Sumrall, players speak at Sun Belt Media Day

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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On Tuesday, July 25, the Sun Belt Conference held its annual Sun Belt Media Day and Troy Football Coach Jon Sumrall was on hand in New Orleans, La., with a pair of his senior leaders to discuss the 2023 football season.

Sumrall started the day off by giving fans and the media a little preview of the season to come.

“Our 2023 team has been hard at work at pursuing their best every day,” Sumrall said. “I’m excited bout the direction of our program. We have great leadership and I like our mixture of experience and youth.

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“We have more unknowns and less proven than last year’s roster but what is known is our culture and core values and our daily standards. Those have been very clearly laid out over the last year and a half and our guys understand them and embrace them.”

Representing Troy’s players at SBC Media Day were seniors Clayton Ollendieck and Reddy Steward.

“These two are tremendous examples of what Troy Football is all about,” Sumrall said of his seniors. “(Ollendieck) embodies our core values of our program every day with how he lives. He is a prime example of hard work, great attitude, being tough and disciplined and loving your teammates. Reddy is extremely productive, very reliable and dependable and shows up to practice with a great work ethic daily.”

Of Ollendieck, Sumrall shared a story that he said exemplifies what he means to his teammates.

“As I was getting some of the leadership together to let them know who was going to come represent our program here – and there are some obvious other examples like Gunnar Watson and Kimani Vidal – I told all the guys I was bringing (Ollendieck),” he continued. “To see their faces light up from excitement for him to represent our team showed what our team is really about and reinforced what I already knew about (Ollendieck).”

Coming into 2023, there are plenty of “unknowns” on the Troy roster with the need to replace some of the most productive players in school history, none more so than FBS all-time tackles leader Carlton Martial.

“That’s a pretty big unknown. He’s been a pretty steady force in our defense for several years,” Sumrall said of replacing Martial. “We lost a lot of production in certain areas, including our top two receivers. Jabre (Barber) was on pace to have a special year before he got hurt in the fifth game but now it’s about elevating those other guys around him and showing in games that they’re ready to make those big time contested catches.

“Depth in the secondary is something we have to figure out. We have some really great leaders there but we want see which guys behind (the starters) can figure out things quickly and get caught up to speed. When you lose KJ (Robertson) and Carlton, who both had a ton of snaps under their belt, that’s a big thing. I do like our group (at inside linebacker), though. Terry Thomas and Jordan Stringer are guys that got some quality reps against great competition last season.”

The offensive line is another spot that Sumrall points to as being one that departures hurt.

“We lost Jake Andrews, a fourth round NFL Draft Pick, that’s hard to replace,” Sumrall said. “Eli Russ is a guy I’m excited about. Eli reminds me a little bit of Jake in some regard. We lost our center, left guard and left tackle from last year. Austin Stidham was our left tackle and played in 50-something straight games and 4,000-something snaps. He was the epitome of consistent.

“We have a little bit less proven offensive line but our offensive line a year ago was not very deep and I think the level of competition from No. 1 through No. 10 on the line is much deeper this year. I just don’t know who will run out and start game one yet. Last year, I knew day one who would start because we didn’t have very many quality linemen.”

Sumrall pointed to his seniors as being key to keeping complacency from creeping into the 2023 Trojans.

“We have talked head on about complacency and fighting that off,” Sumrall said. “I’m not very outcome driven in regards to why I do what I do or why I ask them to do what they do. I’m more about constantly pursuing our best, whatever our best is.

“If we do that, I can live with results and outcomes. I want our group, everyone individually and collectively, to pursue their best daily. Complacency is real and I’ve reminded these guys and their teammates that the 2023 version of Troy Football is 0-0. Everything we get will be earned; nothing will be given to us. I’ve challenged them with good teams can be coach led but great teams are player led.”

Ollendieck said that simplifying things helps players stay focused on the task ahead.

“I think we do a good job of simplifying things,” he emphasized. “You can get overwhelmed thinking about a 12-game season or what can happen to try and put yourself in a position to be in the conference championship, but simplifying things down to day by day and week by week like focusing on finishing the summer strong and having the best fall camp possible is our main thing. Coach says all the time that with preseason rankings, you either prove them right or prove them wrong.”

Steward, who has switched to No. 2 this season, said he takes the number switch – worn the last several years by Martial – very seriously.

“I just have to come out and represent like Carlton did and be that leader that he was and do whatever we need as a team and as a staff,” Steward said. “I just have to represent the right way when I wear that jersey.”

Sumrall and his Trojans will begin Fall Camp next month ahead of the start of the 2023 season.