After opening up the campaign with back-to-back wins over UAB (34-31 in OT) and Savannah State (66-3), the Trojans slipped into a three-game slide, which included a 41-34 loss to Arkansas State in their Sun Belt opener on Sept. 12.
Troy bounced back from that losing streak with three straight wins over South Alabama (34-33), Georgia State (35-28) and Western Kentucky (32-26) to get right back into the hunt, but another three-game losing skid followed.
The Trojans ended the season on a high note, capturing a 42-28 triumph versus Texas State on Nov. 9 to finish 6-6 and in a four-way tie for third place in the Sun Belt at 4-3 with WKU, ULM and South Alabama (just a game behind co- champions Louisiana and Arkansas State). Despite earning postseason eligibility for the first time since 2010, the team was not invited to a bowl game.
This upcoming season marks the 24th year at Troy for head coach Larry Blakeney, the second-longest tenured coach in the nation behind only Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer.
OFFENSE: Troy's offense was nothing short of outstanding last season, as it ranked atop the Sun Belt in scoring 34.1 ppg while owning the nation's 27th- best total offense (463.3 ypg). The unit will be in for a major adjustment this season, however, as it said goodbye to its legendary quarterback Corey Robinson after he threw for 13,344 yards (ninth-most in FBS history) and 80 touchdowns in his career.
The search for the team's new signal caller continues, and Blakeney is in no rush to name the starter for the Aug. 30 opener at UAB, although the competition seems to be down to redshirt freshman Brandon Silvers and juco transfer Dontreal Pruitt.
"We are still moving towards trying to settle on people at all positions and that includes quarterback," Blakeney said. "We're just trying to find out who can do it right now."
Regardless of what shakes out at quarterback, at least the Trojans know they can rely on a strong backfield. On top of leading the team in rushing (675 yards, two TDs), Brandon Burks was also sure-handed as a receiver with 36 catches. Jordan Chunn (514 yards) was a beast near the goal line as a freshman with 14 touchdowns.
Bryan Holmes (40 receptions, 676 yards, seven TDs) is a big-play threat out wide, and Chandler Worthy (24 receptions, 398 yards, two TDs) brings veteran leadership to the unit as a senior.
The team also welcomes back both starting offensive tackles, Terrence Jones and Dalton Bennett, as well as guard Tommy Stephens.
DEFENSE: While the offense was lighting up the scoreboard last season, the defense failed to hold up to its end of the bargain, ranking seventh in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (35.9 ppg) and last in total defense (483.2 ypg). The unit can only improve in its second season under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt, the former Director of Football Relations at Auburn.
The Trojans' most dynamic playmaker on that side of the ball is defensive end Tyler Roberts, who emerged as a sophomore with 49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, and his continued progress should make him one of the best defensive lineman in the league.
Mark Wilson (58 tackles, 5.0 TFL) and Wayland Coleman-Dancer (46 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) return at linebacker and are joined by freshman Dondrell Harris.
Ethan Davis (31 tackles, nine passes defended) is the only returning starter in the secondary, but fresh blood in the defensive backfield could be a good thing considering the team's poor pass defense in 2013 (313.6 ypg).
SPECIAL TEAMS: After the graduation of Will Scott, who pulled double duty as the kicker and punter last season, the team will have to fill two new roles in camp. Jed Solomon has a leg up on the kicking job and Ryan Kay will likely be the punter.
In addition to his pass-catching duties, Bryan Holmes is in line to take over as both the kickoff and punt returner. He handled only five punt returns last season, but he showed plenty of explosion by amassing 103 yards. Burks will also be called upon for kickoff returns.
OUTLOOK: The Trojans, while improved in 2013, were still difficult to trust with their inconsistent play, and the loss of a senior leader at quarterback certainly doesn't help matters. Still, the squad returns enough talent that the Sun Belt coaches were confident enough in ranking it No. 4 in the league's preseason poll.
Blakeney has been down this road plenty of times before, and he knows that preseason expectations will soon be forgotten once the real games kick off.
"Fourth, first, last -- it doesn't matter," Blakeney said. "Preseason is preseason and there are a lot of things that will happen between now and the end of camp and then from week-to-week in the season. Preseason polls are fun for the fans and the media. We have a chance, if we come together as a team and find good leadership, to be a pretty good team this year, but so does everyone else in the league."
After a non-conference schedule consisting of two winnable games (at UAB, vs. Abilene Christian) and two difficult ones (vs. Duke, at Georgia), Troy jumps into a Sun Belt slate where it'll play all four league newcomers (New Mexico State, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho) as well as the winless Georgia State. If things go right, it's conceivable that the Trojans could be in the championship running heading into their season finale at home against league favorite Louisiana, but more than likely another campaign around .500 is in the cards.