Troy football opens spring practices

The Troy Trojans football team hit the practice field for the first time under new head coach Jon Sumrall as spring practices began on Tuesday, March. 22.

Sumrall said he was excited about getting on the practice field with his team and saw some good things during the morning session.

“It was exciting to get back on the grass,” he said. “We spent a lot of January learning the schemes we’re running on offense, defense and in the kicking game, and the guys have done a lot of hard work from a weight room standpoint and conditioning and nutrition standpoint.

“So, we have an opportunity to start building that foundation in terms of how practices goes and finding out where we are and where we’re going to go. It was fun to watch the guys fly around and compete a little bit. It was a great day one and hopefully we can get better on day two. We have to get better on day two.”

Sumrall and his coaches kept things moving throughout practice and kept the energy level up, as well. Some of that energy turned into a bit of a scuffle late in practice but it didn’t concern Sumrall.

“You have to have toughness but you have to play within the rules, too,” he emphasized. “I handled it when it came up and any time that does happen we’ll handle it pretty quickly.

“Football is a game you have to play with passion, fire and enthusiasm. You have to play on edge a little bit but you also have to play disciplined. I think that is one thing you can’t lose sight of within the aggressiveness and attacking. You have to be disciplined but I would much rather have to say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa’ than ‘giddy up’ to our guys.”

There were a number of new faces among the Trojan players, including former Pike County receiver Jaidyn Wilson, who has transferred to Troy from Southwest Mississippi Community College. Other new faces include former UAB receiver Rajae’ Johnson and former Tennessee State center Jeremiah Frazier, both of which will be competing for starting spots going into the fall.

Johnson stands out among Troy’s current crop of receivers at 6-foot-4-inches and 224 pounds and quarterback Gunnar Watson took notice, as well.

Troy newcomer Rajae’ Johnson (0) comes up in the air to try and make a catch against cornerback Caleb Ransaw (14).

“Rajae’ had a good day,” Watson said. “He looks good out there. He was a good player at UAB and I think he’ll continue to be a good player here at Troy.”

Frazier is stepping into a competition at center that will see the Trojans forced to replace four-year starter Dylan Bradshaw. Bradshaw and former Troy star Deontae Crumitie have anchored that position as the lone two starters there for nearly the past 10 years.

“We’ve had such stability and longevity with the guys at that position, Dylan being the last one, but we’re rolling in different guys in there right now,” Sumrall said of the centers. “We have four guys that are rolling in and out there. Logan Self and Jeremiah Frazier are really the guys that have been planted there most of the winter workouts, but Carson Burt and Jake Andrews will work there and take snaps there, too.

“You have to have multiple guys that can play at that position. You can’t go into the season with a center, you have to be a couple deep and maybe (have) another swing guy that can do it in an emergency. Offensively (center) may be our biggest question mark along with how we develop and grow at quarterback. That’s been a position of stability there and it will be again once we get it settled.”

Andrews is likely a candidate for that “swing” position Sumrall mentioned as he has managed to play a number of positions at Troy, when needed, as an All-Sun Belt lineman.

“Jake hasn’t really played center much here but he has all the physical tools you want out of a center,” Sumrall said. “Mentally, there are some different pieces, in terms of the communication aspect, involved in that position. So, he’s learning it and we’ll see how much he can take and how fast he can take it. He is a viable option there, though.”

Troy comes into spring practices with just one quarterback, Watson, having thrown a pass in college. Sumrall said he was pleased with what he saw from his quarterbacks in day one.

Redshirt freshman Quayde Hawkins (12) throws a pass during practice. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

“Gunnar has played the most and has the most experience on our team,” he said. “I thought he did some good things today. You can see he probably has the most confidence just because he’s done the most.

“Quayde (Hawkins) did some really good things and I think he has a really live arm. He has an upside and potential and the talent, he just has to become more confident in what he’s doing down in and down out in terms of his mechanics and procedures of what we’re asking him to do. Will Carns and Kyle Toole are in there battling, as well. We have to get better at that position and have to have more production there and those guys are working hard. They’ve put in a lot of extra time in and I thought they did some good things today and they’ll continue to get better each and every day.”

Troy gets back to work on the field on Thursday at 8 a.m.