By David Fong
TROY — The first week of football camp was everything Troy coach Matt Burgbacher had been hoping it would be, but he still knows it is merely the end of the beginning … and his team still has a long way to go between now and the season opener against Belmont Aug. 24.
“We saw a lot of good things this week,” Burgbacher said. “We feel like we are ahead of schedule. We feel like that will help us later in the summer. The more we do in June and July to get ready for August, the more ready we’ll be when we can officially begin practicing.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association allows football teams 10 camp days before official practices begin July 30. Troy took three of its camp days this week and will take the remaining seven camp days in July. Burgbacher said every player on the roster will be closely monitored during camp and pre-season practices.
“We are really happy with the depth we have at every position,” he said. “We know we’ve got a lot of starters returning at some positions, but even they are going to have to keep working hard, because we’ve got guys behind them pushing for playing time. Nothing is going to be given to anyone. You’ve got to earn your position and playing time on this team.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at what to watch for this summer at each position group for the Trojans:
Troy lost starting quarterback Sam Coleman, who threw for more than 1,000 yards last season in his lone season as a starter, to graduation. With Coleman gone, it likely will be a two-man battle for the starting quarterback job heading into the season. Junior Brayden Siler saw limited action as Coleman’s back-up last season. Senior Jacob Adams missed all of last season with an injury. Those will be the two most likely candidates to start at quarterback for the Trojans this year.
There’s no shortage of depth returning at this position. Senior Jaydon Culp-Bishop rushed for more than 1,600 yards last season and could become the first Trojan running back to rusher for more than 1,000-yards in back-to-back seasons since Ryan Brewer did it three times in a row from 1996-98.
Senior Sam Jackson was a bullish goal line presence last year who led the Trojans with 16 rushing touchdowns. He gives the Trojans a change of pace from the speedy Culp-Bishop in the backfield and also is more than capable of carrying the load on his own if called upon.
Junior Kevin Walters is a talented athlete who also could work his way into the rotation for the Trojans.
Troy lost its leading receiver, Matt McGillivary, to graduation. It does return its next three leading receivers in senior tight end Spencer Klopfenstein and receivers Jacob Shoop (senior) and Tucker Raskay (junior).
Klopfenstein is a college prospect who is just as valuable with his blocking as he is his receiving. So loaded is Troy at running back that Burgbacher also experimented with moving Shane Shoop from running back to slot receiver during the first week of camp. Senior Caillou Monroe is a three-sport athlete who could see an increased role this year.
Burgbacher said Troy should have plenty of depth at receiver this season.
Without question, the biggest question mark for the Trojans on offense will be the offensive line. The Trojans graduated the entire interior of its line, which included guards Drew Smith and Kameron Block, along with center Rase Darrow. All three were two-year starters.
Troy does return senior tackles Nate Garber and Gage Forsythe. Forsythe could slide inside and play guard for the Trojans this season, depending on if Troy can find a replacement for him at tackle. Senior Jesse Westmeyer has been plagued by injuries much of his career, but if he can stay healthy, should factor into the mix. Senior Marshall Brueckman should be the leading candidate to replace Darrow at center.
Troy also has a number of talented, but young, linemen who should battle for playing time this summer.
Just as the offensive line is the biggest question mark on that side of the ball for the Trojans, the biggest question on the defense will be the line, where the Trojans lose starters Joah Schricker — a two-time All-Ohio selection — Logan Hubbard and Christian Nation. All three were two-year starters for the Trojans.
The only returning starter is Forsythe, who likely will have to go both ways on offense and defense again this season. This summer, Burgbacher will experiment with moving Garrett Jones — a starter at outside linebacker last season — to the defensive line. The rest of the defensive line will need to be sorted out this summer.
The Trojans did suffer a huge loss with the graduation of All-Ohio outside linebacker John Wehrkamp. On the inside, however, Troy does return a pair of starters in seniors Shane Shoop and Blake Burton. This summer, Troy is looking at moving senior Sam Jackson from safety to outside linebacker.
With the possible move of Jones from linebacker to defensive line, that leaves the other outside linebacker spot open. Walters is a leading candidate to win that spot this summer. Klopfenstein also could see more time on defense.
The Trojans graduated all-conference performers Derek McDonagh and Zach Boyer, a four-year starter. With Jackson’s possible move to linebacker, that leaves senior cornerback Kobe Feltner as the only returning starter.
Siler could see time at safety as well as playing cornerback this year. Raskay does have some experience playing defensive back. This should be another intriguing position group to keep an eye on this summer.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong