Troy football: new coach Neal Brown trying to begin turnaround
TROY, Ala. — Neal Brown wants to restore the Troy Trojans to the level they reached while he was offensive coordinator.
The new Trojans coach knows that will take time for a program that has struggled since winning five consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles from 2006-10.
"Wherever we played, our guys in that locker room believed they were going to win and they expected to win," Brown said. "They didn't hope, they expected to win a Sun Belt Conference championship every year and they expected to go to bowl games, and that's what we've got to get back to.
"We're not there yet, but that's definitely the mentality. We want to be the pre-eminent program in the Sun Belt Conference. We were for five years and we want to get back there but it's not going to happen overnight."
Troy hasn't had a winning record since 2010. Brown replaced his former boss, Larry Blakeney, who retired after last season.
The 35-year-old Brown has also been offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Texas Tech after working at Troy from 2006-09. The Trojans ranked third in the nation in total offense and fourth in passing in 2009.
Brown inherits a team that is coming off a 3-9 season but returns quarterback Brandon Silvers.
The Trojans must replace receiver Chandler Worthy, who also returned two kicks for touchdowns.
Some things to watch during Troy's season:
TOUGH INTRO: Brown faces a brutal schedule to open his tenure. The Trojans begin at North Carolina State on Sept. 5 and visit Wisconsin Sept. 19, followed by a home game with South Alabama (Oct. 3) and a trip to Mississippi State (Oct. 10). Troy has only five home games, and Brown makes it clear he doesn't expect to play three Power-5 conference teams most seasons.
SILVERS & PRUITT: Silvers broke Sam Bradford's record for completion percentage by a freshman, completing 70.5 percent of his passes. He didn't throw an interception in his first 119 attempts and was picked off just three times against 11 touchdowns. However, the Trojans are also determined to craft a role for backup Dontreal Pruitt, whether it's at quarterback, wide receiver or running back. Pruitt played in nine games last season after leading East Mississippi Community College to the NJCAA national championship.
BACKFIELD DEPTH: The Trojans return Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn, who both rushed for 500-plus yards last season. Chunn already ranks seventh in Troy history with 20 rushing touchdowns in two years, a span when Burks has run for 1,259 yards. Coaches are also high on Andre Flakes, who converted from wide receiver in the spring.
KOENNING'S TASK: Brown hired veteran coach Vic Koenning for his second stint as Troy's defensive coordinator. Koenning has his work cut out for him. The Trojans ranked 118th against the run, 111th in scoring defense and 107th in total defense last season. The three leading tacklers return in safeties Montres Kitchens and JaQuadrian Lewis and defensive end Jamal Stadom. Troy also added key transfers who could make immediate impacts, linebacker Justin Lucas from East Mississippi Community College and cornerback LaMarcus Farmer. Farmer started 20 games for UAB.
CONFIDENCE: Part of rebuilding that defense could come down to mentality and attitude after recent struggles. "I think we're gaining some confidence over there and we're starting not to wilt every time things get hard," Brown said.
This article was written by John Zenor from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.