Know The Foe: Furman an experienced FCS squad

Know The Foe: Furman an experienced FCS squad

Football

Know The Foe: Furman an experienced FCS squad

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This summer, The Clemson Insider is taking a closer look at Clemson’s opponents heading into the 2022 season. The series will be rolled out in the order in which each opponent appears on the Tigers’ schedule.

After previewing Georgia Tech, Furman is up next.

Furman is the latest in-state FCS program to come back on Clemson’s schedule.

The Paladins will be heavy underdogs, but they won’t be without experience when they visit Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10. Furman is in line to return 15 starters and 42 letterwinners from a team that finished in the middle of the pack in the Southern Conference a season ago, which the Paladins will look to help them make a jump in their league this fall.

Offense

Jace Wilson returns as Furman’s starting quarterback after taking over that role midway through his freshman season last year. The dual-threat signal caller finished the year with 1,020 passing yards and six passing touchdowns and added 101 yards and two scores on the ground in seven games, but he’ll need to improve on his 51% completion rate in order to keep defenses honest. If not, former Presbyterian starter Tyler Huff could push for the starting job.

The quarterbacks will have help from the return of two of Furman’s top three running backs, Dominic Roberto and Devin Abrams, who combined for more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground a season ago. Tight end Ryan Miller (43 catches, 749 yards, 7 TDs) is also back as the Paladins’ top pass-catcher, and James Madison transfer Kyndel Dean should be a boost to the receiving corps. 

Defense

The Paladins have a wealth of seasoning on this side of the ball starting with safety Hugh Ryan, their leading tackler a season ago. At the second level, linebacker Braden Gilby is back after recording 59 tackles in 10 games last season. Meanwhile, cornerback Travis Blackshear is back for his senior season after pulling down a team-high five interceptions and breaking up five passes last season.

The front four is where Furman has the most questions entering the new season. The Paladins have some key pieces to replace up front in interior lineman Parker Stokes (7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) and edge rusher Elijah McKoy (7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks), but senior nose guard Cameron Coleman, an all-conference caliber player, is back after starting 15 games over the last two seasons.

Special teams

Furman’s kicking units will look a little different with Timmy Bleekrode no longer with the program. Bleekrode transferred to Nebraska after serving as the Paladins’ punter and kicker last season, leaving Furman in need of at least one new specialist. Sebastian Stubblefield and freshmen Noah Rios and Dawson Jones are among the candidates to replace Bleekrode, who averaged 42 yards per punt and converted on 15 of 18 field goals for the Paladins last season.

Paladins at a glance

Head coach: Clay Hendrix (sixth season)

2021 results: 6-5, 4-4 Southern Conference

Last meeting: Lost to Clemson, 48-7, in 2018

Key departures: RB Devin Wynn, P/PK Timmy Bleekrode

Key returners: QB Jace Wilson, RB Dominic Roberto, RB Devin Abrams, TE Ryan Miller, WR Joshua Harris, S Hugh Ryan, LB Braden Gilby, CB Travis Blackshear

Key additions: QB Tyler Huff, DE Mac Albert, CB Jalen Gummer, WR Riley Clark

Photo credit: Jessica Gallagher/Staff/USA Today Network

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