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Playin' Nice: Furman Beat Writer Scott Keeler

The Greenville News' Furman beat writer, Scott Keeler, was good enough to give us a little info on the Purple Paladins.

Okay, so he ain't Purple. But he is a Paladin!
Okay, so he ain't Purple. But he is a Paladin!

1. I'm not going to pretend to know a whole lot about the Purple Paladins. What can you tell us about their offense and defense, scheme-wise?

Offensively, they strive for balance and mix it up a bit scheme-wise each week. In four games this season, they started a fullback and two wide receivers. In two games they started three wide receivers, and in another game they started two tight ends and two receivers. They often run out of the Wildcat as well. Defensively, they run a 4-2-5.

2. Furman is 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in their FCS conference. How would you sum up their season so far?

Every team deals with injuries, but Furman has had so many at key positions, it makes for a difficult read on their season.

They are 3-1 in games that sophomore starting quarterback Reese Hannon has started, including last Saturday's win over Appalachian State. He missed the opener, and true freshman Dillon Woodruff stepped in and played the second half with a broken shoulder. He's out for the year.

Furman lost it's Wildcat quarterback Terry Robinson for the season three weeks ago against Elon. When he got hurt, the Paladins were down to one healthy quarterback on the roster in true freshman Duncan Fletcher, who opened the season No. 4 on the depth chart.

Robinson's brother, Gary, broke his ankle on Furman's second play from scrimmage Saturday and is out for the year. He leads the Paladins in catches (24), receiving yards (351), yards per catch (14.6) and touchdown receptions (2).

They are also a very young team. On the 87-man roster are 45 freshmen and 19 sophomores. They start 10 sophomores and 2 freshmen.

3. Have they ever made a trip like this one to a venue to Tiger Stadium? Do you think the stage will be too big for them in any way?

I'm sure there's nothing quite like Baton Rouge on a Saturday night, but they have played in front of fairly large crowds when facing an FBS school.

Furman played at Clemson (attendance: 81,500) last season, at Florida (84,674) in 2011 and at South Carolina (73.681) in 2010.

Head coach Bruce Fowler is also familiar with Tiger Stadium, as he was Vanderbilt's defensive coordinator from 2002-08.

4. Who are some names LSU fans should familiarize themselves with?

Furman senior left tackle Dakota Dozier is a preseason all-American and an NFL Draft prospect. Phil Steele ranked him No. 1 among all tackles in the FCS.

Senior punter/kicker Ray Early ranks fourth in the FCS at 44.1 yards per punt. He's 4-for-4 on field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer in his career, and is 7-of-11 on field goals overall this season.

Junior running back Hank McCloud leads the Paladins offensively with 604 yards rushing (5.3 per carry) and four touchdowns.

Sophomore linebacker Carl Rider leads Furman in tackles (73) and tackles for loss (7).

5. Finally, care to offer a prediction?

Sorry, I'm not a predictor. I will say that Furman has been pretty respectable in most of their games against FBS competition over the years.

Going way back to the early 1980's, there was a five-game stretch where the Paladins defeated South Carolina, Georgia Tech, and N.C. State (twice) and also tied Georgia Tech. More recently, Furman led Florida 22-7 after one quarter at the Swamp in 2011. The Paladins trailed 37-32 entering the fourth quarter that day, before the Gators got a pair of interception returns for touchdowns to pull away for a 54-32 win.