Troy wraps up 2017 class

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2017

The 2017 National Signing Day has come and gone, and for the second consecutive season, Troy University and the Trojan faithful have reason to be excited.

Troy signed 16 players on Wednesday, bringing their total to 18 after having a pair of early signees in December.

“We took a huge step today in continuing to rebuild the wall,” said Troy head coach Neal Brown. “I am proud of our staff. They invested a lot of time and effort. That group led by Brian Bennett, our Director of Player and Personnel, and Al Pogue, our Recruiting Coordinator, did a tremendous job.”

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After having arguably their best recruiting class in school history a year ago, the Trojans set out to continue to improve beginning in 2017. The Trojans focused on recruiting locally, and by doing so, picked players in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

“This is a two-year process,” Brown said. “This is the first class that we have signed where I didn’t feel like we were catching up and playing from behind.

“We concentrate on our home areas and that’s the state of Alabama. This is the third class in a row that has been heavy on Alabama student athletes. We went into Georgia, Florida and Mississippi junior colleges. Those are our home areas.”

Of the 18 recruits, 10 came from Alabama, four came from Florida and three came from Georgia. Early signee Rasool Clemons is from South Carolina, but comes to Troy from East Mississippi College.

Perhaps the biggest noise of the day occurred when the Trojans signed cornerback Marcus Jones. The former Wildcat was a three-star prospect by ESPN. Jones helped lead Enterprise to an 11-2 record and a berth in the second round of the 7A playoffs. He recorded 27 tackles and had five interceptions.

Jones, along with Troy considered Purdue, South Alabama and Southern Mississippi among others.

“A lot of time and effort went into that one,” Brown said. “He is a kid that I have gotten to know since I got this job… They (Enterprise) had a ton of trust in him. He played press man coverage about every snap this year. He is athletic, great personality and he is smart.”

Joining Jones on the defensive side of the ball will be twins Kevin and Kyle Nixon from Peach County in Georgia.

Kevin Nixon was ranked in the 110 outside linebackers in the country and was ranked as a three-star prospect by 247Sports.

“I really felt like he would be a guy that would be hard for us to get,” said Troy defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “I felt like he is an SEC, ACC type player. We were excited that he fell to us and that he was a guy that we were able to get.”

Kyle Nixon finished his career with 269 tackles.

“He (Kyle Nixon) was everywhere at Peach,” Koenning said. “He played safety, he played outside linebacker and he is a great kick blocker…He can do a lot of things. We really don’t want to earmark him just yet.”

Troy focused on picking up speed in this recruiting class. They wanted to focus on speed and athleticism at both wide receiver and corner back.

“Looking back at last year’s game and understanding what we had coming back, we had to get faster as a football team,” Brown said. “I thought we got exposed at times last year towards the end of the season.”

One recruit the Trojans have kept an eye on from the offensive side of the ball has been Bubba Jonson from Lee-Montgomery High School in Montgomery. Johnson caught 48 passes for 853 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior season en route to earning all-metro honors.

“His numbers are off the charts,” Brown said. “I felt like he was one of the best athletes in the state. He is a guy that will get into our nutrition program daily and get into the weight room. He is a guy that could be an all-league player.”

Troy has a stable backfield heading into 2017, led by 1,000 yard rusher Jordan Chunn. With Chunn and fellow running back Josh Anderson both being seniors, Troy brought in two more running backs in Terence Dunlap and DK Billingsley. Dunlap finished his senior season with 2,821 yards and was rated as one of the top-100 running backs in the nation.

“You need to bring in a running back every year,” said Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edendfield. “At camp they were really good at catching the football. They showed they were really good at running the ball during the season. We thought they were a good fit. You can never have enough of those guys on your team.”

With another good recruiting class comes excitement, and coach Brown is starting to feel the excitement from the Trojan faithful.

“I think you’re seeing our fan base grow,” Brown said. “When you look at bigger programs at the Divison I level that have a large following, they get excited about recruiting. This is the second year in a row that our fan base is energized by the recruiting season.”

The 2017 recruiting class includes: DK Billingsley, Bret Clark, Rasool Clemons, Terene Dunlap, Travius Harris, Bubba Hudson, Bubba Johnson, Marcus Jones, Evan Legassey, Travon Mathis, Tyler Murray, Kevin Nixon, Shon Spralling, Austin Stidham, Justin Whisenhunt, Luke Whittemore and Damion Willis.