings big names like Mississippi State (Sept. 15) and Navy Nov. 10) to Veterans Memorial Stadium. More importantly, the top three performers in the league last season, Louisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 8), Western Kentucky (Oct. 11), and Arkansas State (Nov. 17) all come to Troy.

“It’s the best schedule we’ve had since the Division I-AA days,” Blakeney said. “Every coach wants to play an SEC type schedule where you have eight home games a year. We have a great schedule for not only the team but for the fans.

Troy will play a total of eight games in the state of Alabama. Coupled with the six home games are road trips to UAB and Sun Belt newcomer South Alabama.

Also in Blakeney’s crosshairs is a new football facility and the resurfacing of Larry Blakeney Field.

“Those are the next two investments we have to make,” he said. “We have to continue developing and evolving the program in all areas. If we’re going to be Division I we have to act Division I, you can’t fool people.”

The university is in the process of raising $5 million before breaking ground on the facility planned to be constructed outside of the north endzone.

Another improvement Blakeney is looking for in the near future will be the construction of two new practice fields. With the current set up Blakeney says it is impossible to watch everything at a single practice.

“The way it is right now, there is a lot of running up and down hill to get to the practice fields. It’s tough to see everything,” he said “That improvement would simplify things a bit.”

With Sun Belt schools investing more and more money into athletic programs, especially football, it has become a game of keeping up with the Joneses.

“Those (facilities) are things that kids can see physically,” Blakeney said. “The tower has been a life saver for us with the great weight room and training facilities. We have got to make sure that those two areas are staffed and funded to the hilt. That is a direct care of the student-athlete and it has to be obvious.”

Blakeney said continuously looking for ways to improve facilities is one way to help ensure the program live up to epectations.

“The growth of the program has got to keep up with the wishes and hopes and goals that our alumni, administration, and certainly we have.”

Blakeney not only hopes to keep the program on the move off the field but also return to glory on the field. Part of the rebuilding process is bringing in and developing players.

“We have a chance to have one of the best recruiting years we’ve ever had but that is all affected by what we do this year,” he said. “The guys we have are young but a lot of them are experienced.”

Blakeney said he feels if the Trojan offense can stay intact, the unit has the opportunity to be very effective.

“If everyone stays healthy, this could be a good group,” said Blakeney. “Corey (Robinson) has been in the system a while now and will have some explosive weapons back.”

The weapons Blakeney referenced are receivers Chip Reeves an Jamel Johnson. Both sat out last season due to academic ineligibility but returned this spring. If they remain eligible, the duo will create challenges for opposing defenses.

The Trojan defense is still looking to fill a few voids at corner back and on the line but Blakeney is confident the unit will improve from last season.

“We’ve got football players on that side of the ball, it’s just a matter of getting our best players out there,” he said. “There are a couple of holes to be filled but I’m looking for definite improvement defensively.”

The Trojans will have a normal practice day to round out spring practice today at 10a.m.