TROY — Will Choloh insists he’s not a stats-driven player — which is good, because Troy’s nose guard is playing the wrong position if tackles and sacks were his prime motivator.
Choloh, Troy’s 6-foot, 289-pound interior defensive lineman from Lawrenceville, Ga., knows his primary job is occupying blockers, allowing linebackers Carlton Martial and Justin Whisenhunt to make plays — and headlines.
In a difficult year for the Troy defense, Choloh has been a bright spot. Saturday against Coastal Carolina, he made 10 tackles — a staggering number for a nose guard — second on the defense behind the amazing Martial.
“I know that a lot of the defense starts with me and Carlton and some other players like that,” Choloh said Tuesday. “We’ve just got to do our job and let everybody rally around the ball.”
Asked about Saturday’s production, he said, “Sometimes plays come to you and sometimes they don’t.”
To be sure, he knew he was having a good game. He just didn’t realize he had 10 tackles.
“Oh, it feels about right,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk that goes on during the game, a lot of plays being made. I knew about where I was.
“It’s probably a good statistical game. I graded out pretty good, too.”
He said those tackles were part preparation, part domination.
“We repped their offense a lot over the past week. A lot of it is schematic things,” Choloh said. “Then, also, I guess overpowering my man and getting through and making some plays.”
Choloh apologized “to Trojan Nation” after the game for an uncharacteristic unsportsmanlike penalty during the fourth quarter against Coastal. That drive, however, ended with the Chanticleers punting the ball back to Troy. Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall said the flag was “merited.”
“That was his culmination of the season, in a lot of ways,” Hall said. “Being so close, just inches away. I can feel his frustration. … He played hard, he played well.”
For the most part, however, the sophomore has matured over the course of the season.
“He takes coaching. Coach (Davern) Williams has done a really good job with him as far as anytime in this game the more reps you play, the experience and the anticipation, your technique just continues to improve,” Hall said. “I think he’s grown in that aspect. Just his overall football IQ, you start to anticipate plays based off of formations and situations. I think those are areas that he’s grown.”
“I feel like I’ve developed good,” Choloh said. “I’ve been able to use my natural player instincts and what I’ve learned from coach Davern and the defensive staff. … I’m better at recognizing blocks and tearing off blocks and making plays.
“I’m really excited for how far I came along, but I still know there’s a lot of stuff to improve on.”
His athletic ability, especially his quickness, serve him well in the trenches, but can also lead to him relying on his ability too much, Hall said.
“Trusting the call a little bit, at times, where he’s athletic and explosive and he’s made plays in the past coming underneath this guy or that guy,” the coordinator said. “Where he’s got to continue to grow is to do his role and let other people make plays based off him doing his job.”
Troy center Dylan Bradshaw, who goes against him whenever the Trojans go 1s vs. 1s — or “good on good” — at practice, said Choloh “gives me a run for my money every day.”
“As a nose guard in football, that’s dirty work,” Bradshaw said. “That’s the offensive lineman of the defense. You’re always getting double-teams. It’s hard to statistically make a huge impact unless you’re just in single blocks. Most of the time, when he gets in single blocks, he wins.
“What I like most about him, throughout the season he comes to work every day and keeps his head down. Obviously, he’s not happy where we are. None of us are. But he’s developing into a great leader. Choloh is going to be a guy that next year we really depend on that side of the ball to come on and lead, and lead by example more than anything.”
Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said this Saturday’s homecoming game against run-first Georgia Southern will be decided up front.
“They are really good at what they do,” Lindsey said about the Eagles’ shotgun, spread option attack. “It will probably be won down in the trenches, for sure. It will be a war down there, for sure.
“Our guys will rise to the challenge. I think Choloh and (Travis) Sailo, those guys look forward to those challenges. We’ll have our hands full, but it will be a good challenge.”
Choloh is eager to face a run-first team.
“Georgia Southern’s a good team. They’ll pose a good challenge for us,” he said. “I really like the challenge. I feel our defense is probably a better run defense than we are a pass defense.
“Everybody’s excited, especially me, from Georgia. I know a lot of guys who go there. It’s going to be a fun game.”