Saturday, February 24, 2018

Quarterbacks solid in Purple-White scrimmage

Furman freshman quarterback JeMar Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Furman.
At the beginning of spring practice, Furman football coach Clay Hendrix anticipated the battle to replace graduated quarterback P.J. Blazejowski to last well into August. In addition to those returning, it will also give the two quarterback signees from the 2018 recruiting class a chance to compete. Based on the results of Furman's annual Purple-White spring scrimmage Saturday at Paladin Stadium, that thought hasn't changed.

Senior Harris Roberts and redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln, the two leading candidates among those returning, each had strong performances. In a game that featured four eight-minute quarters and a running clock, Roberts quarterbacked the Purple squad to a 16-10 victory. Coaches drafted the members of each team, and some players such as kicker Grayson Atkins and tailback Devin Wynn played for both squads.

Roberts completed 6-of-8 passes for 112 yards and carried once for a five-yard gain. Lincoln was 6-of-7 for 80 yards passing and had 22 yards rushing on three attempts.

"Both quarterbacks did some good stuff," Hendrix said. "They're a little different, but they can do all of our stuff. We're really pleased with how they've both progressed this spring and it's been about like they did today.
"The thing that's impressed me the most about JeMar is that he doesn't panic back there. He's not a skittish guy in the pocket and he takes care of the ball. He doesn't just throw one up."

On the opening drive of the game, Lincoln directed the White squad down the field with a mix of throwing and running with glimpses of his ability to escape a pass rush. After running for a 19-yard gain, Lincoln threw to Ryan DeLuca for a nine-yard touchdown.

On the Purple's first play, Roberts hurled a deep pass down the left sideline that Cam Burnette caught in stride for a 53-yard gain. That drive ended on a three-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to Jake Walker.

"That was fun," Roberts said of his first play. "I need to set an example. I've been here on losing teams and on a winning team. I know what needs to be done to win games and I just want to be able to show younger guys what it takes to go out and do it on Saturdays."

After kicking a 48-yard field goal to give the White a 10-7 lead, Atkins tied it up later with a 42-yard field goal for the Purple. On the ensuing possession, a high snap sailed over the head of Lincoln and the Purple's Elijah McKoy recovered at the nine-yard line. A few plays later, Deon Sanders plunged in for a one-yard touchdown and final score of the scrimmage.

"I was pretty pleased. When you split them up and it's not O vs. D, you might worry about it getting a little sloppy but I didn't think it was," Hendrix said. "Other than the bad snap by a guy at a new position and a missed extra point when they're not rushing by a really good kicker, there weren't really any mistakes that stood out."

DeLuca caught four passes for 65 yards, while Burnette caught three for 70 yards. Avery Armstrong had a pair of receptions for 39 yards. Wynn rushed four times for 26 yards.

After redshirting last season, Lincoln said his first spring practice has been good. While batting for a starting job, Lincoln has enjoyed how all the quarterbacks support each other.

"We're just working together as a team. There's only one guy out there and whoever it is, we've got to help him out because he's the guy leading our team," Lincoln said. "You've got to get better every day, but I feel like I've improved since the start of spring with my mechanics, footwork and just completing balls."

McKoy takes on leadership role
With the loss of many linebackers from last season, McKoy has sort of inherited a leadership role as a sophomore. McKoy is the most experienced inside linebacker returning as he made 81 tackles in 12 games as a freshman last season. In addition to his fumble recovery, he had three tackles in Saturday's short scrimmage.

"I feel like I improved a lot this spring. I definitely knew the system a lot better, so it helped having that experience," McKoy said. "There's always things to improve on, so I think I can still get better. ... With me being one of the only guys with experience, I've got to make sure the new guys get caught up and help them."

Inside linebacker was a thin position already that's been a bit thinner this spring as senior Tyler Voyles suffered a knee injury that will sideline him approximately six months. He made 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

"He got hurt on a non-contact drill. It's one of the good things about going (with spring practice) early," Hendrix said. "Sometimes you're surprised at how fast they come back, and sometimes they take longer. We'll see, but we're going to plan on having him back (for the season)."

Flu sidelines Morehead
Voyles was one of 10 players who was listed as out on Saturday's roster, but the rest were non-serious injuries. Those included cornerback Quandarius Weems, defensive end Alec Hanff, centers Chris Breedlove and Jonathan Bockhorst, offensive tackle Andy Godwin, and Clemson transfer cornerback/returner Amir Trapp.

Running back Darius Morehead was listed on the active roster, but did not participate Saturday. He's been dealing with the flu for the past few days.

"It's been a real challenge this spring trying to find time to practice. With classes, labs, flu, stomach bugs, weather and field sharing, it's been a challenge," Hendrix said. "But it's been a really productive spring. Watching those young guys develop has been a good sign. Defensively especially, we're so far ahead of where we were."

The Paladins will wrap up spring ball with a pair of practices this week.

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