The Troy Trojans are a team teeming with 2023 NFL Draft talent. Although they haven’t had a player selected to the NFL since 2017, there’s every reason to believe they can break that drought as they seek to challenge in the Sun Belt this season. As you settle down to watch the Trojans on Saturdays, which prospects should you be paying close attention to?
Troy prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
It’s been three long seasons since Troy tabled a winning record. That 10-3 campaign that brought the curtain down on Neal Brown’s tenure as head coach seems a lifetime ago. However, there are reasons to be optimistic if you’re tailgating at Troy this fall. A familiar new face in charge leads a talented team of returners, with multiple defensive 2023 NFL Draft prospects who should act as early tone-setters and a catalyst for success.
Carlton Martial, LB
The greatest tone-setter of them all, Carlton Martial is not only the top returning defensive player for Troy this season but should also be considered their best 2023 NFL Draft prospect. The sixth-year linebacker should also establish himself as one of the best college linebackers of all time, needing just 90 tackles to break Luke Kuechly’s current record of 532 career tackles. Betting against Martial achieving that mark would be extremely foolish.
The Troy LB has made 100+ tackle seasons the norm over the past three years. Despite concerns coming out of high school over his 5’9″, 220-pound frame, Martial is an impactful run defender who can shoot gaps with ease with athletic ability and high-level play diagnosis. Offering sideline-to-sideline speed and a deadly closing burst, he has coverage chops as well. It’s no coincidence that he has five career interceptions on his résumé.
Will Choloh, DT
If you want a dramatic example of the impact Will Choloh can have on a game, flip on the Trojans’ game against Liberty from last fall and watch a masterclass of interior defensive dominance. Spoiler alert, the 2023 NFL Draft prospect tallied 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss as part of an eight-tackle game. Choloh’s been a consistent producer during his tenure with Troy, and the trend should continue in the 2022 college football season.
The production is just a small part of why Choloh should attract attention next April. It’s an inescapable fact that at 6’0″ and a listed 276 pounds, he’ll likely be considered undersized by NFL teams. However, if you’re a team looking for an interior lineman with a non-stop motor, the Troy DT is your guy.
While Choloh excels as a run stuffer, he’s flashed exciting pass-rush skills, with some refined moves in his toolbox, flexibility when shifting to attack the outside track, and the speed to fly into the backfield.
Richard Jibunor, EDGE
Troy’s defensive front seven will be the heartbeat of the Trojans’ 2023 NFL Draft class, and Richard Jibunor is another productive impact maker. Having made an impression in limited opportunity for Auburn in 2018, he’s been a constant thorn in the side of Sun Belt offenses since hitting the field in 2020.
The 6’3″, 232-pound edge player has impressive length, is a former hurdle champion whose speed translates to the field, and can bend around the edge effortlessly. A combination of intelligence and athleticism helps add coverage capability.
Javon Solomon, EDGE
When looking for potential breakouts and risers, an upward trajectory in college production can often provide a clue. No Troy player had more production, and a higher uptick year-on-year, than pass rusher Javon Solomon.
The fourth-year bandit tallied 17 tackles for loss and 11 sacks last fall. Solomon flat out flies to the quarterback, exploding off the edge with a good first step, high-energy motor, and impressive speed. It’s not just the quarterback, though, as the 6’2″, 246-pound game wrecker is adept at stopping any ball carrier.
Austin Stidham, OT
It’s easy to focus on the defensive prospects for Troy in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Yet, their last draftee was tackle Antonio Garcia, and they have offensive line potential in the upcoming class. Austin Stidham is a legitimate prospect with good size at 6’5″ and 300 pounds, and the footwork and athleticism to weaponize that frame.
Although he can be a force in the ground game, Stidham excels as a pass protector — allowing precious few pressures or sacks during his time as a starter. Importantly, Stidham’s consistently clean, with few penalties conceded in his four years anchoring the Troy offensive line.
Gunnar Watson, QB
While the defense will be the key to a Troy resurgence, finding consistency at the QB position could prove the difference between a winning and losing season. A nine-game starter in 2020 who lost the QB1 battle during camp prior to 2021, Gunnar Watson finally secured the starting job from midseason onwards last year, and the 6’3″, 205-pound signal-caller will look to elevate his game this fall. Watson boasts prototypical size, an impressive right arm, and can hang in the pocket to make a play under pressure.
Kimani Vidal, RB
While the focus will be on Watson, running back Kimani Vidal is the Trojan’s offensive spark plug. Acting as a workhorse back, the 5’8″, 215-pound third-year runner has tallied over 100 carries in each of the last two seasons. The 2023 NFL Draft prospect has the build to be a physical goal-line threat, with impressive lower body strength to churn out yardage. However, Vidal also boasts the contact balance to absorb contact in space, impressive change-of-direction ability, and enough juice to break off chunk plays after contact.
Jake Andrews, C
A highly rated offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class, Jake Andrews turned down Power Five offers to suit up for Troy. Since then, he’s become a pivotal part of the interior on the Trojans’ offensive line.
Andrews is a versatile offensive lineman who will add starting center reps to 23 starts at right guard over the past two seasons. He has a stout build at 6’3″ and 325 pounds, plays with a nasty demeanor in the ground game, and has showcased a decent anchor in pass protection once he gets set.
TJ Harris, S
A constantly disruptive presence in the Troy secondary over the past three seasons, TJ Harris has the opportunity to establish himself as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect this fall. Harris is a 6’1″, 199-pound safety prospect who does his best work in and around the box. An impactful run stopper who could elevate his already impressive box score with some minor technical adjustments as a tackler, Harris is also adept at bursting into the backfield.
Throw in some coverage skills, and Harris has the potential to impact all three phases of the game.
Zion Williams, CB
A former JUCO standout who broke up 13 passes for Iowa Western in 2019, Zion Williams has slowly established himself in the Troy secondary. Having started the final two games of last season, Williams should be viewed as an ascending potential 2023 NFL Draft prospect. He’s been productive when given the opportunity, and the 5’11”, 189-pound DB has the instincts and athletic capability to jump routes to make a play on the ball.
KJ Robertson, LB
Martial’s LB stable mate shouldn’t be overlooked amongst Troy’s potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects. The 6’1″, 225-pound KJ Robertson boasts impressive versatility, having played WILL, MIKE, and the Trojans’ SPEAR linebacker spots. Robertson can explode downhill with force to pose a pass-rush threat, while having the fluidity to act on his play-recognition skills in coverage. There truly isn’t a weak link in the Troy front seven.
Tez Johnson, WR
After tallying 735 receiving yards and four touchdowns last fall, Tez Johnson returns as Watson’s leading pass-catching target. Johnson’s only listed at 5’10” and 150 pounds, but the Troy WR boasts good catch radius and can definitely mix it up against larger DBs.
However, what might prove alluring for NFL teams as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect is Johnson’s explosive speed profile and ability to use his slender stature to be elusive with the ball in his hands. Additionally, Johnson has some punt/kick-return experience.
Other potential Troy prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
- Buddha Jones, DT
- Jayden McDonald, LB
- DK Billingsley, RB
- Taiyon Palmer, CB
- Dell Pettus, S
- Reddy Steward, CB
- Deandre Butler, G
- Antonio Showers, EDGE
- Brooks Buce, K
- Elijah Culp, CB
- Grant Betts, OT
- RaJae’ Johnson, WR