Troy defense gears up to stop Army’s option attack

Published 4:19 pm Monday, November 7, 2022

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Troy Trojans head football coach and defensive coordinator Shiel Wood spoke to the media on Monday and discussed the challenges of stopping the Army Black Knights’ unique option rushing attack.

Sumrall also announced the team’s weekly award winners on the heels of this past Saturday’s win over Louisiana on Monday. Running back Kimani Vidal earned Offensive Player of the Game, while safety Craig Slocum Jr. was Defensive Player of the Game and defensive back Keyshawn Swanson earned Special Teams Player of the Game. Wide receiver Robert Bruce earned Scout Offensive Player of the Week, while defensive end Fabian Rogosch won Scout Defensive Player of the Week and receiver Rondell Cole won Scout Special Teams Player of the Week.

Troy linebacker Carlton Martial also earned Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Carlton Martial (2) is nominated for yet another award. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)

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This week’s John Johnson/Nathan Harris Service Award went to offensive lineman Jake Andrews and linebacker Jordan Stringer won the Corey McCullers Spirit Award.

Sumrall also gave an injury update heading into Army week. Receiver RaJae’ Johnson and defensive end TJ Jackson – who both were nicked up against Louisiana – are healthy and will be available against Army, while receiver Jabre Barber, linebacker Jayden McDonald and defensive tackle Luis Medina will be out again this week.

Troy gave up 203 yards rushing against Louisiana last week, only the third time Troy has given up over 100 yards rushing this season and the first time since Sept. 17 that a team has surpassed the century mark against the Trojan defense.

Despite that, the Troy defense gave up just 14 total yards in the fourth quarter against Louisiana as Troy made its comeback.

“The biggest thing was fitting the defense correctly,” Wood said of Troy’s adjustments in the second half. “The biggest adjustments were just settling our guys down and making sure they were doing their jobs and they know how to do their job consistently.

“Often times in football if you have 10 guys doing their jobs and one guy on one rep doesn’t do his job, if they attack that area then you potentially give up some yards otherwise you wouldn’t give up. I think we had some errors at times that were exposed but as the game wore on our guys settled down.”

That notion of “doing your job” consistently on every play is a huge factor when playing against a “triple option” style of offense, which is a rarity in modern college football. Army ranks second in the entire country in rushing offense, averaging 302 yards per game on the ground. The Black Knights also spread the ball around with three players tallying over 300 yards rushing this season and another two with over 200 yards. Army’s scored 26 rushing touchdowns, as well.

“Eye discipline and vision lines are key to limit the explosive plays along with leveraging the football and knowing the leverage you have to have on the ball carrier along with tackling the football,” Sumrall said of trying to defend the option. “Everyone doing their job over and over again is also key. All it takes is one breakdown for there to be an explosive play. There are a lot of challenges to what they do.”

Wood is very familiar with the option attack himself having served the previous two seasons as safeties coach and defensive coordinator at Army. He also previously served on the staff at Wofford and Georgia Tech, which both ran option offenses during that time. Troy defensive line coach Eric McDaniel was also the defensive line coach at Army last season.

“It’s effective because they know what they’re doing and have been doing it a long time,” Wood said. “The coaches that coach there have been in this scheme for a long time. They’re very well coached, have great attention to detail and they play really hard.

“From a coaching standpoint, these guys have done this for so long that they’ve seen a lot of different looks and they have adjustments they can make in-game or even during a drive. If you give them things they didn’t expect, they can adjust well and even run plays they may have not practiced during the week.”

KJ Robertson and the Trojan defense will have their hands full with the Army rushing attack this Saturday. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Having Wood and McDaniel on the staff – with their knowledge of the offense – will be a big help in preparation for the Trojans.

“It’s a tremendous benefit to have both Shiel Wood and Eric McDaniel on our staff,” Sumrall said. “We have some really good familiarity and grasp on the different layers and nuances of that offense with those guys. They do a tremendous job of adjusting and adapting and are very creative and well coached at Army. Both (McDaniel and Wood) have done a great job on our staff and we’re grateful to have them.”

Wood also said that another key issue with preparing for an offense like the “option” is being able to give the defense good enough looks in practice.

“It’s a scheme you don’t see often. There aren’t a whole lot of teams that run a traditional 3-back style option offense anymore,” he said. “The preparation for it is two fold. You have to make sure as a staff you are on the same page with knowing what you want to do in the game and how you need to align and coach certain fits and play pass responsibilities.

“Obviously, being able to teach that to your players who don’t see this week in and week out and being able to manufacture a look in practice where you have a scout team is a big thing. As much as you’re trying to coach your defensive players what you’re going to do in the game and how to do it, you also have to do a great job coaching your scout team to be able to give a good enough look to the defense. It’s a big challenge on a lot of different fronts.”

Troy’s defense will get a chance to slow down Army’s potent running attack this Saturday on national TV as the game will be televised on the NFL Network. While kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., there will be a number of pregame events going on beginning at 2 p.m. in honor of Veterans Day.