View Full Version : Young Troy presents 'bit of a mystery' to Mustangs

09-03-2005, 01:05 PM
Cal Poly's opponent could play more than 30 newcomers in today's season opener

Brian Milne

The Tribune

TROY, Ala. - When Troy head coach Larry Blakeney says his college football team has a new look this season, he's not kidding.

Gone from the Division I-A Trojans' 2004 bowl team are the entire front four on defense (including first-round draft pick Demarcus Ware), four starters on the offensive line, his top two quarterbacks, ace receiver Jason Samples and the school's all-time leading rusher DeWhitt Betterson.

That leaves the 15th-year coach, who expects to play more than 30 newcomers in today's season opener with Division I-AA Cal Poly, with 14 new starters on both sides of the ball.

"They're going to be a little bit of a mystery," said Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson earlier this week. "They graduated a lot of guys. They've been a winning program the last few years and that success has been good to them, so they're not surprised by graduation. But how much their systems have changed to accommodate their current personnel remains to be seen."

Despite the turnover, Division I-A Troy comes into the season as the winningest football team in the state since 1991 and is coming off a 7-5 season that included the university's first bowl game. The Trojans, just five years removed from Division I-AA, lost to Northern Illinois 34-21 in the Silicon Valley Football Classic in San Jose last season.

But all of that past success is old news in the eyes of Blakeney.

"I think it's going to come down to what the young guys do and how they respond in a college football game," said Blakeney, 115-53-1 overall and 63-8-1 at home. "They need to get used to the speed of the game, the crowd, the intensity, because the whole thing is overwhelming at first. You just have to give them a minute to let it all settle in and hope they do that as fast as possible and not do something silly early to give them a chance to score and put you on your heels."

The Troy offense will be led by junior Carl Meadows, a transfer from East Tennessee State who attempted just four passes a year ago. He takes over for projected starter D.T. McDowell, who took hold of the starting job midway the 2004 season but was lost to academic problems in the offseason.

No other Trojans quarterback has taken a snap at the Division I level.

Meadows, however, appears ready for the challenge.

"I've been here for a year and a half now," said Meadows, who threw for 1,153 yards and 10 touchdowns in six starts at Division I-AA East Tennessee State in 2003. "I'm one of the older guys. I don't have a lot of experience, but I have some. ... This is what we've been working for all summer. Every drill, every sprint, every pass, leads up to (tonight). We're ready."

Troy runs a multiple-I offense that relies heavily on a running game that will be spearheaded by senior tailback Joel Whinghter (5 feet, 11 inches and 210 pounds), who rushed only 10 times for 26 yards and no touchdowns last season.

But with a starting offensive line that outweighs Cal Poly's defensive front by an average of 30 pounds per player, you can expect the Trojans will pound the ball early.

"I think this year the offense will be a lot better," Whinghter said of a team that averaged 284 yards and 23.8 points per game last season. "This is the best offensive line I've seen since I've been here. I just feel lucky enough to be running behind them."

After tonight's game, Troy plays a much-anticipated rivalry game against University of Alabama-Birmingham in Week 2, but don't think the Trojans are looking past the Mustangs.

Blakeney knows what the Mustangs did against a young Texas-El Paso team in the opener two years ago and he says his team's primary focus the past two weeks has been preparing solely for the Mustangs' unique spread-option offense and double-eagle flex defensive schemes.

Very little carries over to next week's game versus UAB.

"They're all we're thinking about right now," Blakeney said of the Mustangs. "We're just trying to win the opener. ... With Cal Poly coming to town, one of the big challenges this week is just making sure I keep enough Maalox around my desk."