Countdown to Kickoff: Tigers host Furman in season opener

Countdown to Kickoff: Tigers host Furman in season opener

Feature

Countdown to Kickoff: Tigers host Furman in season opener

Furman at No. 2 Clemson

Second-ranked Clemson kicks off its 123rd football season on Saturday when the Tigers host in-state foe Furman at Death Valley in Clemson.

The Tigers return 17 starters and 61 lettermen from last year’s 12-2 team that won a third straight ACC Championship and earned a berth in the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.

Clemson comes into the new season as the heavy favorite to win the ACC. The Paladins head into the contested ranked No. 21 in the country after coming off an 8-5 season, who saw them advance the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Game information:

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

Records: Clemson 0-0, Furman 0-0

When: Saturday, 12:20 p.m.

TV: ACC Network (Channel 40 in the Upstate of South Carolina; ESPN 3)

Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network); Sirius Radio Ch. 111

Latest Line: No line

Series: Clemson leads the series 42-10-4

First meeting: Clemson won 14-6 in Greenville, S.C.

Last meeting: Clemson won 41-7 on Sept. 15, 2012

Streak: Clemson has won 30 straight

Three story lines

Clemson will start Kelly Bryant at quarterback after the senior edged Trevor Lawrence in fall camp. However, Lawrence will play in the game as well and all 81,500 eyes in the stadium will be on the 6-foot-6, 215-pound freshman. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says he will play both quarterbacks and he will let the competition play out on the field.

Clemson hopes to improve to 92-23-8 all-time in season openers. The Tigers are 8-1 in season openers under head coach Dabo Swinney.

Clemson looks for its 31st consecutive win against Furman, while extending its unbeaten streak against the Paladins to 32 consecutive games. The last tie between the two teams occurred in 1937, and the most recent Furman victory in the series came during the 1936 campaign. Clemson’s 30-game winning streak against Furman is its longest active winning streak against any opponent.

Furman players to watch

Harris Roberts, quarterback: Redshirt senior quarterback Harris Roberts will be part of a unique moment when he suits up for the Paladins’ on Saturday. That’s because Roberts is now a student at Clemson, where he is part of the NCAA’s Cooperative Educational Exchange program that in Furman’s case allows a student seeking a full engineering degree (not offered by Furman) to complete their final two years of classwork at Clemson or Georgia Tech. In Roberts’ case, once his engineering curriculum at Clemson is complete, he will receive undergraduate degrees from both institutions — a B.S. in pre-engineering from Furman and B.S. from Clemson in mechanical engineering. The Cumming, Ga., product has been enrolled at Clemson since the fall of 2017 and is on schedule to finish his Clemson degree requirements next spring. Roberts is expected to start the game.

Amir Trapp, Cornerback: Furman’s starting lineup is expected to feature junior cornerback Amir Trapp, the former Clemson Tiger who joined the Paladin program in January following three years at Clemson. Trapp, a former all-state and Shrine Bowl performer as a cornerback and return specialist at Daniel (S.C.) High School, saw action for the Tigers in both 2016 and ‘17, including 10 contests in 2017. His father, James Trapp, was a standout defensive back at Clemson (1989-92) who went on to play 11 years in the NFL and win a Super Bowl Championship ring with the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the 2000 season. In addition he also won a gold medal in the 4×100 at the 1992 Olympics.

Jonathan Bockhorst, center: The Furman-Clemson game will pit brothers against each other in Paladin center Jonathan Bockhorst (6-3, 284, R-Jr.) and Tiger redshirt freshman offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst. Cincinnati, Ohio, products and graduates of St. Xavier High School, both players are looking to see action in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 campaign — Jonathan’s coming as a result of a knee injury sustained in the preseason a year ago.

Furman scouting report

Furman returns 15 starters off last year’s team that posted an 8-5 record under first year head coach Clay Hendrix and advanced to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs — the program’s first playoff appearance since 2013. ..Nine starters, led by senior safety Aaquil Annoor (64 tack., 4.5 TFL, 2 FF), sophomore linebacker Elijah McKoy (81 tack., 1 FF), and redshirt senior nose guard Jaylan Reid (45 tack., 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks) return off a defensive unit that paced the SoCon in sacks (34) a year ago. Offensively, the Paladins sport five returning regulars, led by redshirt senior running back Kealand Dirks (720 rushing yds., 9 TDs), junior wide receiver Thomas Gordon (39 rec., 717 yds., TD), and sophomore offensive lineman Reed Kroeber. Furman also returns the SoCon’s leading kick scorer, sophomore Grayson Atkins (55×55 PATs, 9×13 FGs). The biggest position losses include All-America/SoCon Jacobs Blocking Award center Matthew Schmidt, All-SoCon quarterback P.J. Blazejowski (2,461 yds. passing, 19 TDs, 172.3 pass efficiency rating), All-SoCon running back Antonio Wilcox (814 rushing yds., 14 TDs), and All-SoCon tight end Andy Schumpert (32 rec., 652 yds., 9 TDs).

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