By David Fong
TROY —Enjoy the week off, Trojans.
One week from today, the Troy football team will officially begin practicing for the 2018 season. Last week the Trojans wrapped up the final of the 10 days camp days the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows high school football teams during the summer.
While there’s much that still will be decided once practice begins July 30, there are a number of things we were able to learn from the 10 camps days the Trojans held in June and July.
Here are five things we learned:
1) Jackson moving to OLB
Senior Sam Jackson has spent the past two seasons at strong safety for the Trojans. Jackson spent all 10 camp days working at outside linebacker, which likely will be his new home once the season begins. It should be a perfect fit for the 6-foot, 210-pound Jackson, who has been one of Troy’s leading tacklers — and hardest hitters — the past two seasons.
“Sam Jackson has looked great at outside linebacker,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “We feel like it’s going to be a great fit for him. He’s put in a lot of work in the offseason getting even bigger, stronger and faster than he already was. He’ll give us a physical presence at outside linebacker. He’s got great football intelligence and we really feel like he’ll have no problem making that transition from safety to linebacker.”
Jackson should help fill the void left by the graduation of All-Ohio linebacker John Wehrkamp.
2) Wide open competition at DB
With Jackson’s move to linebacker, the Trojans return just one starting defensive back from last season in senior cornerback Kobe Feltner.
Burgbacher said the issue of who the remaining three starting defensive backs are will not be settled until practice begins next week.
“We’ve got a bunch of athletic kids we are looking at,” he said. “Tucker Raskay saw some playing time last year and has really been working hard and improved since the end of last season. We’ve got a lot of kids who we feel like have the ability to play DB for us, but we just need to get them more experience.”
3) Trojans young on the lines
As expected, the Trojans are going to need some inexperienced players to step up in the coming month as they prepare for the Aug. 24 season opener against Belmont. Thanks to graduation and player transfers, Troy has just one experienced lineman returning on either side of the ball.
The lone returnee is senior Nathan Garber, who started at offensive tackle last season and is expected to do so again this year. A pair of seniors who have limited varsity experience, Jesse Westmeyer and Marshall Brueckman, appeared to have emerged as likely candidates for starting spots, as well.
Troy also lost all of its starting defensive linemen from last season. Senior Garrett Jones was a starter at outside linebacker last year for the Trojans, but has been working as a defensive lineman in camp. That’s likely where he’ll stay throughout the season.
“Obviously the biggest question marks for us going into the season are on both lines and at defensive back,” Burgbacher said. “We are looking for kids who want to step up and grab that playing time. We aren’t going to give it to anyone; they are going to have to earn it.”
4) Depth at running back
The emergence of speedy senior Jaydon Culp-Bishop at running back was one of the most pleasant surprises of last season for the Trojans. Culp-Bishop rushed for more than 1,500 yards, earning All-Ohio honors in the process.
Make no mistake, he’ll get more than his fair share of carries this season, but he is far from the only weapon the Trojans will have coming out of the backfield. The bullish Jackson was used largely in the red zone last season and actually led the team in touchdown carries with 16. He’ll almost certainly be used in a similar fashion this year and could take on an increased role if necessary.
Also, junior running backs Kevin Walters and Carlos Quintero have looked good in camp and should get some carries this season.
“We feel great about where we are at running back,” Burgbacher said. “Obviously Jaydon is going to get his carries, but Sammy is such a punishing runner and gives us a different look than Jaydon. Kevin Walters is too good of an athlete to keep off the field. Carlos Quintero is another kid who has looked really good.”
5) Siler under center
If camp is any indication, junior Brayden Siler is the most likely candidate to replace 1,000-yard passer Sam Coleman at quarterback this season. Siler, Troy’s back-up quarterback last season, has seen the most time under center during camp. The fleet-footed Siler is a threat to run or pass when he has the ball in his hands.
“Brayden is learning more every day and making better decisions every day,” Burgbacher said. “He’s been working hard in the offseason and he’s looked good in camp.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong