By: Forest Stulting, Sports Editor
After a rough 2014 football season characterized by numerous injuries, the Paladins look to improve on their 3-9 record from last year in their season opener against Coastal Carolina Saturday, Sept. 5.
The Paladins have a daunting task ahead of them. After fifth-ranked Coastal Carolina, the team turns to play FBS teams Virginia Tech and Central Florida. Senior wide receiver Jordan Snellings described the games as a “gauntlet right out of the gate.” Hard as this threatens to be, the games will provide Furman with plenty of experience.
“We play all competitive teams. We’re diving right into it, no games off. This will help us to prepare for the SoCon schedule,” Snellings said.
Furman will open SoCon play at home against Virginia Military Institution Sept. 26, and will later host The Citadel (Oct. 24), and Mercer (Nov. 14). Winning home games against SoCon opponents is a huge key to success for the Paladins. Not only because it is the team’s home turf, but because the team needs to build momentum to face their opponents on the road.
The Paladins will travel to SoCon foes Chattanooga (Oct. 10), Samford (Oct. 31), Western Carolina (Nov. 7), and will close the regular season with Wofford (Nov. 21)—all of which are ahead of the fifth placed Paladins in the SoCon preseason standings.
The Paladins will also host in-state rival South Carolina State Oct. 3 to round out a tough non-conference schedule.
The season is not all grim, however. With a good amount of key starters and roll players getting injured last year, “…we have a lot of depth and experience now,” Snellings said. Those two traits will play a pivotal role in the Paladins overcoming their rigorous schedule.
The Paladins will return a number of veteran players to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball, including redshirt junior and team captain Reese Hannon under center. Hannon is coming off an ankle injury from the first game that sidelined him for the entire 2014 season. Look for this three-time team captain to have a strong 2015 season. At wide out, the Paladins have Snellings and junior Andrej Suttles, both of whom have big play capabilities.
Linebackers Cory Magwood and Carl Rider highlight the defensive side of the ball. Last year, Magwood led the SoCon in tackles with 123 and finished ninth in the FCS. On the other hand, Rider spent all of last year on the sideline due to a torn labrum, but in 2013 Rider recorded 136 tackles to lead the SoCon.
What do the Paladins need to do in order to have a successful season?
“Getting off to a good start against Coastal Carolina is huge for our season,” Snellings said, though the team’s preparation does not stop there. “Staying healthy, executing our jobs and taking care of business,” are all crucial to the WR and the rest of the team in order to have a successful season.