Are Neal Brown and the Troy Trojans One Hit Wonders in the Sun Belt?
Neal Brown and the Troy Trojans enjoyed a magical season in 2016. Was it too magical? Or will the Trojans pick up where they let off – steamrolling the competition? We explore.
When Neal Brown took over Troy’s sideline in 2015, he inherited a program that seemed completely out of gas. After enjoying nearly two decades of utter domination under Trojan legend Larry Blakeney, Troy hadn’t seen a winning season since earning a share of the Sun Belt title in 2010. After a 3-9 season in 2014, the Great Blakeney retired, and in stepped young Neal Brown.
Brown started right where Blakeney left off – losing miserably, turning in a 4-8 inaugural season. But under Brown, Troy re-discovered its energy and purpose. Suddenly, the eyelids of the longtime Sheriff of the Sun Belt flittered open. In 2016, Brown led Troy to a 10-3 season, had #2 Clemson Number Two-ing in their pants, and made Troy the Sun Belt’s first ever AP Top 25 team (for nearly a week).
Troy exhausted its steam at the end of the season, losing at home to Arkansas State and to Georgia Southern at Statesboro (and losing a share of the Sun Belt title). But there’s no question that Brown’s Trojans are no longer “Rebuilding the Wall.” It’s built, bro.
Why the Trojans’ ain’t one-hit wonders
Sometimes, a magic season is the result of a team maturing at all the right places – and then everyone graduates. Not so with Troy. Yes, the Trojans lost outstanding offensive tackle Antonio Gracia to the NFL, but Steven Rowzee Preseason, an All-Sun Belt First Team offensive lineman, returns. Also back, Brandon Silvers (First Team All Sun Belt) and his two All-Sun Belt wide receivers, Emmanuel Thompson and Deondre Douglas. Jordan Chunn and his 1,288 rushing yards and 16 TDs is back in the huddle, too, giving the Trojans one of the most experienced and talented offensive attacks in college football. It doesn’t seem fair.
Or, are the Trojans “Somebody That I Used to Know?*”
Going from 4-8 to 10-3 was crazy, man. Maybe too crazy? The defense loses a few stars from last year’s squad, with Jalen Rountree (DB) and the terrifying Rashad Dillard (DE) graduated and departed. And losing to Arkansas State less than a week after cracking the Top 25 was so uncool. Let us not forget that Troy became Georgia Southern’s One Shining Moment to close out the season. Were Neal Brown’s boys just on a lucky streak in 2016? Or, like my subhead, are we just trying to hard here? Probably.
Troy’s offense is staggeringly, mind-blowingly, otherworldly good. Silvers, a senior with 54 career TDs to his name, is legitimately awesome, but he’s practically Hector** behind an offensive line that refuses to surrender sacks.
Brown and his Trojan’s lost focus at the end of the season in 2016. They won’t make that mistake in 2017. Look for the Trojans to not only upset the Boise State Broncos in Week 1, but also puncture the Top 25 en route to competing for its first SBC title in seven seasons.
* What happened to you, Gotye?
**Iliad reference because I’m legit lit, yo