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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Opponent preview: Furman

Click here for the latest Auburn post. Don''t want you to miss out on any of that.

But we have to finish these opponent previews. And today's is the one you've all been waiting for: Furman.

If you missed a previous post, click on any of the following links to go back and read them: Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Ball State, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU and Ole Miss.

And as usual, follow the War Eagle Extra on Twitter here for instantaneous updates throughout the season. If any news breaks, I'll put it up here first.

Furman Paladins
  • Head coach: Bobby Lamb (8th season, 56-29)
  • 2008 record: 7-5 (4-4 Southern Conference, T-4th), no postseason
  • Returning starters: 13 (7 offense, 6 defense)
  • Total offense: 361.6 (6th Southern, 52nd in FCS)
  • Total defense: 346.3 (4th Southern, 59th in FCS)
  • Series: Auburn leads 3-0
  • Last meeting: Auburn won 41-0 in 1956 at what was then known as Cliff Hare Stadium
  • Consensus prediction: 4th place by SoCon coaches
Five-week schedule glimpse
  • Oct. 24: at The Citadel
  • Oct. 31: Appalachian State
  • Nov. 7: at Auburn
  • Nov. 14: at Georgia Southern
  • Nov. 21: Wofford
Auburn will play an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision for the sixth time since 2002 (the Tigers played UT-Martin in 2008, Tennessee Tech in 2007, Western Kentucky in 2005 and 2003, The Citadel in 2004, Western Carolina in 2002). It's a nice, low-risk matchup for homecoming and gives the FCS school a big payday and chance at playing the big boys, so I'm generally not against the arrangement (that is unless you schedule two FCS schools in the same year). I'm the first to admit that I know next to nothing about Furman, just like I know little about the FCS, which I still call I-AA all the time.

Knowing these limitations, I contacted Willie Smith of the Greenville News, who covers Furman athletics. Read his coverage of the Paladins online here and keep up with his blog here.

AB: What kind of impact will UCLA quarterback transfer Chris Forcier have this season and will he ever live down notoriety he gained from the comically ridiculous "press release" he put out shortly after after leaving the Bruins that stated, "I want to be part of the ‘Greatness of Fuhman [sic] University’ academic’s. [sic]”?
WS: It is hard to tell what kind of impact Forcier will have this season. Furman's biggest offensive weakness last season was having a starting quarterback who was limited from a running standpoint. The Paladins have always featured quarterbacks (including coach Lamb) who were nimble and could run the ball on occasion. Because that was not the case last year, teams later in the season determined they did not have to account for starter Jordan Sorrells, which made it easier to more aggressively defend both the pass and running backs. Forcier, who was timed at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash a year ago by UCLA and was considered the Bruins fastest player, could return that dimension to the team if he earns the starting slot. He enters the fall as at No. 2. Most have let the misspelling of Furman on his press release go, especially if he delivers on the field.
AB: Forcier isn't the only transfer from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Former Tennessee wide receiver Tyler Maples also joined the Paladins this summer. What is he capable of this season?
WS: Maples is a player Furman recruited heavily out of his school. He attended several Furman camps growing up so they were comfortable taking him. He was also coached by in high school by George Quarles, a wide receiver on Furman's national championship team in 1988 and one of the most successful prep coaches in Tennessee. He should make an immediate impact on a position that already has talent, especially if R. J. Webb is able to return from back-to-back season ending knee injuries (a torn ACL on each knee).
AB: The Paladins only return four starters — one of which is former Hoover High and MTV's "Two-A-Days" star Max Lenrer — from a defense that ranked 59th in the Football Championship Subdivision last year. What is the outlook for this season's defense?
WS: Good question, which is made more difficult due to the fact that Lerner (an All-Southern Conference selection last season) and NG Justin Brown (probably the team's top defensive player) missed spring practice due to injury. The defense will be much faster and more athletic, but will be loaded with untested performers. Sophomore cornerbacks Ryan Steed and Jordan Griffin are very talented. Whether they can make up for the loss of All-American cornerback William Middleton, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, remains to be seen. By the way, despite the "Two-A-Days" stint, Lerner is a hard-nosed safety, who played even better than I believe the coaches expected. Watching the reaction to him on the road (mostly by coeds), however, is pretty funny. At a game against Western Carolina in 2007, the entire WCU dance squad waited outside the Furman locker room, then squealed when he came out.
AB: Head coach Bobby Lamb played quarterback at Furman from 1982-85 and has spent his entire coaching career there, as an assistant from 1986-2001 and as the head coach from 2002 to the present. He's 56-29 in that time and took the Paladins to the 2005 I-AA semifinals. Does he have aspirations to coach at an FBS school or is he satisfied with his situation at Furman?
WS: Both Bobby and his wife are Furman graduates. He is in the school's athletic Hall of Fame. Like most, I am sure he would listen if an FCS school came knocking. But, right now I believe he is hell bent on getting the Paladins back to the top of the Southern Conference, which is no small feat when Appalachian State, Wofford, Elon, a much improved Samford and Georgia Southern are staring you in the face.
AB: Although Furman's matchups with Missouri and Auburn will garner the school lots of attention, FCS teams generally aren't judged by how they fare against FBS opponents. What kind of chance does Furman have in the Southern Conference this season and can the Paladins end their two-year drought from the FCS playoffs?
WS: Furman was picked to finish fourth by the coaches and fifth by the media. I think that is fair. Like most teams, if the linebackers and secondary jell and Forcier manages to earn the starting job, they could move up enough to earn a playoff spot. Beating Appalachian State out for the title, however, will be tough.
NCAA '10 on the PlayStation 3 says ... we have some catching up to do. First up, the Ole Miss game I couldn't simulate the other day because my power wasn't working. Survey says ... Auburn 26, No. 22 Ole Miss 7. A big upset on the Plains. The Tigers (6-3) take down the ranked Rebels to improve to 4-2 in the SEC. Auburn’s defense turns in quite a performance, holding Ole Miss to 227 yards. Snead only manages to throw for 137. Antonio Coleman leads the way with six tackles, three TFLs and one of the Tigers’ three sacks. Ole Miss leads 7-6 but Wes Byrum made a 29-yard field goal just before the half to make it 9-7 Tigers. Auburn dominates the rest of the way. After another Byrum field goal, Mario Fannin returns a punt 57 yards for a touchdown. Kodi Burns adds a 7-yard touchdown pass to Montez Billings for good measure. Quick SEC West standings update: Alabama is 4-1, Auburn is right behind at 4-2 and (here’s a shocker) Mississippi State and LSU are tied at 3-2. Ole Miss, by the way, is underachieving at 2-3.

And for the less anticipated simulation ... Auburn 57, FCS Southeast (we're assuming that's Furman) 7. The Tigers roll in this one, gaining 669 yards of offense to Furman's 111. Burns throws for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Ben Tate and Fannin run for 303 combined yards and three touchdowns. Billings adds 156 receiving yards. Also, Byrum boots five out of six field goals. Tigers are at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. Georgia and Alabama are looming. We'll see what happens.

Up next: Amen Corner begins, first with a trip to Athens to play Georgia.

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