Troy Football opens Fall Camp

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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Football season is here as the Troy Trojans kicked off Fall Camp on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Troy Coach Jon Sumrall liked what he saw on day one but emphasized that there was plenty to improve on.

“It felt good to be back on the grass. There are four phases to a football team: one is winter, two is spring, three is the summer and four is football. That’s why we do all the other phases,” he said. “I told them today that this is a journey of 1,000 miles and today is the first step in that.”

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While there were plenty of familiar faces on Troy’s practice field, there were also some new faces that were quick to stand out.

“Some of the usual suspects stood out today,” Sumrall said. “Don Callis, our (transfer) cornerback, flashed today as a new guy and (freshman defensive end) Deshaun Batiste flashed, as well. There were so many new guys that I think a couple of times I was asking, ‘Who’s that number again?’ but the household names that have been here forever, and have played a lot of football, we know what we’ll get out of them day in and day out.

“Eli Russ has done a really nice job at center since he got here. I’m really pleased with where he’s at and excited about the steps he’s taken.”

Additionally, there were some players that have been away from the field for some time, as well. Linebacker Jayden McDonald, who missed much of last season with a knee injury, returned to the practice field on Wednesday, as did bandit Javon Solomon, who missed much of spring practices. Receiver Jabre Barber also missed the majority of last season and Sumrall was quick to point to how good it was to have him on the field again.

“He’s the workhorse out there (at receiver),” Sumrall said of Barber. “He’s extremely dependable and reliable and also very dynamic and is an outstanding teammate. When we lost him in the middle of the year I think it took our offense a couple of weeks to figure out how to move forward, because we built so much around him.

“He was the most consistent and explosive player in our offense. I’m really fired up to have him back and the sky’s the limit to what he can accomplish.”

While players are only allowed to wear helmets and jerseys for the first few practices of fall camp, a number of players were making big plays already. Junior college transfer tight end Ethan Conner could be seen making a leaping grab along the sideline during team competition, while quarterback Gunnar Watson seemed to be in complete control of the offense. Sumrall said that Watson’s leadership has been his biggest form of improvement in the offseason.

“Gunnar is a very different guy than a year ago,” he flatly said. “A year ago this time he didn’t lead the team, he was just leading himself. He was leading himself okay then but now he’s leading himself at an elite level.

“He’s changed his nutrition and his detail and the details in the weight program have changed him greatly. He is also leading the team now. At the midpoint of practices I looked over at (offensive coordinator) Joe Craddock and we both said, ‘(Watson) looks different out there.’ He’s acting different, he’s carrying himself different. Any time you come back for a sixth year after you already graduated, you could probably be doing anything you wanted to do, but if you make that decision to come back you’re probably going to go all in and not just dip your toe in. I think Gunnar is all in and I’m excited to see it.”

Troy will continue to practice every day for the remainder of this week Aug. 3-5 with practices starting at 9:40 a.m.