Troy prepares for No. 16 Kansas State

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

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On Monday, Sept. 4, Troy University head football coach Jon Sumrall held his weekly press conference, ahead of this Saturday’s contest against No. 16-ranked Kansas State.

Before getting to this week’s game, Sumrall announced the team’s award winners from week one. The week one Offensive Player of the Week is Kimina Vidal, the Defensive Player of the Week is Reddy Steward and the Special Teams Player of the Week is Pike Lib graduate Scott Taylor Renfroe.

The Scout Offensive Player of the week was fullback Tyce Khatari, while linebacker Keyshawn Campbell earned Scout Defensive Player of the Week. Another Pike Lib graduate, KC Bradford, earned Scout Special Teams Player of the Week.

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“KC has been an outstanding addition to our program,” Sumrall said. “He’s a fantastic young man, high character, tough, smart, a great teammate and loves football.”

Also, Javon Solomon won the Nathan Harris-John Johnson Service Award, while Phenix City native Robert Marsh won the Corey McCullers Spirit Award. Additionally, the Trojan staff has added the Warrior Worker of the Week this season, which goes to a young player that excels in the weight room. The week one recipient of that award was AZ Williams from Millbrook.

The matchup this weekend will be just the second time the two schools have met on the grid iron, with the first meeting being a 41-5 Kansas State victory back in 2003 before many of the current Trojans were alive.

“They’re a Top 20 team and they look like it,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said. “Chris Klieman, their head coach, won four national titles at North Dakota State. They are a really quality outfit and well coached.

“Their offensive line has all five guys returning and they look like it. They’re a real bona fide Power 5 offensive line. They’re very detail oriented in how they do things and they have a good quarterback with good skill players around him. Defensively, they present challenges with the unique things they do.”

Coming out of Saturday’s win against Stephen F. Austin, Sumrall said the Trojans were relatively healthy and will also get back a player that missed last week.

“I think we’re in decent shape,” Sumrall said. “We have some nicks and booboos that you might have from any game but it doesn’t look like that should keep anyone out for the game as of right now.

“We do have Raymond Cutts who will play defensive end in our scheme coming back this week very likely. He had an injury on the first day of training camp. Ray is a very talented, twitchy kind of player. He will be back in the fold and I think everyone else should be available.”

Enterprise native and kick returner MJ Johnson, however, may not be available due to an illness.

“MJ was a little bit under the weather (on Saturday) and came in this morning and doesn’t feel 100 percent,” Sumrall said. “I think he will be available for the game but off where he is right now that’s not certain.”

Davante Ross will likely return kicks in Johnson’s stead this weekend. Last week, All-Sun Belt defensive end TJ Jackson returned to the team after a several-week suspension but did not play against Stephen F. Austin. His status for this week’s game remains up in the air.

“TJ is with us and you’ll find out Saturday whether he’s going to play or not,” Sumrall said with a smile.

While many of the Trojans were a part of last year’s team that traveled to Ole Miss, many of Troy’s current players have never been on the road in an environment like they will see at KSU this weekend.

“It affects your offense in regards to communication and we’ll do some of that sort of (preparation) on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Sumrall said. “On those days we’ll pump in crowd noise and make it loud for the offense and make it hard for them to communicate. Our team is much different than last year in terms of experience.

“We’ll take 80 guys (to the game) and I will guess 45 of those guys have never played in an environment like this. It will be a big time college football environment and it’s about understanding how to travel and how to play in a hostile environment like that.”

In week one, Kansas State rolled up 588 yards of offense and quarterback Will Howard completed 18-of-26 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Troy, meanwhile, churned out more than 500 yards itself and Kimani Vidal broke the school single game rushing record. Sumrall, though, was emphatic that if Troy doesn’t improve from week one, things could get ugly on Saturday.

“We have a lot to get ready for. If we don’t play a lot better it will be a blowout against us,” Sumrall emphasized. “This is a legitimate Top 20 football team and we have a tremendous challenge and tremendous opportunity here. I’m excited about it and if our guys aren’t excited about this week we have a problem.”

Troy and Kansas State will kick off at 11 a.m. in a game that will air nationally on FS1.