The 2015 season saw the Troy Trojans land just short of a bowl berth for the fifth straight season. Despite finishing the season with a 4-8 record, Troy seemed to be right on the verge of turning a corner with a very good quarterback and a 1,000 yard rusher.
Spring practice is right around the corner making now a perfect time to take a look at the Troy offensive backfield moving into preparation for the 2016 season.
(Senior: None. Junior: Brandon Silvers. Sophomore: None. Freshman: Ramsey Rigby, Sawyer Smith, Kaleb Baker.)
Quarterback Brandon Silvers is back for his junior season after passing for 2,378 yards and 20 touchdowns last fall. He is the unquestioned starter at the position and has just over 4,200 yards passing for his career. A couple of excellent seasons and Silvers could be part of the 10,000 yards passing club, ranking him second only to Corey Robinson for career passing yards.
Behind the junior starter is...... well not much. The Trojans have a total of three quarterbacks on the roster currently, not including incoming freshman Kaleb Baker. The Trojans do not add players to the roster until they are officially enrolled.
Head coach Neal Brown was able to convince both Ramsey Rigby and Sawyer Smith to enroll early out of high school. If not for the pair of freshmen's early enrollment, Troy would have went into spring practice with only Silvers
Many would expect to see three-star recruit Sawyer Smith earn the backup role, but it is nearly impossible to project just how well or poor a player transitions during his first college practices. Rigby is no pushover and was headed to Auburn as a preferred walk-on until the Trojans secured his services. Either way, it is a huge benefit to the program that both are able to participate in spring practice as one of the two will be the backup this fall.
Fellow freshman Kaleb Baker will join the team in the summer, jumping the Trojans to four quarterbacks this fall. If Silvers falls to injury, it could be a long season for the Trojans.
(Senior: Marquell Beckwith. Junior: DeVante Williams, Owen Cole, Marcus Anderson, Jordan Chunn, Josh Anderson, Keith Johnson, Andre Flakes. Sophomore: None. Freshman: Jabir Frye, B.J. Smith)
Running back Brandon Burks is gone after exhausting his eligibility during the 2015 season. The star running back will be hard to replace considering that he was also the team's second leading receiver last season.
Many teams would be worried about replacing the production of Burks, but Troy would seem to be in great shape with ten running backs in the stables for the upcoming season. The idea of a backfield full of running backs sounds better than reality.
Junior Andre Flakes was the backup to Burks last fall and one of only three returning running backs with any real experience. The Florida native struggled a bit with a 3.7 yards per carry average. Flakes better figure out things quickly in spring practice with other running backs nipping at his heels.
One of those backs is junior Jordan Chunn. He is the only running back over 6-0 on the roster and at 6-1, 227 pound, he has the ability to be a great power option in the backfield. Having seen action in only two games, Chunn is looking to get back to the form that saw him earn 20 rushing touchdowns during his first two seasons of action. He was able to redshirt in 2015 and has over 1,000 yards rushing for his career, so he should actually be the favorite to start this fall.
Leading the way for Troy running backs is bowling ball Josh Anderson. The rising junior can carry the ball when needed, but uses is 5-11, 253 pound frame to open holes for the rest of the backfield. Depending on how often they use power sets and what identity the Trojan offense takes, he will see somewhat sporadic playing time.
DeVante Williams is a two-star JUCO transfer that will be expected to find a role in the offense behind Chunn and Flakes. He is not listed as part of the 2016 signing class, so I would assume he is a preferred walk-on unless otherwise noted.
Unless Keith Johnson (3/29/0TD career) or Marquell Beckwith (4/-1/0TD career) made significant strides forward during the offseason, do not expect either to even be part of the battle to replace Burks. Neither saw any playing time in 2015 under the new coaching staff.
The same case can be made for Marcus Anderson and Owen Cole (NAIA Transfer). It is essential for at least one of these four players to step in and contribute in some way starting in the spring.
Then we have a couple of freshman running backs that will join the team during the summer. Jabir Frye, a 5-7, 170 pound back and 5-9, 185 pound B.J. Smith should not be expected to contribute. While they shouldn't be expected to contribute, they may be forced into action if the group of four mentioned earlier do not pan out.