One scrimmage — and a highly scripted one at that — is probably not a broad enough sample size on which to be issuing any bold proclamations about the 2018 Troy football team.
With that being said, here are five bold proclamations about the 2018 Troy football team:
1) Sam Jackson at linebacker is a perfect fit
The safe thing for the Troy football team to do would have been to leave Sam Jackson at safety. After all, the Trojans are thin in the defensive backfield after losing a pair of All-Greater Western Ohio Conference performers to graduation. Jackson — already a two-year starter and three-year letterwinner — would have provided the Trojans with some much needed depth and experience on the back end of the defense.
Instead, though, the coaching staff elected to move the 6-foot, 211-pound Jackson to outside linebacker during the offseason. Against Lima Senior in Troy’s opening scrimmage Friday, Jackson looked as if he’d been playing the position his entire life. He was all over the field making tackles, while also recording an interception. Jackson is being recruited by a number of college programs, and there’s a tremendous chance he’ll end up playing linebacker at the next level anyway.
College coaches could be getting a sneak peak at a tremendous college linebacker.
2) Speaking of great offseason moves …
Jackson wasn’t the only Trojan on the move during the offseason. Senior Shane Shoop — already firmly entrenched as a starting inside linebacker the past two seasons — saw time as a back-up running back last year on offense. Troy’s backfield already was crowded with the return of All-Ohio back Jaydon Culp-Bishop and Jackson, then the emergence of junior Kevin Walters only made things that much more snug on the depth chart.
Looking for a way to get Shoop and his incredible athleticism on the field, the coaching staff decided to move him to slot receiver. Against the Spartans, the shifty Shoop took a short screen pass, left a few defenders grasping at air and turned what looked like a short gain into a 25-yard pick-up. Shoop does his best work in space. Putting him in the slot gives him room to work — and the Trojan offense another potentially dangerous weapon.
3) Spencer Klopfenstein is grossly under-recruited
Going into his third season as Troy’s starting tight end, I’m still not entirely sure of what big-time Division I college programs aren’t seeing in Spencer Klopfenstein. Against Lima Senior, he caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Brayden Siler, destroyed people when blocking and set the edge when playing defense. Basically, he did all the same things he’s done the past two seasons. He also happens to be one of the top students in Troy’s senior class — last year he won the Vesper Award, given annually to the most-outstanding male student in Troy’s junior class.
He should be everything a college football coach could possibly want for his program. And yet, he’s only received a handful of offers. I can only imagine some programs are worried that he only carries 210 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, but in a college program, he could put on 30-40 pounds in a blink. Perhaps a monster senior season for “Big Pine” — which certainly seems likely — will open the eyes of some recruiters. In a few years, some recruiters are going to be looking pretty silly when Klopfenstein is excelling at the college level.
4) The offensive line is developing quickly
With only one returning starter — senior tackle Nathan Garber — from last season, one of the biggest question marks surrounding Troy entering the season will be its offensive line. Many of Troy’s linemen got their first true taste of varsity football Friday against Lima Senior. Truth be told, the line played pretty well, given the circumstances. It certainly wasn’t a perfect performance, but it wasn’t a bad first effort, either. Size shouldn’t be a problem — the Trojans have plenty big bodies — it may just be a matter of getting more experience. With all of Troy’s weapons at the skill positions, if the offensive line continues to get better every week, the Trojan offense should be fun to watch this year.
5) So is the defensive line
While Troy’s offensive line returned one starter from last season, Troy’s defensive line returns zero starters. Gone are two full-time starters — including two-time All-Ohio selection Joah Schricker — and two players who shared starts at noseguard. Those four players rarely came off the field last year. I get the sense that may not be the case this year — particularly early in the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Trojans run a host of bodies out there on the defensive line. One of the benefits to that, obviously, is keeping players fresh.
Troy’s r0tating defensive linemen played well Friday. Again, much like the offensive line, it wasn’t perfect, but considering Troy’s lack of experience there, it was a great start.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong