Troy defense on the rise

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Troy Trojan defense is looking to the 1985 Super-Bowl-winning Chicago Bears for inspiration heading into 2017.

The offense stole the show a year ago, with quarterback Brandon Silvers named ton the All-Sun Belt team and Jordan Chunn rushing for over 1,000 yards. As the season went along, it was the defense that saw the most improvement.

The defense allowed 366 yards per game a season ago, good enough for third in the conference behind only Appalachian State and Arkansas State. This season, they want to model one of the best defenses in NFL history.

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“If another team got a first down, they were upset,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “Defensively, we have to have that same mentality. We are going to challenge for every yard, every first down and every point. Unless we are successful, we need to be playing with a chip on our shoulder”

Everything is going to start up front for Koenning and his defense. Guys like Seth Calloway and Jamal Stadom will be looked upon to fire off the line and put pressure on the quarterback.

“It’s a matter of attitude,” Koenning said. “We are a stronger team and we are stronger up front. We have our fair share of 280-pound guys up there. If they want to play with leverage, that will make the bigger defense.”

The Trojans lost key linebackers a season ago in Justin Lucas, Terris Lewis and Demetrius Cain. Up front, the Trojans also have to replace both starters at defensive end in Junior Gnonkonde and Rashad Dillard.

“We have a lot of really talented young guys,” Koenning said. “They are getting a lot of opportunities to play. We have to establish a new linebacker corps.”

Unlike the offense, which is pretty much set heading into the season, the defense provides freshmen a chance to get in the game, guys like Marcus Jones and Terrance Dunlap,

“I love his (Jones) competitive character,” said head coach Neal Brown. “I love the way he studies the game. He is smart and athletic. Terrance Dunlap is one of our best athletes on the football team. He can play a number of positions. We have been playing him at corner.”

Two other freshmen are doing all they can to make noise and possibly put their name in the hat at linebacker.

“The two freshman linebackers are starting to make a move,” Brown said. “Justin Whisenhunt from Ramsey High School and Kevin Dixon from Peach County in Georgia. I like their mentality; they are guys that love to play. They have energy, they like to practice, they like to compete and they will be physical.”

The Trojans as a team came into this season with a lot of expectations. For the defense they haven’t changed since Koenning arrived in 2015.

“They remember two years ago when I got here,” Koenning said. “The expectations aren’t any different now than what they were two years ago.”

The Trojans defense will get an early test Saturday, September 2 when they travel to face Boise State.