After a 6-6 campaign last season, the Troy Trojans are hoping for better things in 2014. Troy has 16 starters returning this season, but the Trojans will have to find a new quarterback.
Head coach Larry Blakeney, a staple on the sidelines for Troy, returns for his 24th season at the helm of the program. Blakeney has a record of 175-104-1 (.627) during his tenure at Troy.
Last season, the season was setting up nicely for the Trojans, as they were 5-3 after eight games. But a three-game losing streak derailed any hopes of winning the Sun Belt Conference and also dashed hopes of a bowl game.
Blakeney and his staff must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Corey Robinson, who graduated after an outstanding career at Troy. Robinson set numerous Troy and Sun Belt Conference records during his career, and is one of only four players in NCAA history to have four seasons with at least 3,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards of total offense.
Troy will likely turn to either junior Dallas Tidwell or redshirt freshman Brandon Silvers as Robinson’s replacement. Tidwell is the only quarterback candidate with college game experience, as he has thrown 19 passes, two for touchdowns, in his two years at Troy.
Silvers was rated as the 27th-best quarterback in the country coming out of high school, and he appears to be the quarterback of the future for the Trojans. Whether that future begins this season or not remains to be seen.
The new quarterback will be able to rely on what should be a solid running game again this season. Junior Brandon Burks led the team in rushing last season with 675 yards on 134 carries with two touchdowns. His running mate in the backfield, Jordan Chunn, had 514 yards on 128 carries and scored 14 touchdowns.
At wide receiver, Troy has quite a bit of depth, with Bryan Holmes, B.J. Chitty, K.D. Edenfield and Chandler Worthy all returning. Junior college transfer Jarvis Bentley is also expected to be a contributor this season.
The offensive line will also be a strong unit for Troy in 2014. All-Sun Belt performer Terrence Jones returns, as do starters Dalton Bennett, Antonio Garcia and Tommy Stephens.
The defensive line will be an area of concern for Troy this season. The Trojans must replace three of four starters this year. However, the one returnee is All-Sun Belt defensive end Tyler Roberts, who has 15 tackles for loss over his two seasons at Troy.
Jamal Stadom appears to be in line to start at the other defensive end position, while Lonnie Gosha and Billy Dobbs appear to be the frontrunners to play the tackle positions.
Unlike the defensive line, Troy’s linebackers don’t have many questions to answer. Seniors Wayland Coleman-Dancer and Mark Wilson return as starters again this season. Wilson was third on the team last year with 58 tackles, while Coleman-Dancer had 43.
Sophomores Terris Lewis and Mitchell Roland will be in the mix to start in 2014, as will redshirt freshman Sam Lebbie.
In the defensive backfield, there is plenty of depth and experience at cornerback. Chris Davis, Ethan Davis and Keion Payne, who all started at times last season, return this year, while Jacquez Young appears in position to earn quite a bit of playing time.
At the safety positions, junior Montres Kitchens and sophomore JaQuadrian Lewis appear to be the starters after seeing quite a bit of action last season. Jeremy Spikner returns as the starter at nickel back.
Troy opens against UAB on August 30. Troy has won two straight against the Blazers, but this one will be on the road.
Troy hosts the Duke Blue Devils on September 6 in what should be a big event on campus. The Trojans then host Abilene Christian.
On September 20, Troy visits the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, followed by a trip to Louisiana-Monroe.
On October 11, Troy welcomes New Mexico State for Homecoming, followed by home games against Appalachian State.
Two more road games follow, with trips to South Alabama (October 25) and Georgia Southern (November 1) on the slate.
Troy then hosts Georgia State, visits Idaho and concludes the season by hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.
The schedule isn’t daunting, especially with several new teams in the Sun Belt this season. If Troy can find the right quarterback, they could be in the mix for a Sun Belt title.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.