Previewing the Furman Paladins

Forget about forking over $7 for all the preseason magazines devoted to conferences and Top 25 pre-season teams. The only pre-season magazine you need to read is right here online at

For the next few weeks I will preview each match up the Tigers have this fall in the order in which the games will be played. The articles will feature items such as key returning players, opponents Strengths, opponents weaknesses, intangibles, an unofficial spread, and of course a prediction.

In other words, save your precious money and stick to for previews you can actually use.

The Breakdown
Furman at Clemson
September 6th, 2003

Furman is the 2nd opponent of the 2003 season for the Tigers as the Paladins will enter Death Valley for a 5:00 p.m. kickoff (thank you Terry Don Phillips).

Furman plays in the Southern Conference, which is the premier conference in Division I-AA. The Paladins are heading into their 2nd year under head coach and former player Bobby Lamb. Furman finished the 2002 season at 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the Southern Conference, which was good enough for a tie for 2nd place. Furman is just 2 years removed from playing in the Division I-AA National Championship game in the last year of Bobby Johnson's reign (Johnson is now the head coach at Vanderbilt).

Furman has finished in the top 3 of the Southern Conference in each of the last 4 years, a pretty impressive statistic considering the quality of football that is played in that conference. Most preseason publications dedicated to the Southern Conference predict the Paladins to finish anywhere between 3rd and 5th this year.

This will be Furman's 2nd game of the season, as they open up with Elon at home on August 30.

Key Returning Players For The Paladins
For starters, Furman must replace Mister Everything in quarterback Billy Napier. In the Spring, Junior Bo Moore and Jeremiah Van Dora battled it out for the right to be named starter. Expect Moore to be barking the signals in Death Valley on September 6.

Hindley Brigham returns for the Paladins after rushing for a respectable 760 yards last year. For most teams that would be above average, but Furman has been a run dominated team for almost 2 decades, and 700 yards is not quite up to Paladin standards. Lamar Rembert will also get plenty of touches as the year goes on.

Defensively, the Paladins return 7 starters from a good defensive unit in 2002. The Paladins weaknesses last year were on creating turnovers, something the coaching staff stressed in the spring.

Furman Strengths
When talking of Furman, you must first start with the system that has brought the Paladins tremendous success since the days of Dick Sheridan. Furman plays a fundamentally sound brand of football that relies on not making stupid mistakes and penalties on offense and tackling well on defense. That system also makes Furman competitive against Division I-A competition, which climaxed for the Paladins with a win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill several years ago.

While not imposing in size, the Paladins play solid defense that does not give up many big plays. Most opponents are forced to maintain long drives in order to score on the Paladins, who also are solid in the kicking game to force long fields for their defense to defend.

Furman Weaknesses
The Paladins are slow. Even by Southern Conference standards, the Paladins are below average in speed. Compared to Division I-A, they are very slow. Vanderbilt (not exactly known for their overall team speed) seemed to run circles around Furman last year in Nashville. This creates huge mismatches on the corners with opponent's receivers and also for the Padadin secondary.

Lack of quarterback experience is also a big negative heading into the 2003 season. Furman asks their quarterbacks to be drop back passers and option runners all in the same breath. Napier was allowed to check off plays, something Moore will not be able to do in Clemson. The one position where a player can get that "deer in the headlights" look when David is trying to slay Goliath is most certainly at quarterback, and this is a major concern for the Paladins in their first road game.

No matter what happens August 30 for Clemson, the Furman game is bound to be a letdown. A big win over Georgia will have the Tigers looking towards competing for an upper-tier ACC spot. A loss versus Georgia will have a Tiger team limping into game two without much reason to get too excited. Either case is a big negative for the Tigers, who simply are not good enough to sleep walk to an easy win over a quality Division I-AA team.

Another item working for the Paladins is last year's embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt. The Commodores floored Furman 49-18 early last year in a game that Furman actually felt like they could win. The sting of that loss still labors on the Paladins, who feel that can (at the very least) be competitive with Division I-A teams.

Unofficial Spread
Vegas does not have official spreads for games versus Division I-AA teams, but it is safe to say that a 30 point win (at a minimum) will be expected by Tiger fans versus Furman.

Clemson Narrowly Escapes Upset, Downs Furman 27-17. Clemson will move to 2-0 on the season, but they won't look very impressive in doing so. This game will still be undecided late into the 3rd quarter and possibly into the 4th quarter. The Tigers will be coming off too much of an emotional high after the victory over Georgia and will be looking past a solid Paladin team.

Clemson moves to 2-0 but drops out of the "Others Receiving Votes" category of the polls.

Scott Rhymer can be reached at Scott is the co-host of the Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays. Top Stories