|Furman placekicker Grayson Atkins booted a 60-yard field goal |
during Saturday's scrimmage. Photo courtesy of Furman
Shiflett, who joined the Paladins this summer after departing Middle Tennessee State, took all of his snaps Saturday at wide receiver. That's a position he played in all 14 games at MTSU last year. While Shiflett has spent more time at quarterback than receiver over the opening week of preseason practice, Furman coach Clay Hendrix said that will probably flip moving forward.
There's a couple of reasons why. Hendrix said the one position he wishes had more depth at this year is receiver. Secondly, the staff has plenty of confidence in Grainger and Sisson, both of whom have the advantage of being in Furman's system for more than a year. Hendrix said they're also confident in sophomore Jack Hardin as the No. 3 quarterback.
"Luke's one of those guys who, every day, just seems to show up. He could play quarterback for us. I just don't know if he can do it this year," Hendrix said following Saturday's scrimmage. "He's also a guy who's never been under center.
"He's a big, athletic kid who's really bright. ... He's got all those things we're looking for. I have no doubt he's going to help our football team."
Grainger and Sisson kept up their strong preseasons Saturday. Most notably on display was Grainger's arm strength and Sisson's reads on tucking and running the ball. Hendrix said compared to last year, when the duo were competing to fill in for an injured Harris Roberts to start this season, the difference is night and day for both.
"It's not even close. We've been tracking all their numbers. We kind of break it up into 7-on-7 numbers versus team rep numbers and they're within two percentage points of each other through seven practices," Hendrix said. "They've both been really solid."
While the quarterbacks were solid and freshman running back Wayne Anderson Jr. shined, Furman's defense "won the day" for the most part. This was particularly true on third-and-short yardage situational drills as the Paladins front swarmed to the ball time and again, and forced a pair of fumbles. Taylor Hodge and Jonah Tibbs had particularly big hits to stuff runs.
Perhaps the biggest blowup of a Furman run play Saturday was courtesy of its newest defensive lineman, Caleb Auer. Auer, who began his Furman career at tight end before moving to offensive tackle, has switched to the other side of the ball for his senior season.
"I looked at him and said, 'did you hear that call?' ... He just kinda smiled at me," Hendrix said. "We felt really good about our depth on the offensive line. I think if you asked him a long time ago, that's (defense) probably where he wanted to be."
Once situational drills were done, the game scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice consisted of five possessions:
Grainger guided the Paladins down near the red zone on the opening possession. It ended when senior cornerback Amir Trapp made a great read and a leaping interception at the goal line.
Sisson got the next rep and that possession ended on the biggest highlight of the day. Junior placekicker Grayson Atkins attempted a field goal from smack dab in the middle of the diamond F. Atkins' 60-yard attempt went right down the middle of the uprights with quite a few yards to spare.
"It was one of those as soon as he hit it, you knew he hit it good," Hendrix said. "He's got such a strong leg."
Hardin's lone rep resulted in the lone touchdown when Anderson scored on a four-yard run. That play was set up when Shiflett caught a pass in traffic over the middle and raced to the left sideline for about a 17-yard gain.
With the staff already knowing what they have in running backs Corey Watkins and Devin Wynn, they really didn't get in the mix for carries Saturday. Anderson took full advantage of the opportunity to show off his quick feet. While the Paladins' defensive front controlled those short-yardage situations, Anderson routinely popped off 5- to 10-yard runs.
"He really showed up today, but he's shown up all fall," Hendrix said.
Anderson and linebacker Josh Agbenou are "the two (freshmen) who have really stood out," according to Hendrix. Other freshmen that Hendrix expects to "help us" this season are offensive linemen Even Jumper and Pearson Toomey, at least one of safeties' Austin Jones and Hugh Ryan, and at least one of cornerbacks' Kam Brinson and Cally Chizik.
Ryan, who had an interception during situational drills Saturday, is one of three Paladins recovering from mono. He helped Dutch Fork win the last three Class 5A state championships.
"I think we can get him out of the red (limited-contact jersey) next week," Hendrix said. "He's won a bunch of games and he's smart, which is a great combination. You always like having guys that are used to winning."
The fourth possession culminated when Atkins missed a 28-yard field goal before connecting on a do-over from the same spot. The final possession ended with the Paladins around midfield as the scrimmage wrapped up.
Overall, Hendrix felt pretty good about what he saw in the two-hour plus practice on a brutally hot afternoon at Paladin Stadium.
"I was pleased with how we started on defense, but our offense started slow," Hendrix said. "It's a double-edged sword. We created some turnovers, which is something we haven't been great at, but we turned it over a few times (on offense). What I do like is that we (defense) created them. We had a couple of good breaks on balls.
"We got a lot of really good situational work done, which we need. ... I don't think we got anybody dinged up. ... I don't think we've got anybody that's ready to play a football game conditioning-wise. We're in good shape, but it's just a little different when you've got to go play, push on somebody and have somebody push on you."
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