Saturday, October 27, 2018

QB questions abound as Furman visits Citadel

Furman redshirt freshman JeMar Lincoln is one of four potential starting
quarterbacks on this week's depth chart. Photo courtesy of Furman
The biggest question surrounding Furman is who will start at quarterback when the Paladins take on rival The Citadel Saturday at 2 p.m. in Charleston. The next biggest question is how many will play, no matter who starts.

Fresh off a Southern Conference Player of the Week performance in a 34-14 win over Wofford, starter Harris Roberts was knocked out after a vicious hit in the first quarter in last Saturday's 38-25 loss to Samford.

During his coaches show on Thursday night, Clay Hendrix said that Roberts is still "day-to-day," and was "quite limited" in practice this week.

"All three of our other guys got most of the (practice) reps and I thought all three did really well," Hendrix said Thursday. "We will make that decision and even when we make it, we probably won't share it until we go out there."

As Roberts worked his way back from a broken thumb in the preseason, he was getting better and better each week and bringing a spark to the offense. The senior captain appeared to have a calming influence over the squad as well.

Without Roberts last week, the Paladins turned to freshman Darren Grainger. While Grainger's shown a cannon for an arm - highlighted by last week's 77-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Gordon - and flashes of what could make him Furman's quarterback of the future, he's been hurt by turnovers.

Last week, it appeared that the Paladins could be going in to possibly take a 26-10 lead, but Grainger lost the ball. Samford All-American Ahmad Gooden scooped up the fumble, ran 58 yards for a touchdown and completely turned the game around.

Grainger left in the fourth quarter after being banged around by Gooden and his teammates. JeMar Lincoln came on for the first time since week two and directed Furman on a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by his five-yard touchdown pass to Avery Armstrong.

"They still had their first team defense in and I thought he managed it well and did a good job getting us in the end zone," Hendrix said after last week's game. "He's a pretty dynamic athlete and a really bright kid.
"The first person to greet JeMar as they were coming off the field (after the touchdown) was Darren. That's how he is all the time. He's got a bright future."

While experiencing the highs and lows that freshman quarterback everywhere may face this year, there's one thing worth remembering when assessing Grainger. Two years ago at this time, he was a junior wide receiver at Conway High.

The other quarterback possibility this week is freshman Hamp Sisson. Sisson quickly made a big impression on coaches in the preseason, but has yet to see the field this year. Given the new rule about redshirting, Sisson could play in each of the final four regular season games and still redshirt this season.

After playing the No. 1 rushing team in the FCS two weeks ago and the No. 1 passing team in the country last week, Furman goes back in the other direction again. The Citadel enters Saturday ranked seventh in the country in rushing at 282.3 yards per game.

Furman's chances of winning Saturday would be greatly boosted by another standout performance against the option by a Chad Staggs' coached defense. As a defensive coordinator at Charleston Southern and Furman, Staggs is 5-0 against the Bulldogs. In last season's 56-20 win over Citadel, the Paladins allowed just 146 yards on the ground - about 180 yards below the Bulldogs' average at the time.

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