By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher thoroughly enjoyed the offseason.
All 24 hours of it.
“I took the day off Saturday,” the Troy football coach said. The Trojans saw their season come to an end with a 33-0 loss to Cincinnati Anderson last Friday in the Division II regional quarterfinals. “I took the entire day off Saturday, then it was time to get back to work. It’s 290 days until we open the 2018 season.”
Burgbacher said the offseason will first consist of meeting with players and his coaching staff. The players who are not involved in a winter sport will be given 30 days off and then will be expected to report to Troy strength and conditioning coach Aaron Gibbons, who will oversee the winter lifting program.
“I like to meet with each player individually and talk to them about what the expectations are for them not only the next season, but during the offseason,” Burgbacher said. “We like to talk to them about how we see them fitting in on the team next year and what they can work on in the offseason to reach those goals.”
Troy lose 15 seniors — Derek McDonagh, Zach Boyer, Sam Coleman, Matt McGillivary, Joah Schricker, John Wehrkamp, Christian Nation, Keiran Williams, Zach Schwausch, Rase Darrow, Drew Smith, Kameron Block, Logan Hubbard, Deven Sturgeon and Austin Kloeker — off a team that just won back-to-back conference titles and made consecutive playoff appearance, the first time both of those things have happened at Troy since the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
On offense, the Trojans lose five starters — Coleman at quarterback, Darrow at center, Block and Smith at guards and McGillivary at receiver. The Trojans return Gage Forsythe and Nathan Garber at tackles, Jaydon Culp-Bishop at running back, Jacob Shoop and Tucker Raskay at receiver and Spencer Klopfenstein at tight end.
On defense, the Trojans lose their entire defensive line — Schricker and Nation at defensive tackles and Hubbard at noseguard. Schwausch also started along the defensive line for the Trojans. They also lose Wehrkamp at linebacker and McDonagh and Boyer in the defensive backfield. They do return three linebackers — Shane Shoop and Blake Burton at inside linebacker and Garrett Jones at outside linebacker. They also return two defensive backs, cornerback Kobe Feltner and strong safety Sam Jackson.
Troy returns most of the key elements on special teams: Brayden Siler at kicker, Raskay at punter, Austin Stanaford at long snapper and Weston Smith at holder. Shane Shoop, Culp-Bishop and Feltner handled most of the kickoff duties for the Trojans in 2017; all will return next season. Troy will have to find a new punt returner, as McDonagh had that spot locked down this past fall.
The most glaring positions Troy will need to fill for 2018 will be along the offensive and defensive lines. Troy was thin at those positions throughout 2017 — losing all but two of those players to graduation means there will be plenty of open spots entering 2018.
“We do have a lot of younger guys — we just didn’t feel like we had enough of those guys who were Friday-night ready this season,” Burgbacher said. “We need to get those younger guys in the weightroom and get them stronger for next year. There’s a lot of technique that goes into playing on the line, but sometimes, it comes down to how strong you are. Those younger guys have got to get stronger. If they do, those spots are wide open — who wants to step up and take those spots?”
Culp-Bishop moves up
In the final game of the season, Culp-Bishop had 26 carries for 115 yards. For the season, he had 260 carries for 1,664 yards. That’s the seventh-highest single-season rushing total in school history, trailing Ryan Brewer (2,856 yards in 1998), Brewer (2,336 yards in 1997), Bob Ferguson (2,089 yards in 1956), Corey Brown (1,861 yards in 2007), Cody Boyd (1,853 yards in 2004) and Matt Dallman (1,724 yards in 1997).
If Culp-Bishop can top the 1,000-yard mark against next season as a senior, he’ll become the first Trojan running back to rush for 1,000 or more yards in consecutive years since Brewer did it in 1998. Brewer would actually do it three times, eclipsing 1,000 yards in 1996, as well.
In the history of Troy football, the only running backs to rush for 1,000 or more yards in multiple seasons are: Brewer (1996, 1997 and 1998), Bob Ferguson (1955, 1956 and 1957), Matt Dallman (1995, 1996 and 1997), Tom Vaughn (1959 and 1960), Gordon Bell (1970 and 1971), Larry Giangulio (1985 and 1986), Deon Metz (1990 and 1991) and Brad Clay (1992 and 1993).
Coleman hits 1,000
It didn’t come easy, but Coleman did hit the 1,000-yard passing mark in his lone season as Troy’s starting quarterback. Following his 207-yard performance against Greenville in Week 9, Coleman needed just 54 yards against Piqua in the final game of the regular season to reach 1,000 yards.
In a driving rain more suited for the run game, Coleman threw for 36 yards, leaving him just 18 yards short of 1,000. With the win against Piqua, however, Coleman would get another shot in the playoffs. Against Anderson’s smothering defense, Coleman threw for just 32 yards, but it was still enough to push him past the 1,000-yard mark.
For the season, Coleman completed 83 of 166 passes for 1,014 yards, with six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Troy’s schedule will see some shake-up in the first half of the season. Trotwood, Bellefontaine and Fairborn all are off the schedule in 2018. Troy will open against Division II playoff participant Belmont (home), then play Xenia (away), Cincinnati Turpin (home), Stebbins (away) and Miamisburg (home) in non-division games.
Troy’s Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division slate will consist of: Tippecanoe (home), Butler (away), Sidney (home), Greenville (away) and Piqua (away).
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong