Troy Hosts Fall Camp’s First Scrimmage – The Troy Messenger

On Saturday morning, the Troy Trojans football team performed at Veterans Memorial Stadium for the first bout of drop practice.

During the 100-play scrimmage, offense and defense hit back and forth. The two sides fought in game-like situations and worked on offensive/defense and special teams in the red zone. While the defense dominated the early portions of scrimmage, quarterbacks Gunnar Watson, Peter Costelli and Tucker Kilcrease led all points during the day, particularly during red zone contests when the offense picked things up.

“Of all the fights we’ve had since we got here, this was the best back-and-forth on either side of the ball,” said Troy coach Jon Sumrall. “I thought the defense was really coming out and controlling the opening part of the scrimmage and we made some stops. When we moved the ball and the offense put the ball in the red zone, they did a good job capitalizing on it and batting it (for touchdowns).

“There were really positives on both sides. We got through a couple of scrimmages in the spring and felt like defense dominated the day, but I thought there was a really good give and take on both sides today. Lots of positives and still lots to clean up. I thought the kicking game was really nice to watch, Scott Taylor Renfroe and Brooks Buce and all these guys were screwing it up on some field goals.”

Renfroe drilled 37-yard, 48-yard, and 49-yard field goals during the day. Buce also converted several field goal attempts. While the quarterbacks have gotten all the attention in terms of positional battles, the fall contest between Renfroe and Buce was hot.

“Brooks wasn’t able to participate for most of spring due to an ongoing hip deal, but he’s still a proven veteran player who’s had a lot of success,” Sumrall said. “Scott Taylor Renfroe is without question probably our most improved guy in the special teams space from January so far.

“As a specialist, he’s the guy who made the biggest leap, especially on field goals. He’s gotten better on kickoffs, but his field goals have improved tremendously.”

Watson was pleased with what he saw from the offense and special teams in the first scrimmage.

“I felt we started a little slow but we got back up and I think around the third drive we had a really good ride, the line was moving really well and we had a guy that just came in for a touchdown “, he said. “On the kicking side, Scott hit a number of field goals, some long and short, he hit everything today. Brooks had a good day too.”

Troy native Renfroe – a Pike Liberal Arts graduate – said he made a concerted effort to up his game during the offseason.

“I met with some of my pedaling coaches and that really helped, they gave me good help,” Renfroe said. “I had a meeting with (strength and conditioning coach Rusty) Witt and Coach Sumrall in the spring and they told me I needed to work on some things and one of them was that I need to get stronger and my desire to be great.

“That was one thing I really worked on over the summer. I set goals and did everything I could to achieve those goals every day so I wouldn’t regret it.”

Troy’s running backs also played during the scrimmage. Kiminal Vidal, Damien Taylor, and DK Billingsley all had rushing touchdowns, while Charles Strong and Jamontez Woods also had big runs during scrimmage. However, all eyes remain on the quarterbacks battling for the starting spot in week one.

“Part of it is decision-making at the line of scrimmage, part of it is post-snap stuff, but there was good and bad for every player,” Sumrall said of his quarterbacks. “Everybody does good things, every guy in the mix has different strengths. It’s about how you minimize what is your weakness?

“I thought all three had positive moments today. I think we’ll know where we’re going in about a week. I will not rush to make a quick, sloppy decision. We will be very thorough and detailed and we will evaluate by next Saturday before we are likely to make a decision there.”

While Quayde Hawkins is still limping with an ankle injury, the other quarterbacks are all still in contention at the moment. Watson spent most of the scrimmage on the No. 1 offense and both Costelli and Kilcrease got replays on the Nos. 2 and 3 offenses. Sumrall, who has been high on Kilcrease since arriving, said people saw the Brantley -Gunslingers shouldn’t be excluded from the competition either.

“Everyone wants to talk about Gunnar and Peter, but watch out for Tucker Kilcrease,” Sumrall pointed out. “I’m not saying his time is now, I don’t know yet, but he’s going to be a good player and I’m glad he’s in our team. There’s something about him. All these guys are still competing and it’s not over yet.”

Costelli pointed out that pace is something the offense needs to get better at to move forward.

“I thought it was going well, I thought we had some good plays and we always have things to work on, especially with the pace going from the huddle to the game being abandoned,” he said. “Overall I thought we looked good.”

Sumrall said there’s no doubt how much improvement the scrimmage has made this fall.

“It’s day and night from the source,” he said flatly. “If you’re not very good in spring, it’s not very difficult to look better, at least some through slight improvements, but they play with better consistency and they play the game with a better attitude and mindset.

“They’re all more physical and just more dialed into the details of what they’re doing and I think we’ve upgraded the space by making some personnel changes. We’ve added three guys from the transfer market in this room who could play this year. This room is much improved. It’s not there yet, there’s still a long way to go to where we want to be, but I’m confident we’re on the right track.”

Senior linebacker Carlton Martial is also seeing improvement on offense, which he struggles against every day.

“You’ve made a huge leap forward this whole fall camp,” Martial said. “They are more competitive, these guys bring the energy every day and we know Gunnar will rise and be the leader we need him to be.”

With Troy having one of the best recurring defenses in the Sun Belt, Trojan center Jake Andrews said offense is motivated to match defense success and a meeting between the offensive players has set the tone at camp.

“We were good for our first few days and then slowed down into a little lull,” Andrews said. “We had a little meeting in the middle where it was just insults and we addressed everyone and let them know what we’ve done in the past isn’t what we’re going to do now.

“We’re just focused on changing the culture, changing the game here, especially on offense. We have a super rigid defense and everyone talks about it, but we want them to talk about offense as much as we do (defense). That is really our goal.”

Troy is back on the practice field Monday and will hold the annual Fan Day Scrimmage at Veterans Memorial Stadium next Saturday, August 20 at 11 a.m. Fan Day is open to the public and there will be food and free posters signed by the players available for fans to use.

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