Troy special teams making an impact
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The 2016 Troy Trojans have plenty of accolades: undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference; a 6-1 record; bowl-eligible ; the nation’s 14th leading rusher. But the unsung heroes of the squad just might by the special teams.
“If you look at our wins, in every one of our games, we’ve had significant contributions in special teams,” head coach Neal Brown said after the 31-21 homecoming win over Georgia State. “It’s huge. It reaffirms what we tell our kids, and honestly some of that showed last year. If you look at our wins, we’ve had significant contributions in special teams.”
The players have been told by their coaches to buy in for a few seconds of each special team play. From blocked punts to kick returns for touchdowns, the players are starting to see that dedication pay off.
“We probably spend more time on special teams than anyone in the country,” said Troy kicker Ryan Kay. “It has shown up in a couple games now.”
For some players, special teams are the only way to meaningful playing time. BJ Smith who is deep on the depth chart made the most of his opportunity on special teams. During the Trojans win over Georgia State, Smith had a 44-yard kickoff return to set the Trojans up inside Panther territory and he recovered an onside kick, both of which led to scores.
“He’s a great testament of a guy who comes to practice every day with the intent to get better,” Brown said. “He’s selfless. He asked, demanded and performed well enough to get on special teams, and when we put him on there, he showed up.”
“It’s fun,” Smith said. “Coach Brown talks about accepting and embracing your role. I have embraced that role and accepted it. I know my role on this team is special teams. I am just going to try and hit that in big strides.”
Freshman Jabir Frye had a standout performance in Troy’s game against New Mexico State in late September. The freshman returned an Aggie kickoff 100 yards for a score and also blocked a punt that lead to a Troy touchdown.
“We recruited Jabir (Frye) to do that,” Brown said. “He is talented.”
Brown said the focus on special teams is intentional. “Special teams is something we take pride in here and is something that we have invested a lot of time on,” he said.
Others are noticing as well. Kay, the face of Troy’s special team unit, has been named the Sun Belt Conference’s Special Teams Player of the week twice. He has converted on 13 of his 16 field goals with a long of 47 yards. He’s had two three-field-goal games and converted seven of his last eight field goals.
The Trojans will play UMASS on November 5.when they UMASS.