2011 Season Preview: 'Oversigning,' juco players feed Troy's talent pipeline

'Sign, place and re-cruit' has worked well as Troy dominates its league, challenges top-tier opponents

Troy coach Larry Blakeney has led the Trojans to five-straight Sun Belt Conference titles and enters his 21st season at the school.

Courtesy of Troy sports information department

Troy coach Larry Blakeney has led the Trojans to five-straight Sun Belt Conference titles and enters his 21st season at the school.

From a recruiting standpoint, how do you sustain a Troy program that annually occupies the top spot in the Sun Belt Conference and periodically challenges some of college football’s major powers?

For Larry Blakeney and his Trojans coaching staff, success on the field has gone hand-in-hand with the increasingly common and controversial practice of oversigning.

Between 2006 and 2010, Troy led the nation in oversigning – averaging 32.6 signees per year. In 2009, Troy signed 40 players, including ‘greyshirts,’ according to Rivals.com.

A Sports Illustrated (SI.com) article in 2009 dubbed Blakeney “the Stephen Hawking of oversigning physics.”

A web blog dedicated to monitoring college football’s oversigners – www.oversigning.com (which carries the subhead ‘Where 30 + 29 + 28 + 32 = 85’) – has also placed Troy atop its list.

The SEC’s recent move to limit its schools to 28 signees per class (passed despite the reservations of some of the league’s most prominent coaches) has brought the issue back to the forefront of discussion.

Blakeney and other supporters of oversigning contend that the issue is more complicated than the math might indicate, and that providing opportunity for players is at the heart of the practice.

Throughout Blakeney’s tenure at Troy, junior college recruiting has been an integral part of the program’s overall recruiting strategy.

Troy has played the junior college game on both ends – first by oversigning high school players who, on signing day, are known to be academic question marks; then placing them at junior colleges; and finally, in two years, signing academically eligible players for a second time.

Blakeney told SI.com in 2009 that he has never failed to provide a scholarship for an academically qualified signee.

“If you ever balk on one, you won’t have many more opportunities,” Blakeney told SI.com. “We’ve never fallen short. We’ve never not had a scholarship.”

The Troy team that Blakeney brings to Clemson on Sept. 3 will have its share of junior college players being counted on to immediately fill personnel gaps.

The Trojans scaled back their recruiting numbers last February, when just 22 players signed. The smaller numbers corresponded to lower rating for Troy in Rivals’ Sunbelt Conference rankings. The class was ranked seventh in nine-team Sunbelt.

A year earlier, Troy’s 34-man class was ranked second in the league, while the 40-player class of 2009 led the conference.

This year’s group of 22 includes seven junior college players and 15 high school signees.

Almost half the high school players – seven – come from Alabama, with three each from Georgia and Florida.

Of the 22 signees, Rivals rated 19 as two-star recruits, and three as three-star players.

The three top-rated signees are high school players – defensive end Deon Lee of DeFuniak Springs, FL; defensive end Dre’shon McGaster of Foley, AL; and offensive lineman Zach Johnson of Dawsonville, GA.

This year’s class includes 11 offensive players, 10 defensive players and one kicker.

Troy’s 34-man 2010 recruiting class included 10 three-star prospects, while the 2009 class included a pair of four-star players – linebacker Antonio Harper out of Hargrave Military Academy, and defensive tackle Eugene Kinlaw out of Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

O&W 2011 Season Preview

Troy Preview: Q&A with Dothan Eagle Troy beat writer Drew Champlin

Troy Preview: Players to watch, history and trends

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