By Greg Peterson, Staff writer
The Paladins’ surprising yet disappointing 2015 season saw the Paladins knocking off a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school for the first time since 1999 but still end up with a 4-7 record. The Paladins are looking forward to a much-improved 2016 season, but will first have to survive a grueling September schedule.
Opening the season Friday, Sept. 2 at Michigan State University (MSU) the Paladins will be huge dogs to start the year as Michigan State will be favored by 38 points in the opener. MSU was the 2015 Big Ten Champion and will be the Paladin’s first-ever Big Ten opponent in the 110 years of the program. The Paladins will then face Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff participants for the next three games.
The Paladins will begin SoCon play and travel down to face the defending SoCon co-conference-champions The Citadel Sept. 10. Winning games against SoCon opponents is vital for the Paladins’ success, especially early in the season.
Furman football has their home opener Sept. 17 against the other SoCon co-champion, Chattanooga. Chattanooga is the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference, and the game should provide plenty experience for the Paladins.
Furman goes back on the road to Coastal Carolina Sept. 24 another tough opponent that Furman will be hoping to upset during its difficult September. The Paladins will also travel to face other SoCon opponents East Tennessee State Oct. 15 and Virginia Military Institute Oct. 29. If Furman plans on making it through this grueling stretch it will have to remain healthy, something that has been a probelm in recent seasons.
Furman will host Wofford, its oldest football rival since 1889, Nov. 5 for Homecoming weekend, and looks to wrap up the season at Mercer Nov. 19.
It is still not clear who will be starting quarterback for the Paladins. Fifth-year senior Reese Hannon had 1,400 yards and six touchdowns last season but was sidelined by an injury at the end of the season. P.J. Blazejowski started in place of the injured Hannon and finished the year with 1,376 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as four rushing scores.
While the quarterback conversation will continue on throughout the season, Hannon has become the first Paladin in school history to be named a captain four different seasons.
The other captains on the team include true senior Duncan Flethcer and defensive end Trey Robinson. Robinson leads the team in games played with 33 so far under his belt.
Returning for the Paladins on the offensive side of the ball are receivers Andrej Suttles and Logan McCarter, and newcomer Darius Morehead is set to be the starter at running back. Defensive returners are linebacker Carl Rider, defensive end Brad Minter and safety Trey Robinson.
Coach Bruce Fowler is returning for his sixth season as the head coach and will be looking for his first solo SoCon championship in the 2016 campaign.