Head Coach: Chip Lindsey
Offensive Coordinator: Ryan Pugh
Defensive Coordinator: Brandon Hall
For the rest of the Trojans’ coaching staff:
- Running Back: The Trojans return B.J. Smith for his senior season. Smith is coming off a 2018 season being named to the All-Sun Belt First Team behind 1,186 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, good for fourth and sixth, respectively, in school single-season history.
Looking ahead to 2019, Smith has been named SBC preseason offensive player of the year. The league is expecting for Smith to build off of a very solid junior year. Behind four returning starters on the offensive line, Smith should have no problem picking right where he left off in 2018.
While averaging 91.23 yards per game in 2018, I believe that Smith will push that number over 100 in 2019, making his senior season the best of his college career.
Behind Smith is change of pace back Jabir Daughtry-Frye. Daughtry-Frye also put up some impressive numbers in 2018 with 371 yards rushing on only 53 carries, good for 20th nationally in yards per carry. He also caught 22 passes for 235 yards with a total of two or more catches in seven games for the Trojans.
The Trojans should not worry when Smith needs a blow because Daughtry-Frye can cause havoc for linebackers and defenses,alike, coming out of the backfield as a pass catcher. This element in his game makes him a viable third-down back, another reason why the running back group for the Trojans is their strongest position.
2) Offensive Line: Four starters return for this group who, like any offensive line, will be a large part to the teams’ success.
The Trojans return three seniors in J.L. Gaston at left tackle, Kirk Kelley at left guard, and Tristan Crowder at right guard. Additionally, Austin Stidham returns at right tackle as a sophomore and junior Dylan Bradshaw is expected to start at center.
This is a relatively solid and experienced group amongst an offense that has some question marks, to include a whole host of new starting receivers and quarterback Kaleb Barker who is hoping to bounce back from a season ending knee injury in 2018.
Another year of experience for each of these guys should only help in their ability to block for B.J. Smith, Sun Belt’s best running back. More importantly, returning both guys on the left is crucial in protecting Barker’s blindside.
This unit has the ability to be game-changers up front. They have some work to do in breaking in a new center in Bradshaw, but new offensive coordinator, Ryan Pugh, should help to establish dominance up front against any opponent.
3) Defensive Line: This is a pretty deep group for the Trojans. They return two starters in Hayes and Webb, as well as three others in Choloh Jr., Barker, and Sailo.
These five combined for 29.5 tackles for loss, led by defensive ends Hayes and Barker with 10.5 and 9.5, respectively. They also combined for 15 sacks in 2018. This is an experienced group up front that should give opposing offenses a tough time.
4) Quarterback: Kaleb Barker leads the quarterback room now just shy of a month away from the opening kick-off. Chip Lindsey has all the confidence in the world in Barker as he has progressed well coming back from an ACL injury in 2018.
Prior to going down, Barker was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country in 2018. Through the first six games, Barker was 92 of 126 passing for 1013 yards and a 10:2 touchdown to interception ratio, good for a QB rating of 163.6. Also, he averaged 4.6 yards per attempt on 57 carries and three touchdowns.
Kaleb Barker, assuming he can stay healthy, has the ability to put up some big time numbers for the Trojans. With Chip Lindsey’s offensive scheme now in effect, Barker needs to continue to make smart decisions and hold onto the football.
5) Special Teams:The Trojans return K/P Tyler Sumpter.
Sumpter went 8-11 on field goals outside of 40 yards and 18-24 overall. He was perfect on the season for extra points going 45-45.
Also, he averaged 45.1 yards on 55 punts. Both the kicking and punting games are solid thanks to Sumpter as he looks to improve on his 2018 sophomore season.
T-7) Linebacker/Secondary: Both of these units are also experiencing a lot of turnover. The secondary loses two All Sun Belt cornerbacks in Blace Brown and Marcus Jones, and they lose first-team all-conference safety, Cedarius Rookard.
At linebacker, the Trojans return sophomore phenom, Carlton Martial, who led all freshmen in the conference in tackles and tackles for loss in 2018. That said, the Trojans are without 2018 leading tackler, Tron Folsom.
Also,, Zo Bridges looks to return to form in 2019 following an ankle injury that sidelined him the entirety of the 2018 season. At the end of the day, there are still a few question marks with this group. However, if the pieces fall in place, the linebacking corps, in cohorts with a solid front line, can stun opposing offenses in 2019.
8) Wide Receiver: This group lost its top three wideouts in Davis, Douglas, and Willis who combined for 1,747 yards on 147 receptions and 20 scores. Top returning production for this bunch are found in Whittemore, 12/200/1, and Eafford, 24/292/3.
There is a lot of turnover amongst the receivers with roughly only 38% of the production returning for the Trojans. We saw that Barker and Smith were both very efficient for the Trojans at quarterback last year. The question not is whether it was a testament to the receiving corps from 2018.
9) Tight End: This group was not very involved in the offense in 2018 for Neal Brown. Tight ends Sam Letton and Richard Hallman combined for 96 yards on 12 catches and no scores.
It is uncertain if Chip Lindsey’s scheme will incorporate tight ends more into the offense. Regardless, with a near clean slate for wide receivers, this group will need to be more of a threat for Barker and the Trojans in 2019.
The Trojans open play on August 31st at 6pm at home against the Campbell Fighting Camels