TROY – Not all of Troy’s playmakers play offense. The Trojan defense looked particularly stingy – not to mention fast – throughout Troy’s first scrimmage on Saturday morning.
Sophomore cornerback Craig Slocum and sophomore safety TJ Harris both made an interception in a practice that lasted more than two hours and around 100 plays in Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“Good day today,” first-year head coach Chip Lindsey said after the scrimmage. “The D-line stood out at times. They put the line of scrimmage in the backfield several times.
“At times offensively, we had some guys make some plays. We checked the ball down to a back one time and made a big play. I really liked that. We had a good day, a little hit and miss. Now we can reload, grade the film, learn from it and be ready to go on Monday.”
Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall knew his unit had a good day.
“Really happy with the way our kids came out today,” Hall said. “They were ready to practice. They moved around, they were excited to be out there.
“One thing we’ve continued to preach is effort. If we do one thing it’s going to be run to the football. … We’ve asked our kids to do a lot of things defensively, trying to be multiple. We get very little complaint and we get a lot of effort and on top of that we get a lot of smiles. Those guys, I feel like, are having a good time.”
There weren’t as many explosive plays made by the offense. Running back B.J. Smith caught a short pass on a nice check down from Kaleb Barker and ran about 45 yards for a touchdown. Early in the scrimmage, backup quarterback Gunnar Watson took a keeper up the right sideline for about 50 yards and another score.
Wide receiver Reggie Todd made a nice catch and run up the left sideline for a big gain later in the scrimmage.
“After about seven practices and this scrimmage, the defensive front seven has been impressive to me,” Lindsey said. “We got Jarvis (Hayes) back from his shoulder, Travis Sailo back. We’ve got some depth and we can rotate some guys. I was pleased with that.
“It’s good for our offensive line to face that group every day. That’s only going to help us on offense. But that group’s really stood out to me. The front seven has a chance to be good.”
An aggressive defensive front takes some pressure off Troy’s inexperienced secondary, which will be without four of last year’s five starters. Only strong safety Melvin Tyus returns.
But in addition to the pass defense, Troy’s up front guys were good in short-yardage situations Saturday. They stopped the offense on at least two third- and fourth-and-1 situations. On a fourth-and-1 in the red zone, linebacker Carlton Martial stopped Smith just short.
“Will Choloh sticks out – maybe it’s the number (5),” Hall said. “The biggest thing for me about him is I’ve never seen the kid not smile. … Jarvis Hayes, he gives you everything he’s got. It’s guys like that we can continue to build a defense around.”
Troy junior center Dylan Bradshaw tipped his cap to Hall and his defense.
“If we can get to the point where we can beat our defense consistently, it should be easy in games – because we have a really good defense,” the Enterprise product said. “It’s not so much how good each individual player is. They run some really funky stuff. It’s really hard to block, it’s really hard to line up to. It’s a lot of off-set, unbalanced stuff.
“That’s a credit to coach Hall. He’s been really good about making it tough. It’s going to be tough for (opposing) teams.”
Bradshaw said the offensive line will have to respond.
“We had some bright spots, but we looked really bad on third- and fourth-and-short,” the center said. “We’ve got to clean that up. There’s ways to defend that and we’ve got to be better. That was on us today.
“The past few years we’ve been great third and short. Saturday, we’ll have another scrimmage and we should be better. We haven’t worked a lot of goal line and short-yardage at practice. That comes next week. We’ve been installing base.”
QB quickies: Lindsey withheld full judgment on Troy’s quarterback play until he saw the tape. His first impression was Kaleb Barker did “a nice job” in his first scrimmage since last season.
“One thing that goes unnoticed a little bit is he’s played, really, five games,” Lindsey said. “As a coach, it’s not like he’s been a starter for two years and he’s got all this experience. He’s still seeing things sometimes for the first time.
“He’s got to continue to grow, but he’s making really good progress. Playing quarterback in our system is as much about operating and communicating with everybody and making right decisions. If he’ll do that I think he’ll have a great year.”
Backup Watson threw both interceptions in the scrimmage.
“Gunnar’s had a great camp,” Lindsey said. “He made two throws I’m sure he’d like to have back today. One was probably a sack but we let him throw it. Gunnar’s continuing to grow. He just needs game reps. From what I could tell today, he did a pretty good job.”
New carpet: The new artificial surface at Veterans Memorial Stadium got high marks from the players.
They like how the new surface’s blades of individual turf stand up higher than the former surface that was replaced this summer. The Matrix Helix Realfill turf was completed this week.
What’s next: Troy players have today off before returning Monday morning. The schedule will be different this week when Troy’s first day of classes begins on Wednesday. From that point, practice moves from the morning to 3:40 p.m. daily.
The second scrimmage is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. next Saturday. Fan Day festivities are scheduled Saturday from 1-3 p.m. at Trojan Arena.