Saturday, March 7, 2020

Big passes highlight Purple-White scrimmage

Dejuan Bell caught three touchdowns during Furman's annual
Purple-White spring scrimmage. Photo courtesy of Furman
It was a beautiful, albeit chilly, day for football at Paladin Stadium on Feb. 29, and Furman played some for fans, parents and a few hundred high school players at the annual Purple-White scrimmage. The high school players were there as part of Junior Day for the program.

Coach Clay Hendrix said it's always a double-edged sword when you're going against each other, but he added that Saturday's was another solid chapter of a productive spring. After taking this past week off for spring break, the Paladins will have two more practices this upcoming week to wrap up spring practice.

"We got a lot of good work in. I'm pleased with a lot of good things we did," Hendrix said. "I'm sure we will go back and watch the tape and find a lot of things we've got to correct, but we've had a really solid spring. We've gone at it physically about every day we could tackle.
"We haven't had a lot of good days weather-wise, so it was good to have a nice one today."

Furman spent about 90 minutes going through typical practice drills before capping the day with a 45-minute scrimmage. No official score was kept as the White team was comprised of all offensive players and the Purple was all defense.

Redshirt sophomore quarterbacks Darren Grainger and Hamp Sisson rotated throughout the scrimmage, while Jack Hardin took the field for a couple of possessions. While the White squad did not generate much on the ground, Grainger and Sisson hit some big throws in the passing game.

Grainger completed 8-of-12 passes for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while Sisson was 6-of-10 passing for 117 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The biggest passing target was sophomore receiver Dejuan Bell, who caught five passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns - including a 65-yarder. The other touchdowns went for 53 yards to Ryan Miller and 70 yards to Jake Kimmelman.

"It's nice to see our passing game come around. … Both our quarterbacks have had really solid springs. Coming out here at 6 a.m. a couple of days a week is a little tough on quarterbacks," Hendrix said. "Both made really good throws today. I think we can be really good in our play-action game.
"Receiver may be the most improved group on our team. Ryan Miller's had a great spring and certainly has some big play capability. Zach Peterson's had a good, solid spring."

Furman was limited to 52 yards rushing on 29 attempts. The Purple squad registered 12 tackles-for-loss. Braden Gilby and Taylor Hodge each had a sack, while Jalen Clark and Hodge teamed up for another sack.

"We've only had six guys in those three (defensive line) spots all spring. We got one of the four injured ones, London Lewis, back yesterday," Hendrix said. "Taylor's been solid and Cameron Coleman's had a really good spring. … Kevin Lewis has been a great addition to our staff and he's doing a super job with those guys.
"Adrian (Hope) has had a really solid spring. He's becoming more of an every down player."

Chase Abshier was the leading rusher for the Paladins Saturday with 26 yards on five carries. The running back unit was missing Wayne Anderson (hamstring injury) and Corey Watkins (death in the family).

In the competition to replace All-American kicker Grayson Atkins, Timmy Bleekrode made field goals of 42 and 47 yards before missing from 49. Sebastian Stubblefield made his lone attempt, which was a 26-yarder.

"Timmy was really solid today and would be our kicker if the season started tomorrow. It will be a wide-open competition in August with the kids we've got coming in," Hendrix said. "I've been really impressed with how he's kicked all spring. He's got a really strong leg. He may even be a better punter. We felt like at some point he may taken that over anyway."

Other singled out by Hendrix for their impressive springs included inside linebacker Jalen Miller and offensive tackle Anderson Tomlin.

Furman had just three penalties for the scrimmage, on consecutive plays oddly enough. There were two fumbles, one on a snap, but the offense recovered both as there were no turnovers.

"We have a lot of things to get better at, but I like where we are," Hendrix said. "We will go two more days in and it'll be fun to get to the next phase and let (strength coach) Andre (Bernardi) have them."

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