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Troy Trojans preview

Brandon Silvers could be asked to stretch the passing game this season. Todd Bennett/Getty Images

The Trojans will face life without Larry Blakeney at the helm for the first time in 25 years. And while they return several key playmakers on both sides of the ball, a new scheme in place likely means a year of toiling in the Sun Belt cellar.

Offense

How the Trojans beat you: First-year coach Neal Brown, an air raid disciple, is bringing speed back to Troy. “We would love to lead the country in plays per game,” he said after his first spring practice in March. Soph QB Brandon Silvers spent 2014 proving he can hit short throws: He completed 70.5 percent of his passes (No. 2 in the FBS) to break Sam Bradford’s freshman record, averaging 6.8 ypa. If he can handle an increased pass load (Troy threw just 43.7 percent of the time in ’14), he’ll thrive in Brown’s up-tempo attack.

How you beat the Trojans: Troy’s anemic deep game (79 pass plays of 10-plus yards, No. 108 in the FBS) died in the end zone. Senior WR Bryan Holmes caught the most TD throws in ’14 (5), but the squad managed just 12 total all year.

Defense

How the Trojans beat you: The key pieces from a decent secondary return: Senior S Montres Kitchens (team-high 6 INTs), senior CB Tray Hall (team-high 4 pass breakups) and junior S JaQuadrian Lewis (2 forced fumbles, tied for the team high).

How you beat the Trojans: The rush D allowed 246.1 ypg, 5.7 ypc, 35 TDs and 93 10-plus-yard runs in 2014, ranking no higher than No. 117 in the country in any of those metrics. Another undersized D-line in ’15 (average weight: 267 pounds) will lack push in the trenches. Ends Tyler Roberts (senior) and Jamal Stadom (sophomore) offer a small spark of hope (16 TFL combined) but won’t get much help from their LBs. The unit’s top returning tackler, junior Mitchell Roland, made only 30 stops last year.