By Owen Mercer
Although the Furman Paladins football team has not reached the playoffs since 2006, there is hope that that will change this year.
New head coach Bruce Fowler has instituted both a defense and offense designed to correct many problems that have plagued the Paladins recently and make Furman more competitive in the Southern Conference. Fowler, a former longtime Furman assistant coach who returned from Vanderbilt last year, is a stellar defensive coach and has stressed the importance of mixing pass rushes and blitzes with coverage.
Furman ranked last in the Southern Conference in 2010 in both rushing yards allowed and sacks. Fowler’s new scheme should go a long way in stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, while not giving up long pass plays. Seven starters return from last year’s defensive side, including linebacker Kadarron Anderson and cornerback Ryan Steed. Both have been tabbed as preseason All-Americans and are the leaders of a unit looking to improve on last season. Other key returners are linebacker Mitch McGrath, defensive end Josh Lynn and linebacker Chris Wiley.
Offensively, the Paladins will look virtually the same as in 2010. Gone is wide receiver Adam Mims, who holds multiple school records. Quarterbacks Dakota Derrick and Chris Forcier return and are expected to battle for the starting job. Despite the loss of Mims, who recently signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Furman still retains an impressive receiving corps. Seniors SederrickCunningham, David Hendrix and Tyler Maples, along with juniors Daniel McFadden, Colin Anderson and Will King, all have experience and should help key the Furman passing attack. Fowler has said that he will run the football more in 2011, which is good news for returning backs Tersoo Uhaa, Jerry Williams and Hank McCloud. The offensive line also returns three starters in Ryan Lee, Daniel Spisakand Dakota Dozier.
Placekicker Ray Early, an All-SoCon member last year, and punter Chas Short both return as well and will highlight a stellar special teams unit that has earned praise from Fowler during preseason practice.
Paladin fans will have to wait a while to see their team in action, unfortunately. The team’s first two games, against Coastal Carolina and the Citadel, are away and the Paladins don’t play at home until Sept. 24 against Presbyterian.