Friday, August 23, 2019

Paladins wrap up productive preseason

Furman senior captain Jordan Willis is part of a deep, experienced
group of spurs and bandits. Photo courtesy of Furman
While the season opener is still eight days away, it's officially "game week" for the Furman football team. The last of 18 preseason practices was held Thursday as the Paladins now transition to more of its in-season mode in preparing for next Saturday's game against Charleston Southern.

In his third preseason of coaching the Paladins, Clay Hendrix said this year's was like "night and day" compared to the either of the first two.

"Last year, it took us about four or five games into the season just to learn how to practice. ... Credit to our coaches, organization-wise. They've coached the heck out of these guys," Hendrix said. "We're an older, more confident group and it's kind of shown in how we've practiced.
"Our guys are in phenomenal shape. (Strength training and conditioning director) Andrew Bernardi and his staff have done a phenomenal job with our guys. We've been pretty healthy too."

Outside of two noon scrimmages, all of Furman's practices this August were held in the morning. While that early start helped beat the heat a bit, by the end of Thursday's two-hour practice it was another brutally hot day. That experience could bode well moving forward though.

"You never know until you get out there and play, but our conditioning is one of the things I feel best about," Hendrix said. "I really like how we had our schedule set up this year. It's allowed us to get all our video watched and lift. We've been able to get two really good lifts every week."
"I feel really good about where we are. We're not totally in game-plan wise, but we've got a majority of it in. We've just got to narrow that down."

Much like Hendrix, Duane Vaughn also noticed the marked improvement in this year's preseason. Vaughn, who's been on the staff the longest but is in his first year as defensive coordinator, is especially excited about experience and depth on his side of the ball.

"Our depth has made for competition on a daily basis. We rolled three groups all the way through today. As we turn our attention to Charleston Southern, we'll start paring it down for the ones and twos," Vaughn said. "I've just been really pleased with how we've come out and competed day in and day out. Going against a really good offense (in practice) only makes us better."

Perhaps nowhere is Furman deeper on defense than at the spur and bandit positions, where a familiar face to the defense has returned.

"We were tickled to death to get Dillon Vann back on our side of the ball. Two years ago, he tied for the team lead in interceptions and then we had a need at tight end last year. As a team player, he moved over," Vaughn said. "Obviously, Adrian (Hope) is coming off a really big year and then we slid Devonta Porter to bandit as well. He's done a really good job.
"We've got a mid-year enrollee in Jalen Miller complimenting Jordan (Willis) at the spur along with Dae'one Wilkins, who both played for us last year. So we've just got a lot of experience at those two positions."

Captains selected
Junior offensive tackle Bo Layton, senior offensive tackle Andy Godwin, senior linebacker Donavan Perryman and Willis, a senior, will serve as team captains this season, as selected by their teammates.

Paladins make top 20
Furman is ranked No. 17 in the preseason FCS Coaches poll, and No. 19 in the preseason STATS (media) FCS poll.

Coaches show begins Monday
"Furman Football Monday with Clay Hendrix" is set to debut in three days. At 11 a.m. each Monday during the football season, Hendrix will discuss the Paladins in a press conference type of setting. The show will be live streamed via the Furman Paladins Facebook page. Furman players will also participate as their schedules allow.

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