Countdown to Kickoff: Furman Paladins

Countdown To Kickoff: Preview of App State's 2007 Opponents
Game Eight: Furman University
Where: Paladin Stadium, Greenville, S.C.
Playing Surface: Natural Grass
Capacity: 16,000
When: October 27, 2007
Time/TV: 3:00/SportSouth
Series Record: 13-21-3
Last Meeting: 2006 ASU 40, Furman 7
About Furman
2006 Record: 8-4 (6-1 Southern Conference)
Head Coach: Bobby Lamb begins his fifth season at the helm of the Paladin football team. His record as head coach at Furman currently stands at 43-19. Before taking over the head coaching reigns at Furman, Lamb spent 16 seasons as a Paladin assistant.
Returning Starters: 17 total
2006 by the numbers: Scoring offense: 24.6 ppg; Pass offense: 172.9 ypg; Rush offense: 168.3 ypg; Total offense: 341.2 ypg; Scoring defense: 21.2 ppg; Pass defense: 170.7 ypg; Rush defense: 125.2 ypg; Total defense: 295.9 ypg.
When Furman has the ball: The Paladin run game features one of the Southern Conference's top one-two punches in senior tailback Cedrick Gipson and senior fullback Jerome Felton. In 2006, the two backs combined for a total of 1,645 yards on the ground. Felton, who has been a touchdown machine the last two seasons, tallying 23 in 2006 and 20 in '05, will return to the lineup as the Paladins biggest offensive threat.
Felton's power and bruising style compliments Gipson's speedy, more finesse running style quite nicely, creating a true "Thunder and Lightning" type tandem.
In addition to the two talented backs, Furman also returns two very capable quarterbacks in senior Renaldo Gray and sophomore Jordan Sorrells, the son of offensive coordinator and Furman hall of famer Tim Sorrells. Gray threw for 1,184 yards last season, but only saw four of his passes go for scores, while three were intercepted.
Sorrells tallied 851 yards passing with four of his completions ending in a touchdown. He, too, threw three interceptions on the season.
Their top target from a year ago, Justin Stepp, who caught 46 passes for 599 yards, graduated and must be replaced. The prime candidates to fill his shoes are senior Patrick Sprague (33 receptions, 481 yards) and sophomore R.J. Webb (28 receptions, 407 yards). Senior Garrett Inman may also see an increased role in '07 as he brings much needed size to the receiving corps.
What will Furman do offensively? Furman will feature a run-first and run-often offensive scheme. If they struggle to gain yards on the ground against the ASU defense look for them to play Jordan Sorrells at quarterback more often than not, due his better than average passing skills. While Gray brings more to the table as a whole, Sorrells has proven to be the better passing quarterback over the last several months.
Match-up to watch: Appalachian State's linebackers, Jacque Roman, Pierre Banks, Cam Speer and Chase Laws vs. Furman's running backs Cedrick Gipson and Jerome Felton.
The big question: In last season's match up, Furman was without Felton, leaving them very one-dimensional. The question this season will be, can ASU stop Felton from finding the endzone and force the Paladins to go to the air?
When Appalachian State has the ball: Furman's defense struggled immensely at times last season, however, the coaches are full of optimism heading into the fall. The defense is senior-laden this year and will likely be much better than they were a year ago.
Leading the Paladins into '07 will be its top tackler from a year ago, linebacker Andrew Jones, who tallied 121 total tackles and 12 tackles-for-loss. Linebacker Gary Nelson, another rising senior that finished fourth on the team in tackles with 55 and 2.5 tackles-for-loss, will join Jones. Junior Hunter Twitty will also enter the season as a starter at linebacker after notching 25 total tackles in '06.
Furman also returns three impact players in the secondary with seniors Austin Holmes and Andrew Thacker leading the way. Holmes finished the season as the team's third leading tackler with 62, while Thacker was fifth on the team in stops with 51. Joining them in the backfield will be junior cornerback William Middleton, who had 38 tackles and four tackles-for-loss.
Though the Paladins only managed 14 sacks as a team last season, the coaches feel they will fair a little better in '07 as rising sophomore Justin Brown returns at defensive tackle and senior Wallace Artis is back at defensive end. Brown recorded 43 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and three sacks in his first year, while Artis posted 36 tackles, one sack and six tackles-for-loss.
What will Furman do defensively?: Long-time Furman defensive coordinator Steve Wilson is no longer the lone leader of the defense as Jeff Farrington was promoted to co-defensive coordinator for the '07 season. The two will run a multiple defense with a focus on stopping the run. They struggled a great deal against the pass last season; however, their run defense was one of the best in the league.
Match-up to watch: ASU's superior passing attack; quarterback Armanti Edwards, receivers Dexter Jackson, T.J. Courman, Hans Batichon, Josh Johnson and a host of others vs. Furman's secondary, Austin Holmes, Andrew Thacker, William Middleton and Chris Stone.
The big question: Will ASU be able to control the clock and sustain long drives, keeping Furman's Jerome Felton off the field?
Furman special teams: Furman returns place-kicker Scott Beckler as well as punter Arthur Williams. Beckler connected on only 7-of-13 field goal attempts last season, while Williams only averaged 33.9 yards per punt. William Middleton will return as the Paladins top kick returner, as he averaged an impressive 23.1 yards per return on 25 attempts, including a 100-yarder for a score. Masharn Austin is a candidate to take over punt return duties for the departed Justin Stepp.
2006 Results
9/02/07 - Jacksonville State (W, 17-13)
9/09/06 - West Georgia (W, 24-7)
9/16/06 - at North Carolina (L, 42-45)
9/23/06 - Western Carolina (W, 42-7)
9/30/06 - at Wofford (W, 35-21)
10/7/06 - at Coastal Carolina (L, 27-29)
10/14/06 - The Citadel (W, 23-17)
10/21/06 - Chattanooga (W, 28-22 � OT)
10/28/06 - at Appalachian State (L, 7-40)
11/04/06 - at Elon (W, 24-13)
11/11/06 - Georgia Southern (W, 13-10)
11/25/06 - at Montana State (L, 13-31)
2007 Schedule
9/01/07 - Presbyterian
9/08/07 - at Hofstra
9/15/07 - at Clemson
9/29/07 - Wofford
10/06/07 - Coastal Carolina
10/13/07 - at The Citadel
10/20/07 - at Chattanooga
10/27/07 - Appalachian State
11.03/07 - Elon
11/10/07 - at Georgia Southern
11/17/07 - at Western Carolina