The Dual threat quarterback is not what I was planning on writing about for this piece on Furman, however, things happen and that’s not always a bad thing. Originally, this was supposed to be an article about the differential between the FBS Group of Five and FCS top-tier, however, what transpired Saturday at the one-time Atlanta Braves home — Turner Field — between Furman and Georgia State, wrote itself and, in a way, answered my question.
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My opinion is that, despite the scholarship differential, there isn’t much difference between the Group of Five, and the solid FCS programs. The Panthers went a long way in doing at least some of that last Saturday, when the Panthers shock-topped the Tennessee Volunteers at Rocky Top, 38-30, in week one.
This past Saturday's affair was a battle of a pair of talented dual-threat quarterbacks, it was Furman’s Darren Grainger that will be in focus in terms of how he is a game-changer in how he can affect a game with both his arm and his legs. Not to be overlooked is the even better performance by Georgia State’s Dan Ellington, who helped stun Rocky Top last Saturday in Knoxville to garner Sun Belt Player of the Week honors, as he completed 29-of-37 for a career-high 362 yards and a program all-time record five touchdown passes to five different receivers. His 448-yard effort in total offense accounted for the third-most in Georgia State history.
Saturday night, Grainger put in a show in the old Braves ballpark, as he registered the third-most passing yards in Furman history by a freshman signal-caller (323) and fourth-best mark in school history for total offense (378).
Grainger was sensational in just his second full game as the starting redshirt freshman quarterback for the Paladins, however, did start two games last season prior to red-shirting last season. Grainger finished the night just 23 yards shy of setting a new total offense record for by a Paladin quarterback.
He helped the Paladins to 42 points, which is tied for their most against FBS competition all-time in school history, tying a pair of pretty good other dual-threat Paladin quarterbacks that were in their own right, as Bobby Lamb helped the Paladins put up 42 points against in a Paladin win over NC State in 1985, and Renaldo Gray repeating that feat in 2006 in a Paladin loss against North Carolina.
Though Gray (2005-08), Lamb (1982-85) and Frankie DeBusk (1987-90) were all dual-threat signal-callers in there own right back in the day for Furman football, this type of quarterback is the exception rather than the rule for Furman.
North Dakota State in recent history has had guys that could move pretty well in those championship runs, but I am sure no one in Fargo is ready to call Brock Jensen (2010-13), Carson Wentz (2012-15) and Easton Stick (2015-18) true dual-threat type signal-callers, however, new quarterback Trey Lance is part of that dual threat trend in college football, which hasn’t necessarily always been the case for NDSU, but has been an ongoing trend in FCS programs throughout the past three-plus decades.
The FCS started to raise eyebrows back in January of 2007. What do I mean by that? Well, it wasn’t a direct eyebrow-raiser for the subdivision, however, it had its roots there. But the dual-threat quarterback I would argue was started by HBCUs at the FCS level, and progressed to other programs, eventually reaching the eyeballs of coaches at the FBS level. They have changed the game.
On Sept 1, 2007, we all know Appalachian State, with 23 less scholarships, upset preseason No. 5 Michigan, 34-32. But while those upsets may have been trailblazers, the FCS over FBS upset isn’t something new at all. Since Division I was re-classified in 1982, splitting into Division I into the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision, there have been 114 wins by FBS over the FCS.
The trailblazers are names you need to familiarize yourself with. These guys changed college football and all were at the FCS level. Guys like Tracy Ham, Ja’juan Seider (Florida A&M, 1996-99), Steve McNair (Alcorn State, 1991-94), in some ways, were ahead of their time.
Grainger is the type of quarterback trend we are continuing to see in the FCS, and it’s not all that new. Grainger, and his counterpart Ellington of are the type of quarterback that give you the edge no matter the competition you are facing, and especially against group of five FBS, and sometimes, power five FBS programs.
Like Appalachian State former quarterback Armanti Edwards, Grainger played QB for only one season at a successful football program in the Palmetto State. Edwards did his thing at Greenwood High School, while Grainger played WR for three years before switching to QB as a senior at Conway High School.
“Each practice and each game throughout the week, I just grow and try and learn as much as possible,” Furman quarterback Darren Grainger said. “It’s just reps and reps and reps and I get so much out of practice during the week and working out with my teammates in the off-season that it has made the transition easier for me, I just love these guys. I love playing with these guys,” Grainger added.
It’s been since the advent of the spread, which began roughly in 2007, and nuances made to that offense, that have allowed for guys like Grainger to see their numbers flourish and those offenses put up gaudy 500-yard afternoons.
Saturday night at a place that they used to call the Atlanta, GA, which was the newest version of the launching pad, it was a dual-threat signal-caller for Furman–Grainger–that might launch Furman into a serious threat to make a deep run into the FCS playoffs, which is a place the Paladins and Clay Hendrix missed out on last year.
"I'm glad Darren Grainger plays for us. I'm just really proud of him," Furman head coach Clay Hendrix said. "He had a heck of a football game and I thought we did some really good things offensively. It's going to be fun to watch him continue to grow.
"One thing I know is we have a chance to have a really, really good football team," Thomas Gordon, Furman’s senior wide receiver set single-game career highs for receptions (8) and receiving yards (163) to go with a TD grab, said this of his quarterback.
“Me [Thomas Gordon] and Darren [Grainger] we work on our connection everyday and we take it serious. He’s really worked hard to show he’s earned his spot,” Furman wide receiver Thomas Gordon said of his QB.
As long as Grainger is around making plays, and with the talent he has around him like that seasoned offensive line, running backs like Devin Wynn and Corey Watkins, and big play receiving threats like tight end Ryan Miller and big-play wideout Thomas Gordon, it would certainly be hard to argue with Hendrix. Grainger makes an already talented Furman offense a different animal altogether.
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