HERO Sports welcomes you to “Two-a-Days”, where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Furman.
SoCon (Furman was T2nd in the SoCon in 2017)
COACH: Clay Hendrix – 2nd year (8-5 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 32.6 ppg (22nd in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 23.9 ppg (46th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: The 2017 season was an impressive one under first-year head coach Clay Hendrix, a Furman graduate himself and a former Air Force Academy assistant. Aside from its game against P5 N.C. State, the Paladins were 10 points away from being 10-1 in the regular season. Furman’s multi-pronged offensive attack featured one of the nation’s top rushing attacks and one of the crispest passing efficiency ratings in the FCS (No. 2 overall). This group also owned 3rd-down efficiency, something that gives one confidence that the Paladins — who are ranked No. 16 in the HERO Sports Preseason Top 25 (see above) — are poised to hit the playoffs once again. One of the strengths of a “double-wing” offense is that it isn’t so reliant on just one individual, which is good because Furman did lose its All-SoCon QB, three of its linemen and one of its top rushers. But there are talented backs returning, two solid QBs vying for No. 1 (Harris Roberts and JeMar Lincoln) and Thomas Gordon is back after leading the Paladins in All-Purpose yardage last year. On defense, the Paladins are loaded and almost certainly will improve upon what was already a solid defense (see stats above). Don’t be surprised if this unit of 10 returning starters combine with the offense’s ability to own time of possession and pin opponents to below 20 points per game.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: This Furman program seems like a lock for another playoff spot, even with the departures on offense. The question is, can it rise up and contend for the SoCon championship? The answer is yes, but there are landmines everywhere within the SoCon this year — a conference that clearly will feature some of the top parity in the FCS this year. Teams like Wofford, Samford and Western Carolina should be solid again, but don’t be surprised if Chattanooga, The Citadel and Mercer are formidable bounce back from losing seasons. Furman will have to win close SoCon ballgames, because there are going to be several.
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BEST FCS PLAYER BY NUMBER: We count down, No. 99 through No. 1[divider]
TOP RETURNEE: NG Jaylan Reid (2nd team All SoCon)
THE NEXT BEST: RB Kealand Dirks (2nd team All SoCon – 720 yards rushing, 9 TDs); DB Aaquil Annoor (2nd team All SoCon); OL Reed Kroeber (HERO Sports Freshman All American); RB Darius Morehead (588 yards rushing, 5 TDs); WR/KR Thomas Gordon (39 catches, 717 yards receiving); DB Bryan Okeh (leading returning tackler – 83 stops); DE Chinedu Okonya (33 tackles, 6 TFL, 4.5 sacks); LB Elijah McKoy (81 tackles); LB Chris Washington (66 tackles, 3.5 sacks); LB Joe Farrar (75 tackles, 4.5 TFLs); PK Grayson Atkins (SoCon All Freshman team).
TOP NEWCOMER: QB Hamp Sisson (offers from Air Force, Army, Jacksonville State, Wofford, Citadel, among others)
DID YOU KNOW?: Since we’re in the middle of the World Cup, did you know that USA soccer player Clint Dempsey — who is tied for his country’s all-time lead in goal scoring — is a Furman product? If the USA had qualified (insert shaking head here), Dempsey may have played in his fourth Cup.
THE QUOTE: “It was a great day with a bunch of recruits here and perfect weather. The two quarterbacks, JeMar Lincoln and Harris Roberts, especially, did some good things, and I thought our receivers made some nice catches. Anytime you split the teams you worry about getting sloppy, but we did protect some guys and didn’t have 10 or 11 guys available today. Overall, though, we were pretty pleased with the execution, and it was good to be able to compete a bit. We came out pretty healthy and have two practices left to get in some final work.” — Head Coach Clay Hendrix said after the spring game
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #FUAllTheTime
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @PaladinFootball
Head Football Coach Clay Hendrix, a 1986 Furman graduate, played on three SoCon Championship teams (1982, ’83, and ’85) during his career.
6⃣2⃣ days to kickoff! #FUAllTheTime pic.twitter.com/1DshQrdBcB
— Furman Football (@PaladinFootball) July 1, 2018
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