New faces, familiar faces as Troy continues spring football practices

Published 12:19 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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There are plenty of new faces on the practice fields at Troy University as spring football practices are underway but also some familiar ones.

After Troy got the first week of spring practices under its belt, the coaching staff gave the team last week off for an extended Easter break.

“It was good to have that Easter break and get a long weekend for the guys, but it’s great to be back on the field,” Troy Coach Gerard Parker said. “I know the guys are ready to put the pads on. We had good energy (today) but the execution struggled at times on both sides of the football. There’s a lot of work to do there but glad to be back out here.”

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Tuesday was Troy’s last day in just helmets as they will get to strap on the pads moving forward.

“I believe we play the purest form of football down here where we’re at and our guys want to have (the pads) on,” Parker said. “We love the this grass and they love to practice and play and compete against each other and that showed the entire offseason. It’s time to be able to add that phase and get more physical. Just wearing helmets you’re not able to do that, but now it’s time to add that physicality.”

The Troy football staff and coaches honored local first responders during and after practice on Tuesday.

“We wanted to be able to pay respect and great honor to the people that go in there and fight the fights; whether that be our police officers, EMTs or fire department,” said Parker. “It was a good day to have their presence out here and celebrate them. We have a lot of respect and honor for what they do.”

With a ton of turnover among the coaching staff and roster, there are new faces aplenty on the field this spring but some familiar faces for Troy fans have already stood out.

“It’s always hard in the first three or so days but I will say that defensively I love what we’re doing over there right now,” Parker emphasized. “Demaje (Yance) and LJ (Green) have really showed up at the cornerback position. There have been guys at (linebacker) that have showed up in ways.

“On offense, Devonte Ross has taken a big step as far as (wide receiver) goes and a few of our backs have flashed, too.”

Receiver Chris Lewis, left, got a chance to spend time with his teammates during Tuesday’s practice. (Photos by Josh Boutwell)

Another familiar face that could be seen on the sideline smiling and having fun with his teammates on Tuesday is receiver Chris Lewis. Lewis is currently battling a diagnosis of bone cancer as he attempts to get back on the field in the near future.

“I know that every one felt the way I did, it just felt great to have him here and see him in person,” Parker said of Lewis. “There’s only so many texts and phone calls that can be made until you just want to spend some time. We got to spend some time with him in the hospital but it’s been a long break and for him to get back around us before his surgery, I know the guys were really happy to see him.”

Quarterback Goose Crowder was nothing but smiles when asked about having his teammate back at practice.

“I was so happy to see him,” Crowder said with a smile. “I saw him last night at the girls’ (basketball) game and talked to him for a little bit but just seeing him out here walking around and seeing him laugh and cracking up with him a little bit was awesome. I miss him a bunch and I’m excited for him to be able to get back out here.”

One familiar face that can no longer be seen on the practice field is quarterback Jameson Holcombe, who has left the team. That brings Troy’s quarterback depth down to just Crowder and sophomore Brantley native Tucker Kilcrease.

With a new coaching staff, fans likely expect to see changes on both of the offense and defense. Offensively, though, head coach Gerard Parker and offensive coordinator Sean Reagan both come from the Neal Brown coaching tree. So, those changes may actually look more familiar than one might think. Still, Parker wasn’t quite ready to give fans a sneak peak at what 2024 will entail on offense.

“I mean it when I say this, I didn’t really look at what they had done here in the past on offense,” Parker emphasized. “What we need to be and what we need to play in order to make Troy continue to win football games is what we’ll do. I hope you see a football team that is growing right now on offense and will become multiple in every sense of the word.

“Without getting too far into the weeds on it, I do think we will be very multiple by personnel, formation, motions and shifts; and getting in-huddle and no-huddle, fast tempo, under center, we’ll see it and do it all as long as we do it with efficiency.”

Troy quarterback Goose Crowder throws a pass during spring practice. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Crowder said much of the new offense has been familiar to him after spending his first two years at West Virginia, with Reagan as his quarterbacks coach.

“It’s kind of the same offense I had my freshman and sophomore year but the terminology has changed a little bit,” Crowder said. “I’m really just absorbing everything and jogging my memory on certain stuff. Coach Reagan has been great and all the coaches have been a great help learning the new offense.”

Crowder said that his familiarity with Reagan – who recruited him to West Virginia originally – will also help in learning the new offense.

“It definitely helps, I know what to expect as far as his coaching style and what to expect in meetings and the terminology and his lingo and stuff like that,” said Crowder. “Everything is real familiar with him and familiar is nice. It’s nice to hear his voice again.”

On defense, linebacker Steven Cattledge said things have looked familiar there.

“We just have to communicate better,” he said. “We’re still learning, getting our fits and everything. Once we get that and communicate better I think we’ll be a top defense again.”

Troy is back on the practice field on Thursday and Saturday morning as they finally strap on pads.