The Troy Trojans are set to be led by their defense when they return to the field in 2022. Their top 10 returning players are clearly indicative of how stacked this defense is, as Troy boasts one of the all-time college football greats at linebacker. Carlton Martial can set the new record for most tackles in a career as he’s just 79 tackles short to start the year. He anchors a talented defense for the Trojans ahead of the 2022 season.
Top 10 returning players at Troy
The countdown to the regular season continues here during Pro Football Network’s Top 10 Returning Players series. We’ve crossed the country to the Sun Belt and are firmly entrenching ourselves across the southeastern portion of the country with our look into each FBS team. Looking only at players returning to their same team from a season ago — we’ll deal with transfers later –, we’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team. Here are the top returners from Troy.
10) Reddy Steward, CB
Sticky on the outside, Reddy Steward has made a name for himself the past two seasons. He finished with a team-high five pass breakups last year and recorded the second interception of his budding career. Steward is a quick, twitchy cover corner with a burst to get to the catch point. He limits receivers in his coverage extremely well and has improved in seemingly every game since he stepped foot on campus.
9) Will Choloh, DT
Causing havoc in the middle, Will Choloh was unblockable at times last year. He finished the year with seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. His presence was felt in every facet, however, as Choloh blocked a kick and was dominant when he pursued ball carriers. He’s a big man on the inside who occupies multiple linemen to free up valuable pass-rushing lanes for his edge defenders.
8) Richard Jibunor, EDGE
Another talented pass rusher from this Troy defense, Richard Jibunor proved his 2020 season was no fluke. He also showcased why he was once an Auburn Tiger as Jibunor dominated the competition in the Sun Belt like you would think an SEC pass rusher would. Jibunor also flashed a special ability in coverage, though not tasked to do so very often, dropping back to cover the flats or underneath routes and intercepting two passes on the season. Jibunor is developing into one of the top all-around threats on the defensive side of the ball in the Sun Belt.
7) KJ Robertson, LB
Showcasing an ability to both stuff run fits and cover a variety of receivers, KJ Robertson had another terrific season for the Trojans. Entering his fourth season of full-time starting next to Carlton Martial, Robertson has proved he doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone, even an all-time great like Martial. Robertson finished second in tackles and tied the team lead with two interceptions. He has great size and speed to patrol the weakside with great success.
6) Dell Pettus, S
A monster in all facets, Dell Pettus’ impact doesn’t just stay on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a valuable special-teams contributor and has sound technique in defense. He doesn’t allow much in coverage and plays Troy’s cover safety role very well. Pettus was fourth on the team in tackles, showcasing just how special his instincts are to make his tackles at such close proximity to the line of scrimmage with the talent at the linebacker position on this defense.
5) Gunnar Watson, QB
After taking over the starting quarterback position once and for all, Gunnar Watson is entrenched as one of the top Sun Belt quarterbacks for the 2022 season. Watson is a big-armed signal-caller with a ton of talent in his right arm. He’s safe with the football and does a great job of dispersing it to every level of the field. What separates Watson from others in the conference is his prototypical size and ability to dish passes from inside the pocket. He has great pocket awareness and thrives when his offensive line keeps him upright.
4) TJ Harris, S
Handling the duties from Troy’s SPEAR position, TJ Harris acts as a violent run stuffer and cover man from the box. He led the secondary in tackles and amassed 4.5 sacks with 6.5 total tackles for loss as he ripped through even the smallest cracks in pass protection when he was able to blitz. When he wasn’t pursuing ball carriers or the quarterback, Harris was in coverage, where he finished with two interceptions and multiple forced incompletions against a variety of pass-catching targets.
3) Austin Stidham, OT
A four-year starter at left tackle, Austin Stidham anchors what should be considered one of the best in the Sun Belt this year. Stidham is one of four returning starters and one of a few players to have played over 3,000 career snaps across the country. He’s a stalwart in pass protection, giving up very little pressure. Stidham also moves well in the run game and is a technician when it comes to his footwork.
2) Javon Solomon, EDGE
Bursting onto the scene last year, Javon Solomon finished with the pass-rush triple-double and led the team with 11 sacks. He was a monster on the edge, consistently finding his way into the backfield. Considering he got home for 11 sacks and 17 total tackles for loss, Solomon became a known commodity even after a solid season in 2020. Solomon was schemed against, and it didn’t matter as he would defeat any pass protector in his way.
1) Carlton Martial, LB
Just a few tackles short of college football history, Carlton Martial quite literally is a tackling machine. As it stands, Martial is just 79 tackles short of the all-time record for tackles in a college football career, having brought down 443 total tackles in his Troy career. He trails Boston College great Luke Kuechly (532) and sits nearly 100 more than the next active player on the list. Given his top-level play and the fact that he averages over 110 tackles a year over the past four seasons, Martial should absolutely reach that mark in 2022. He’s the life of the Trojans’ defense and one of the top defensive players ever to play the sport.
Honorable mention players returning to Troy in 2022
- Kimani Vidal, RB
- Elijah Culp, CB
- Zion Williams, CB
- Tez Johnson, WR
- Deandre Butler/Jake Andrews, G
- Grant Betts, OT