The 2015 Troy Trojans season was much better than the eventual 4-8 record. The program seemed to make a move towards becoming a good football team in the second half of the season. Much of that improvement is due to much better play on the offensive line.
Finding the right combination of offensive linemen to send out on the field is one of the trickiest things in all of college football. Troy sent out nine different starters at some point during the season. Only left tackle Antonio Garcia started all 12 games at the same position. Otherwise, it became a game of moving pieces until the Trojan coaching staff found what they liked.
Let's take a look at the Troy offensive line and just how it will look in 2016.
There is only one major loss due to graduation from the Troy offensive line. Dalton Bennett, one of only two offensive linemen to make all 12 starts last fall, started the season at guard but finished with 10 straight starts at center.
Joining Bennett in leaving the program is Luke Lawrence. The rising senior that made seven starts in 2015 (1 at center, 6 at left guard) had another year of eligibility remaining. Instead, he chose to graduate and hang up his cleats for good.
Corey McCullers tragically passed away in a car accident. Former Florida Atlantic transfer Jace Banfell also left the program with eligibility remaining.
The Trojans have six players returning in 2016 that made starts last fall. Leading the group is senior left tackle Antonio Garcia. The 6-7 left tackle has made 30 career starts at left tackle and would have made all 36 possible starts if not for an injury as a red shirt freshman. Fellow senior Johnathan Boring has a much less firm grasp on a starting spot after making seven starts as a junior (6 at right tackle, 1 at left guard). While he may not be guaranteed to start every game like Garcia, he will be a very valuable part of the line.
Senior Tyler Lassiter did not play until the third game of the season, but proceeded to start all nine games down the stretch with three starts at left guard and six starts at right tackle. Rounding out the group of seniors is Xavier Fields. The 6-5, 329 pound guard broke into the starting lineup midway through the season and started the final six games at right guard.
Juniors Aaron Herring and Case Hillier are reserves heading into the upcoming season. Both saw action in all 12 games last season, but neither were able to break through and earn much playing time on offense. They may have to wait until their senior seasons to earn starting roles. Fellow junior Taylor Edwards does not seem to be in the running for significant playing time.
One of the best things to come out of the 2015 season was the ascension of Deontae Crumitie. The rising sophomore made six starts at right guard, waiting to take the mantle at center. With Bennett lost to gratuation, the position is there for Crumite to take. Fellow sophomore Jay Dye is actually the top competition for Crumite, giving the Trojans a young but talented middle of the offensive line.
For offensive linemen at the FBS level, it takes some time to be ready to contribute physically. It makes sense that four freshmen linemen were redshirted last fall. The redshirt season has been a blessing for this group with Kirk Kelley (LT), James Peach (RG), and Damien Kemp (RT) all finding backup roles on the two-deep. Only 6-5, 342 pound behemoth Zach Branner has yet to break into the depth chart.
The Trojans have two new additions to the offensive line pool via transfer in Hunter Kennedy (Chattanooga via UAB) and Josh Morgan (North Alabama). Morgan was with Division II program, but the 6-6, 330 pound lineman decided to make the jump to the FBS with Troy.
Kennedy started his career with UAB in 2014 where he redshirted. He then transferred to FCS program Chattanooga when the program folded. Kennedy was a backup for one season at Chattanooga before making the jump to Troy. He is a Troy, Alabama native.
So far, only one member of the 2016 offensive line recruiting class has stepped foot on the field for Troy. Two-star JUCO transfer Branton Niccum is currently enrolled in classes for the spring semester.
Three-star Tristan Crowder leads a trio of two-star linemen in Dylan Bradshaw, J.L. Gaston, and Blaine Hudson to the team this fall. None of the three are expected to contribute with the goal being to redshirt them.
Antonio Garcia (30 career starts)
62 Johnathan Boring (7 career starts)
57 Deontae Crumitie (6 career starts)
77 Xavier Fields (6 career starts)
72 Tyler Lassiter (9 career starts)