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Furman's new era begins
Co-captain Steed will help transition from longtime coach Lamb to first-year coach Fowler
For the first time in 29 years, Bobby Lamb will not be a part of Furman football this season.
Lamb played quarterback for Furman from 1982-85, joined the coaching staff after graduation and became head coach in 2002, leading the Paladins to a Southern Conference title in 2004 and the semifinals of the FCS playoffs in 2005.
But a 24-21 record in the last four seasons, including a 5-6 mark and a sixth-place finish in the SoCon last year, cost Lamb his job. He’s now building the new program at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. Lamb’s team will begin play next season.
The Paladins, meanwhile, chose a Furman man to replace a Furman man. Bruce Fowler is a 1981 Furman grad who spent 16 years on the Paladins’ staff before working the last nine years at Vanderbilt, most of those with former Furman head coach Bobby Johnson.
In other words, don’t expect culture shock at Paladin Stadium.
“The biggest difference in being a head coach is the number of things you have to deal with every day,” said Fowler, who is a head coach for the first
time. “It’s helped me learn to manage my time and communicate real well. I think we have a great staff in place and that makes it a lot easier.”
In fact, two former Furman quarterbacks – offensive coordinator Jimmy Kiser and quarterbacks coach Tim Sorrells – will run the offense. But All-America linebacker Kadarron Anderson said the new head coach has hit the refresh button on the defense.
“A lot of the focus has been on the defense, and that’s a big change from the last regime,” said Anderson, a 6-1, 234-pound senior who led the squad with 121 tackles last season.
“We’re not going to be standing and waiting for teams to come at us. We’re going to be aggressive and try to force a lot of turnovers.”
That philosophy should serve well playmakers such as Anderson and senior cornerback Ryan Steed, a Mount Pleasant native who played at Pinewood Prep. Steed, 5-11 and 188 pounds, is a two-time All-SoCon pick who intercepted four passes last year, returning two for touchdowns, and took a fumble back 89 yards against Georgia Southern. Steed and Anderson are co-captains this year, along with center Daniel Spisak.
“Those two guys are getting a lot of preseason accolades,” Fowler said of Anderson and Steed. “They are experienced and productive players. They were leaders for us in spring practice, and they’ve responded very well to things in the offseason. We’re going to be counting on them from a leadership standpoint.”
Furman ranked last in the SoCon in rushing defense last season, and Fowler’s makeover will begin there.
“We are in a league where a lot of teams can really run the football,” he said. “So that’s an area we have to be good in every single week. Stopping the run will be the No. 1 priority.”
On offense, the major question mark is at quarterback, where junior Dakota Derrick and senior Chris Forcier are battling for the starting job. Derrick (6-4, 210) played in six games and started two last season, hitting 20 of 41 passes for 196 yards and two TDs with one interception.
Forcier (6-3, 215) was a highly touted transfer from UCLA two years ago. He ran for an 85-yard TD in last year’s season opener against Colgate, but suffered a fractured shoulder the next week at South Carolina and missed the rest of the season.
“We have two guys competing for that spot, and that’s a good thing,” Fowler said. “The one who prepares the best will start.”
By Jeff Hartsell, Post and Courier