SBC 2009 football preview for Troy.

Levi Brown, Troy FootballHead coach Larry Blakeney is the dean of Sun Belt head coaches, entering his 19th season on the sidelines for Troy University. He is one of just two head coaches in NCAA history to have led his program from Division II, to the Football Championship Subdivision into the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Blakeney was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on May 30th, joining other notable head coaches from the state such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Bobby Bowden, Ralph “Shug” Jordan, Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, Danny Ford, John Heisman, Gene Stallings and Frank Thomas, among others.

Blakeney ranks fourth on the all-time victories list among coaches in the state, trailing only Bryant (232), Tuskegee’s Cleve Abbott (203) and Jordan (176). Blakeney enters the 2009 season with a career record at Troy of 144-73-1.

The Trojans open the 2009 season with their entire coaching staff intact from the previous season for the first time in the Division I era. The last time Blakeney returned his entire staff for consecutive seasons was 1997-2000. In his 19 seasons at Troy, Blakeney has had 33 full-time assistant coaches on his staff.

The Trojans have posted three consecutive 6-1 records in Sun Belt Conference play and have won, or shared, each of the last three league titles. Troy has played in two of the last three R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowls.

The Trojans placed a league-high 15 players on the 2008 All-Conference team and eight of those players return in 2009. Entering the new season, 15 Troy players were named to the preseason All-Conference teams by Phil Steele in his annual season preview.

Boris Lee Troy FootballTroy returns 16 of the 22 players who recorded at least one reception in 2008. The Trojans also have at least five new players on the roster in 2009 who are expected to make an impact in the passing game as receivers.

Senior quarterback Levi Brown completed 61.7 percent of his attempts and threw for 2,030 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions last year, despite starting just eight games. Brown took over the QB job after sophomore Jamie Hampton suffered a season-ending knee injury. For his efforts, Brown earned Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year honors.

Receiver Jerrel Jernigan earned first team All-SBC honors as a sophomore last year while breaking a 40-year-old school record for receptions in a season (77). Jernigan set the new mark despite missing the equivalent of two full games with a knee injury of his own. He finished with 868 receiving yards and five scores. He was also second on the team with 254 rushing yards, scoring twice, and he threw for a touchdown.

Running back DuJuan Harris posted his first 1,000 yard rushing season last year as a sophomore to become the first Troy back since DeWhitt Betterson in 2004 to surpass that mark. Harris ran for 1,077 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He was also the teams’ third leading receiver with 36 receptions for 216 yards and three scores. Harris also threw a TD pass in 2008.

Troy enters the 2009 season with perhaps the best front four in school history, which is saying a lot considering Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora both played on the defensive line for the Trojans this decade. Senior defensive ends Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield will be joined on the starting unit by senior tackle Kevin Dixon and junior nose tackle Eugene Kinlaw.

The Trojans also have the deepest and, perhaps, most talented group of linebackers returning in school history. In addition to returning starters Lee and Bear Woods, both seniors, Troy has senior David McDowell returning following a redshirt season in 2008 as well as junior Daniel Sheffield and sophomores Xavier Lamb and Donnell Golden.

First Photograph: Levi Brown was named the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year last season.

Second Photograph: Boris Lee returns to lead a talented group of linebackers and one of the best defensive front sevens in the country.

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