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Life After Silvers & Chunn

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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No coach looks forward to the challenge of replacing starters like quarterback Brandon Silvers and running back Jordan Chunn.

No coach looks forward to the challenge of replacing starters like quarterback Brandon Silvers and running back Jordan Chunn, at Troy. It’s tough to lose that caliber of talent, as well as that level of experience and hope to get better.

That said, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Trojans will be worse on that side of the ball.

Behind center, the departure of Silvers means the departure of 48 games played, over 10,000 passing yards, and more than 70 touchdowns.

His replacement is undetermined.

“We have a lot of returning pieces but we don't have that quarterback piece and that's so important, as y’all know,” Head Coach Neal Brown said. “We have two candidates that we hope can lead us back to a conference championship.”

One of Sawyer Smith or Kaleb Barker, neither of whom have seen much playing time during their time at Troy, will, in all likelihood, be faced with the unenviable task of filling those shoes.

Even so, Brown is optimistic about what each one brings to the table that Silvers could not.

“Both of them are going to add a dimension that Brandon couldn't in the fact that both are running threats all the time. Both of these guys are plus runners and will add another dimension to our offense,” Brown explained at Sun Belt Media Day, in New Orleans.

Troy’s offense was, perhaps, slightly above average from a national perspective, last season. However, one integral piece that could serve to improve is the drive finishing. Their 4.53 points per drive inside the 40-yard line ranked 60th in the FBS. Playing 11-on-11, especially as the field shrinks, could see that number take a leap.

Plus, regardless of who ends up taking the bulk of the snaps, his transition will be eased by Southern Pigskin’s top ranked group of pass catchers.

Brown began, “I think from a receiver standpoint, this will be the best group we’ve had. That's why we don't have to have so much pressure on the quarterbacks. We’ve got guys around him that can make plays. Damien Williams had a huge game in our bowl. I think he’s ready to be that top end receiver and maybe has an NFL future in front of him. Deondre Douglas, two years in a row, has been a second team all-conference player. He’s been really consistent for us. He’s physical, 205 lbs and runs really well. We also have a graduate transfer in Trayveon Samuels. I think our tight end Sam Letton is ready to take another a big step as well.”

Coupled with an offensive line that returns four starters and 72 career starts, a group that allowed the 15th lowest adjusted sack rate, no less, and anyone would be in a position to succeed.

“We have two guys that are potential all league in Tristan Crowder and Kirk Kelley. Both are returning starters and have two years left to play. And then J.L. Gaston was our starting right tackle. He returns. Our only newcomer will be whoever wins the starting left tackle spot,” Brown stated.

Both Gaston and Kelly were among the top three highest graded players at their respective positions, according to PFF, in 2017. Those guys will certainly help the run game find earlier success, too.

Neither B.J. Smith, nor Jamarius Henderson is the same type of bruising back that Jordan Chunn was, but, behind that offensive line, there is no reason that they can’t find success their own way.

“I think BJ Smith is the guy that had the most productive spring,” Brown recalled. “And Jamarius Henderson is the guy that can take it the distance when he gets the ball. He’s electric. We need him to be more consistent, he’s gotta overcome the injury bug, but it’s time for him to take the next step. He’s a redshirt junior. if he can take the next step, he will be a huge piece of our offense this fall.”

All things considered, given Troy’s defensive prowess a year ago, the 2017 iteration of Troy’s offense was a perfectly complementary unit. Going forward, though, especially given some of the personnel attrition in the secondary, what was an efficient offense will need to add some explosiveness.

A more dual-threat option at quarterback and a playmaker the likes of Jamarius Henderson could be just the duo to do that for a squad that, otherwise, has all the pieces in place.

It’s tough to get better after losing program legends, but don’t count on a regression either.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP