Blace Brown - SR - 12 games, 11 starts, 33 tackles, 5 INT, 17 PD
Marcus Jones - SO - 13 games, 1 start, 49 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 14 PD
Terence Dunlap - SO - 13 games, 26 tackles, 2 PD
Orlando Lacey - RFr - No stats available
Jawon McDowell - JR - 13 games, 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PD
The secondary starts off with a bang as two of the best corners in the conference start for the Trojans back four. Blace Brown is working his way back to the field after tearing his ACL while intercepting a ball against Arkansas State. A Thorpe and Nagurski watch list candidate, Brown will be counted on to play immediately with Boise’s passing game looming out of the gate.
Across from him, All-American returner Marcus Jones will look to build on an incredible freshman campaign. One of the most dangerous returners in the country, Jones is more than capable of providing solid coverage as his 14 passes defensed trailed only Brown’s 17. Both Terrance Dunlap and Orlando Lacey were raved about in spring, and Jawon McDowell adds experienced depth and special teams support.
Cedarius Rookard - SR - 13 games, 13 starts, 74 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 8 PD
Melvin Tyus- JR - 13 games, 3 starts, 42 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PD
Adarius Wesley - JR - 13 games, 12 tackles, 2 PD
Will Sunderland - JR - transfer from OU
In Troy’s defense, the safeties are required to come up in support of the run. Cedarius Rookard took this to heart last season, making the second most stops from his free safety slot. While not overly active in the pass defense, primarily covering deep in man and cover 3, Rookard made his mark with 8 passes defensed and a couple of interceptions. Melvin Tyus started a handful of games in 2017 at the strong safety position and played in a reserve role throughout the season.
Tyus missed spring practice with an injury, opening the door for competition with newcomer Will Sunderland. A former blue-chip prospect, Sunderland signed and played for Oklahoma. Following some legal troubles that caused him to miss all of 2017, he will be available immediately with two years of eligibility remaining. He’s been seen taking snaps at safety, Spear, and Mike spots in spring, so his position has yet to be determined - but his addition in the back four would bring even more to a talented secondary. Wesley is a converted receiver who contributed in a reserve role, as well as special team snaps.
Projected Depth Chart
CB - Brown/Jones/Dunlap/Lacey/McDowell
FS - Rookard/Wesley
SS - Sunderland/Tyus
Brown, Jones, and Rookard were preseason all-conference team members. With the addition of Sunderland and the return of Tyus, at least one more Trojan will make the all-conference list by season’s end. This is an elite group, not just for the Sun Belt, but for any team. If the injury to Brown doesn’t hamper him this season, Troy will end the season with one of the best pass defenses in college football.