Troy opens spring practices

Published 11:58 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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The Troy Trojans football team opened up spring practices on Tuesday as year two under head coach Jon Sumrall officially gets started.

Sumrall said his program has four phases during the year and he felt like opening practice was a good first day of what he called “phase two.’’

“This is the starting point, a journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step. Today was our first real step in phase two of our four phases,” he said. “Phase one is winter conditioning, phase two is spring ball, phase three is the summer (workouts) and phase four is what we work for, which is the season.

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“Today is really day one of phase two and I thought there were some really good things out there energy wise. We looked a lot better, a more efficient operation as a whole, than this time a year ago. We have a long way to go but it was a good starting point, good day one.”

Sumrall said that the difference between his first spring practices, this time last year, and today were like night and day.

“We’re a better coached team already and hopefully that translates to us being a better team,” Sumrall emphasized. “As a staff, we know the expectations and what’s coming next and I’m more prepared to do my job.

“Last year, I was just trying to make sure I made it to practice on time. Now, I feel very fortunate that, without looking at the script, I know every play call on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Last year we were implementing a lot of new but now in all three it’s more about retooling and fine-tuning things instead. We probably made more changes on offense than we have in any area.”

Receiver Landon Parker (23) is one of a number of new faces on the Troy roster.

There was also a lot of new faces on the field in day one with a number of incoming transfers and early enrollee freshmen taking part in their first Trojan practices.

“We do have a lot of new faces and some good, quality returners,” Sumrall said. “So, it’s a good mix of returning vets and new players. There were a lot of areas where my eyes were going to, to kind of evaluate some of the new (offensive) line pieces, the new pieces at receiver and the new defensive guys.

“The thing I will say is last year’s team we knew we had a lot of experience returning and we don’t have as much experience returning from a production, or whose played, standpoint. We have really good looking bodies that are athletic movers and I think we’re longer and a more physical looking team in some regards.”

Toughness is something that the Trojans are focusing on, especially as the new faces on the roster get acclimated.

“I don’t know if we’re as tough yet. I think last year’s team was extremely tough and that’s one of our core values that I believe we have to be to win any kind of game,” Sumrall continued. “We have a long way to go there, in my opinion.”

One familiar face that returned to the field on Monday was receiver Jabre Barber, who missed much of the season in 2022 with a broken fibula. As tough as it was to watch the second half of the season unfold without playing, Barber said it motivated him to return to the field.

“It felt great, it felt amazing to be out there and come back and play with my team,” Barber emphasized. “It was tough (to miss games) but with that being said, I came with a good mindset every day to get better and rehab my ankle. I just want to come out here and get better and work every day with my team.”

Returning starting quarterback Gunnar Watson was pleased wtith what he saw in day one, from both the veterans and returners.

“It felt good today. I felt comfortable out there and I thought the energy was good today,” Watson said. “I thought (new receiver) Landon (Parker) looked pretty good today, he had a good day today. Chris Lewis is going to come along and he’ll be good, too. We had a pretty good day overall.”

A familiar face that is no longer on the field with the Trojans is All-Sun Belt center Jake Andrews, who took part in the NFL Combine this past weekend. Andrews is likely to be drafted next month and Sumrall said it made him proud to see how far he’s come.

“I’m really proud of what he’s doing,” Sumrall said of Andrews. “A year ago this time, Jake finished his first practice at center and had never played center before. Last summer, when the NFL scouts would call me, no one was calling me to ask me about Jake, not one.

“Now, he’s about to get drafted. It’s really neat to see a guy live out a dream and really kind of come off the radar to a guy that we all know is going to get drafted, it’s just about when. It couldn’t happen to a better person. When you work extremely hard, you’re ridiculously selfless and a great teammate on top of being a fairly talented, good things happen.”

The Trojans are back on the practice field on Thursday, March 9.