From Furman Sports Information:
Under the direction of new head coach Bruce Fowler, the Furman Paladins kick off 2011 football spring practice on Monday with a 4:30 workout in shorts and helmets.
Approximately 75 players are expected to take part in Monday’s session, the first of 15 scheduled practices over a 30-day period, as allowed by the NCAA.
“Monday will be the first time we’ll be able to get out as a team, so there is a high level of excitement all around,” said Fowler, who returned to his alma mater in December following a nine-year tenure at Vanderbilt, where he served primarily as the Commodores’ defensive coordinator.
He welcomes the return of 48 lettermen and 17 starters off last year’s squad.
“We’ve been very pleased with the our off-season conditioning program under John Sisk, our new strength and conditioning coach, so we’ll look to build on that.
“Fundamentals and technique will a major point of emphasis as we introduce a new system, learn how to practice the way we want, and concentrate on doing a few things well.
“Getting out on the field will allow us to begin the evaluation process and make adjustments along the way.”
Offensively Furman returns six starters off a unit that lacked consistency in 2010, ranking last in the SoCon in time of possession while averaging just 321.5 yards/game, 50 yards less than in 2009.
Several positional battles are expected, including quarterback, where senior Chris Forcier and junior Dakota Derrick return. Forcier began the 2010 season as Furman’s starting signal caller but sustained a season ending shoulder injury against South Carolina in game two, thus allowing Derrick to move up the depth chart on the way to securing two late season starts.
The Paladin backfield returns its top two rushers in junior Jerodis Williams (84 att., 389, 6 TDs) and senior Tersoo Uhaa (73 att., 325 yds., 7 TDs), who have combined to run for 2,152 yards and 37 touchdowns in their careers.
Colin Anderson (16 rec., 242 yds., 3 TDs), a junior, is back at tight end after fashioning an impressive 2010 campaign in his first year of starting duty, but the position lacks depth.
Furman’s biggest positional challenge is expected to come along its offensive line, where only two starters, senior enter Daniel Spisak and sophomore left tackle Dakota Dozier, return. Ryan Storms, a sophomore who earned two starts at guard last fall before being sidelined due to injury, will miss workouts due to ongoing rehabilitation efforts. Jordan Eshelman, Will White, Matt Blades, John Nenos will compete to fill the voids at guard and tackle but lack any notable experience, thus potentially clearing the way for redshirt freshmen Charles Emert, Ryan Marks, and Grayson Weber to enter the picture.
With four of its top five wide receivers back, Furman should be able to weather the graduation of two-time All-Southern Conference performer Adam Mims (55 rec. 724 yds., 5 TDs in 2010), who completed his tenure with 198 receptions — a new Furman career standard. Sederrik Cunningham (18 rec., 238 yds.), Tyler Maples (19 rec., 151 yds., 3 TDs), and David Hendrix (14 rec., 210 yds, 1 TD) — all seniors — and junior Daniel McFadden (7 rec., 100 yds., 2 TDs) are proven performers who have combined for 203 receptions for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdown catches for the Paladins.
Nine starters return on defense, a fact that bodes well for a unit that last season sliced 6.0 points per game and 60 yards per outing off 2009’s numbers.
A potential bastion of strength appears to be defensive line, where three starters and nine lettermen are back. Four defensive ends — juniors Josh Lynn (54 tackles, 10 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 FR) and Aaron Riley (21 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks), and Ricky Lang (21 tackles, 5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 FR) and sophomore Shawn Boone (22 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack) — boast starting experience, thus providing the most impressive depth in the program.
The two inside slots will be contested among four veteran players, including junior Colton Keig (21 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), senior Cody Reynolds (14 tackles, 1 TFL), and a pair of sophomores, Neal Rodgers (10 tackles) and Rashaun Phillips (11 tackles, 1.5 TFL).
Starting linebackers Kadarron Anderson (121 tackles, 7.5 TFL), a two-time All-SoCon selection, and Chris Wiley (72 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 FR) — both seniors — are back and will be get support from Matt Solomon (33 tackles) and Tim Lawrence (6 tackles).
The Paladin secondary returns four of five regulars, with the graduation of All-SoCon rover Max Lerner counting as the only departure.
At cornerback Furman sports one of the top performers in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in senior All-SoCon performer Ryan Steed (65 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 INT, 9 PBU, 3 FF), who last year returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns, as well as a fumble recovery 89 yards. His opposite, senior Jordan Griffin (40 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PBU), is a two-year starter.
Senior Sterling Johnson (35 tackles, 2 INT, 2 PBU) and Greg Worthy (52 tackles, 3.5 TFL,1 PBU, 1 FF), a sophomore, give the Paladins quality depth at bandit. In 2010 Johnson started the first seven games before giving way to Worthy in the last four contests.
Mitch McGrath (21 tackles, 1 TFL), a junior, appears set to take over at rover. He earned two starts at the position as a redshirt freshman in 2009.
There is starting experience and depth at free safety in juniors Nathan Wade (63 tackles, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR) and Derrick Murray (15 tackles, 1 PBU).
The kicking game proved to be a major plus for Furman in 2010, and it should again be strong with the return of sophomore placekicker Ray Early (10×11 FGs, 40×41 PATs) and senior punter Chas Short (38.3 avg.).
Furman opens the 2011 season on Sept. 3 at Coastal Carolina.