Photo by Gerald Castillo
TXST Countdown to Kickoff: Bobcats take trip to Troy
After beginning Sun Belt play with a pair of East Division matchups, Texas State draws Troy as its first West Division opponent.
This season will be the Trojans’ first in the West, making the move after the conference added James Madison and Old Dominion, both from Virginia, and Marshall from West Virginia. Troy was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago, posting three consecutive 10-win seasons under former head coach Neal Brown from 2016-18, peaking with a co-Sun Belt title shared with App State in 2017. The program fell off when Brown left for the West Virginia job, producing three consecutive five-win seasons with Chip Lindsey at the helm.
Lindsey was fired with one week left in the 2021 regular season and was replaced by Jon Sumrall, who previously served as Brown’s associate head coach and special teams coordinator from 2015-17 and was most recently a co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky last year. Sumrall will be tasked with getting the program back on track.
He’ll be helped by having an supremely experienced team — the Trojans saw few players leave through the transfer portal upon Sumrall’s arrival and will return 80% of its production, the 17th-most in the FBS according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. Most of the returners come from a defensive unit that led the Sun Belt in 2021 giving up just 337.3 yards per game.
Five of Troy’s players were named to the All-Sun Belt defense, the most of any team in the league. Linebacker Carlton Martial will play in his fifth and final season after accumulating over 110 tackles in each of the past three years. Senior Will Choloh, junior Richard Jibunor and sophomore Javon Solomon make up an imposing defensive line that combined for 34 tackles for loss, 22 sacks and three interceptions last year. Senior defensive back TJ Harris added 4.5 sacks and two interceptions and will lead the secondary this season.
The Trojans’ offense ranked in the bottom three in the conference, averaging 338.4 yards and 22.8 points per game, but relied on mostly freshmen and sophomores. Sumrall will hope the group can take a step forward in its development.
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team senior Austin Stidham will anchor the offensive line, looking to clear a path for running backs Kimani Vidal and Jamontez Woods, who combined for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns on 199 carries.
Sophomore slot receiver Tez Johnson led the team with 67 catches for 735 yards and four touchdowns, but its not clear yet who will be throwing him the ball. Junior quarterback Gunnar Watson started the last seven games of the 2021 season, but Sumrall brought in Peter Costelli to compete for the job. Costelli is a former four-star recruit who transferred from Utah after not playing as a true freshman.
Troy leads the all-time series against Texas State, 11-1, and was voted to finish third in the West Division in the 2022 Preseason Sun Belt Coaches Poll. Connelly’s SP+ projections predict the Trojans to win 6.1 games on average, with a 66% chance to make a bowl game, and rank them 93rd in the FBS, ahead of the Bobcats at No. 123. Texas State takes on Troy on the road on Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m.