Back at it: Position battles highlight first day of spring practice

Published 9:06 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It felt more like a cold and blustery late season practice than the spring opener, but head coach Neal Brown and the Troy Trojans were happy to be back on the field.

Fresh off their best Division-I season in program history, the Trojans returned to the field Tuesday for the first of 15 spring practices.

“I thought our guys had a lot of energy today,” Brown said. “This is best we have looked physically in the first four years that I have been here.”

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For many of the players, Tuesday marked the first time they were back on the field since beating North Texas in last season’s R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and with that came mistakes.

“A lot of mistakes,” Brown said. “We have a lot of young guys and we have several guys that are out or that are going to be limited this spring.”

This year’s spring practice will feature a quarterback battle for the first time in years as junior Caleb Barker and redshirt sophomore Sawyer Smith will fight it out to determine who will replace former quarterback Brandon Silvers.

The two quarterbacks got a leg up last spring when they took the bulk of the snaps while Silvers was recovering from a hand injury.

“What it did is the team has a lot of confidence in both of them,” Brown said. “They practiced. Sawyer two years ago got a lot of game repetitions. Caleb last year got a lot of game repetitions. We were intentional about playing him early in our nonconference games. He got multiple series. They had every snap in spring practice a year ago, so our team has confidence in them.”

The quarterbacks aren’t alone when it comes to position battles. With Jordan Chunn and Josh Anderson now gone, BJ Smith and Jamarius Henderson are in a battle at running back.

“BJ is a guy that is ready,” Brown said. “I think it’s time for him. He is going into year three. I think he has been one of our better special team’s players. It’s time for him and I think it’s time for him to take the next step. He is healthier than he has been.”

Kevin Perkins and Jabir Daughtry-Frye, who is coming off an ACL injury, will also get looks at running the football.

The Trojans will be without many key players this spring due to injury. The list includes Kirk Kelley, Bubba Hudson, Same Letton and Traveon Samuel.

“We have to be smart with how we practice,” Brown said. “A lot of those are guys that have played a lot of football. We kind of know what they are so that helps. In the spring, we have to be smart. We probably won’t be able to tackle as much as we maybe have in previous years. It also gives guys opportunities to prove that they are ready.”

These 15 practices give the younger players the opportunity to stand out and prove that they belong.

“These guys have 15 practices and everybody new that is coming in during the summer will have about 16 to 18 practices to prove that they are ready to play,” Brown said.

The spring will conclude on April 21 when the Trojans hold their annual T-Day game beginning at noon.