I had a lot of questions regarding Clemson's upcoming opponent, the Furman Paladins, and went over to www.theuffp.com to try and better understand what to prepare for when Furman visits Death Valley. We found the local expert (handle name Astropup) and he was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions. Head over to The Unofficial Furman Football Page if you have further questions about all things Furman. Thanks again for The UFFP directing us to a knowledgeable fan and Astropup for taking the time to answer our questions.
STS Question: Furman graduated Chris Forcier last season. Forcier was a very talented QB transfer from UCLA who did a nice job for the Paladins. Furman replaces Forcier with true freshman Reese Hannon. How do the two compare and can Hannon adjust to the collegiate game quickly enough to put Furman in a position to compete for a Southern Conference Championship?
Astropup Answer: Trying to compare Forcier to Hannon is like comparing apples to oranges, Chris was a FBS caliber athlete, saying he was fast was an understatement, FCS schools rarely have a 6-3 athlete who can run a 4.4 much less sub 4.4. What was surprising about Forcier's play last season was his efficiency, he ended up last season as the most efficient passer in the FCS. Forcier was a threat as a runner on every play, his legs also gave him opportunities to make things happen in the passing game. So, what are you going to see from Reese Hannon? What an opportunity for Reese to play at Death Valley only one year removed from playing Blue Ridge HS. Last Saturday against Coastal Carolina, it was a mess, no less than a monsoon, hard rain, wind, and then disaster struck Furman's fifth-year senior qb Dakota Derrick gets injured on near the end of the first half. Hannon has to come in cold his first time in a college setting, what do the Furman coaches call? A third-down pass play which fell incomplete. The second half and the following three overtimes the Paladin faithful saw hope. Hannon displayed a strong arm, maneuverability, and more importantly some moxie and leadership. Will Reese lead the Paladins to a SoCon championship this season, that might be tough but the future looks bright for Reese and Furman.
STS Question: Last season, the Paladins came out and punched Florida right in the mouth. They essentially transformed themselves from a pro-style offense to a double wing/single back but balanced offense, particularly early on in that contest. Do you expect to see mostly standard "I" formation moving forward or has Furman integrated some of the changes we saw against Florida into their offense?
Astropup Answer: Furman has deployed that formation many times against FBS foes... I believe the correct name for some of the sets Furman has used is the Rio-Lido Formation. I can't speak for the Furman coaches but when you face a team as talented as Clemson it will be very hard for Furman to line up and go straight at the Tigers. Much like Wofford, Furman could use some of these formations to keep the Tigers off balance if that's even possible, this is a great Tiger team.
As far as what is the base Furman offense? Furman runs the I, some pro set, some spread option, for the last ten years Furman has run a multi-set offense.
STS Question: What are the strengths of the 2012 Furman football team? What are the weaknesses?
Astropup Answer: Offensive strengths; tailbacks, tight end, and the offensive line has been a strength so far this season. Offensive weaknesses; consistent quarterback play, and turn overs.
Defensive strengths; the cautious line, and the linebackers. Defensive weaknesses; corner backs, and to some extent, the safeties, which should be a strength.
Another weakness that many Furman fans are concerned about is special teams; two fumbled punt returns, and giving up some long kickoff returns.
STS Question: Who are the playmakers we need to be aware of, both on offense and defense?
On offense, it's the running backs Jerodis Williams is a very good running back, he has excellent balance, can break tackles, and he has enough speed that he outran the Florida defense on a long touchdown rush last season. His backup Hank McCloud is shifty and has quick feet. Colin Anderson is Furman's All-American tight end (6-4 237) is pretty quick, reported speed around 4.6. Anderson is a match up problem for FCS teams, so this will be the player to watch, hopefully Furman can get Anderson the ball and let him make plays. Our receivers are scrappy and deceptive, Will King (6-0 180) is a small, quick possession type receiver, Ryan Culbreath (6-4 213) is a great blocker, and when he gets the ball in space, he can run. The rest of the receivers are young, but they're starting to step up, I like Snellings #1 (6-2 185) a lot.
On defense, the Clemson fans should enjoy watching Mitch McGrath #20 at linebacker. He's the heart of the defense, Mitch plays with a lot of emotion. On the line Josh Lynn (6-5 255) is a very good defensive end, his bookend Shawn Boone (6-3 233) is experienced, and plays with a motor. I would also say that Furman's other two linebackers Solomon and Wilkerson are typical Furman linebackers, smart, disciplined and hard hitters. At both safety positions Furman has two very good players, with the potential to be the best combo safeties in the SoCon, Wade and Worthy are athletic and physical.
STS Question: Last week Furman lost to Coastal Carolina in triple overtime. I heard a lot of complaining about the prevent defense Furman resorted to late in the game. What did Furman do on defense (i.e., blitz, use extra defensive backs, just physically dominate) that was successful and where were their shortcomings?
Astropup Answer: After giving up an opening Coastal Carolina drive for a score, the Furman defense played very well until the game turned into a score fest. Furman was down 22-12 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter and score two touchdowns in a little over a minute and a half. After Furman took the lead (25-22) with forty seconds left, it appeared that Furman was playing some form of prevent defense, and they missed some assignments were missed... two pass plays later Coastal kicked a 45-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. In overtime the Coastal quarterback, Aramis Hillary played lights out; he reminded me of your QB Tajh Boyd. Getting back to what Furman did on defense that was successful; the Furman defensive line was able to put pressure on Hillary, that took away the pass for most of the second through fourth quarters.
STS Question: Based on the first two football games, what are realistic expectations for this football team in 2012?
Astropup Answer: Furman is a young football team; Furman will during the course of the game against the Tigers put on the field at least 17 redshirt and true freshmen. You might think so, many a FBS team plays a bunch of freshmen; you have to remember FCS 63 scholarships, FBS 85. When a team like Furman is playing that many freshmen its a depth issue, on the flip side, it means some youngsters have beaten out some veterans too. I think Furman will continue to get better week by week, my heart says 6-5, if we're lucky 7-4, my brain says 5-6. I want to add that I'm excited about Furman Football more about that next question.
STS Question: Bruce Fowler is getting into his second season as head man at Furman. What are your initial thoughts on his work to date and what expectations should Furman fans have with Fowler as coach?
Astropup Answer: Bruce is exactly who needs to be at Furman right now. Coach Fowler is rebuilding Furman, and bringing back the elements that made modern-day Furman football successful. Tough, discipline, football with a little bit of edginess. Coach Fowler is a Dick Sheridan disciple, but he's also his own man. I think Bruce has done a great job on the field, and getting the type of players he wants and feels he needs to compete in the SoCon.
Furman will start another new era next season, new press box and football complex, and possibly field turf. Coach Fowler needs them to compete in the SoCon, there's been an arms race of facilities even at the FCS level.
If I can I would love to close with how much as a Furman fan, I Iove the David vs Goliath match ups, especially against your big brothers. I wish the Tigers good luck the rest of the season. I think you guys are going to have a great season.