Thursday, September 7, 2017

Loss of captain leaves young defense younger

Furman senior captain Dillon Woodruff is carted off after suffering
a broken leg against Wofford. Photo courtesy of Furman.
Furman linebacker Dillon Woodruff had successful surgery to repair his broken leg Sunday. The fifth-year senior was lost for the season after suffering a fractured tibia and fibula in his right leg during the second quarter of the Paladins' 24-23 loss at Wofford Saturday night.
Woodruff's loss leaves just two seniors on Furman's defensive two-deep: starting weak side linebacker Adekunle Olusanya and reserve free safety Sean Rusnak.
In addition to being a blow to what was arguably the Paladins' least experienced position entering this season, there's also the emotional side of playing without a senior captain. Woodruff earned that honor through his toughness and willingness to play wherever Furman needed him.
"We lost a huge part of our team tonight," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said Saturday. "Dillon kind of encompasses everything we want to be about, but it's an opportunity for somebody to step up."
In a cruel bit of irony, Woodruff's college career likely ended Saturday in the same fashion that it began four years ago. With 2013 starting quarterback Reese Hannon injured, Woodruff became Furman's first true freshman quarterback to start the season opener since Billy Baker in 1956.
While he threw a 70-yard touchdown and ran for another score in Furman's 28-21 loss at Gardner-Webb, Woodruff played much of the game with a shoulder injury. That injury sidelined him the rest of the season.
Woodruff was pressed into quarterback duty again in the 2014 season opener when Hannon suffered a season-ending ankle injury. That offseason, Woodruff switched sides of the ball and started at strong safety in the 2015 season opener.
Prior to last season, Woodruff shifted to linebacker and made a pair of starts there when Carl Rider was out with an injury. Woodruff racked up a career-high 16 tackles against Kennesaw State.
A week after seven Paladins made their first collegiate starts, an eighth is expected to this week against Elon when sophomore Alex Burch steps into Woodruff's spot. Burch collected eight tackles in relief of Woodruff against Wofford. Burch will be backed up by junior Tyler Voyles. That lineup change moved true freshman Elijah McKoy into this week's two-deep as Olusanya's backup.
• Outside of Woodruff's injury, Furman came away from the season opener healthy. Wide receiver Thomas Gordon came up limping after a spectacular diving catch on Furman's final drive, but was only dealing with cramps. Cramping also sidelined spur linebacker Joe Farrar for a portion of the Wofford game. Both are expected to start Saturday when the Paladins host Elon at 1 p.m.

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