McKissack, Bennett battling to replace veteran Kyle Wilborn at center

Published 10:36 pm Friday, March 29, 2013

Ask any football coach, flip on any football show on TV or thumb through any one of the dozens of pre-season magazines, and you will find that the same phrase is used multiple times, “Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage.”

The Troy Trojans are working this spring to fill holes along the offensive line, affectionately called “The Wall of Troy.” Gone from the unit are left tackle Jared Flemming, left guard Cody Woodiel and center Kyle Wilborn.

While the losses of Flemming and Woodiel are large, replacing Wilborn is one of the focal points of spring practice for offensive line coach Jim Dye.

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“Dalton and Evan are both team guys,” said Dye. “They want to help the team in whatever way possible. I have been pleased with both of them so far. Evan has a little more experience at center. Dalton has more experience on the field. We want to have depth at center.”

Two players, Evan McKissack and Dalton Bennett, are the front runners for the spot in the spring. McKissack and Bennett each bring different qualifications to the job.

McKissack is a natural center and starred for the Hoover Bucs in high school. During McKissack’s time on the interior of the Buc line, Hoover appeared in three straight Alabama High School Athletic Association State Championship games. However after sitting out a season due to transferring from North Alabama, and not seeing

McKissack looks forward in to trying to replace Wilborn.

“It is definitely some big shoes to fill,” said McKissack. “He set a pace for us, and it is our job to make sure that the O-line remains good. I want to ensure that we are able to run the ball like we have, and give Corey (Robinson) and Deon (Anthony) plenty of time to pick a part a defense.”

Bennett, a native of Marianna, Florida, has played most of his career at guard and saw action on the field last year when the Trojans were hit with injuries. The shift to center has been a learning experience for Bennett, but like McKissack, he is excited to compete for the job.

“Willborn is a great athlete, great play and great guy,” Bennett said. “We have some big shoes to fill. Last season, Kyle stepped up and took it over, and center isn’t really his spot. Going back and watching film and seeing how good he was at it makes me want to be just as good, if not better.”

Bennett said in Troy’s spread offense, the center position is a key position along the line. In addition to snapping, the center can be responsible for identifying defensive alignments and picking up blitzes through the A-gap.

“The center gets a lot of guys funneled to him,” said Bennett. “The quickest way to the quarterback is straight up the A. We have to keep our eyes open for guys coming in late.”

McKissack, listed on the roster as 5’10” and 255 lbs., is the smallest offensive lineman on the team. The senior from Hoover said that he doesn’t have “little man syndrome,” but knows that he might have to work harder than others.

“I work hard,” McKissack said. “In old America, that’s the way it was. You have to be willing to work hard to get what you want. Some of the most successful people in the world have overcame a lot of things to achieve great things”

The Trojan line cleared the way for Shawn Southward to become the Trojan’s first 1,000 yard rusher since 2008. Southward’s 1,012 yards were the seventh most in school history for a single season.

McKissasck, Bennett and Dye all believe that this season, Troy can get to the 1,000 yard plateau as a team. The Trojans are looking to utilize a fleet of running backs during the 2013 campaign.

“We definitely want to run the football,” Dye said. “People know that we love to throw, but we strive for balance. We are trying to get the right folks on the field, and when we do that, we can be really good offensively.

Dye’s players agree.

“It is a two-headed monster back there,” McKissack said. “Corey and Deon can throw and the backs can find the holes. This offense can be great if we do our job up front.”

The Trojans are still early in spring drills and have yet to have a full contact scrimmage. Troy will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until April 20.

On April 20, the Trojans will open the gates of Veterans Memorial Stadium for the annual T-Day Scrimmage at 11 a.m.