ASHEVILLE, NC — When Clay Hendrix returned to Furman as a soccer coach in 2017, he inherited a program that included a senior quarterback who had made multiple starts with PJ Blazejowski in each of the previous three years.
Going into each season since then, there have been questions about the position. Injuries, transfers, and COVID-forced schedule changes have denied the Paladins the same kind of experience and consistency.
It looks like the tide is turning as the Paladins prepare to start training Wednesday 29 days before the season opener against North Greenville. Two-year captain Hamp Sisson ended his football career to focus on medical school, allowing sophomore Jace Wilson to build on a 2021 season in which Furman got 4-2 in his starts.
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The position has also been boosted with the addition of graduate transfer Tyler Huff, a two-year starter at Presbyterian College before a coaching change ahead of the fall 2021 season. Huff’s former coach at PC, Tommy Spangler, joined this off-season. Hendrix’s staff as cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator.
“We feel a lot better about the position as a whole than we have over the past few seasons,” Hendrix said on Thursday at the Southern Conference’s annual football media day. “I thought we were progressing in a good situation, but COVID and the transfer rules all came up and we just had to hit the reset button. … I think today in this game you probably need two (quarterbacks) to finish the season to get through.”
Hendrix has another new assistant in charge of the quarterbacks: Offensive Coordinator Justin Roper replaces George Quarles, who assumed the head coach position at ETSU. Roper was previously the offensive coordinator at Holy Cross, which scored 10-3 last season and averaged 32.3 points, 204 yards rushing and 202 yards passes per game.
“Looking at how our quarterbacks deal with him, I think that’s been a good change. You lose some good people, but I think we’ve hired some really good people,” Hendrix said. “…I think you’ll see a lot of things that you’ve seen out of Furman, but you’ll also see a lot of differences. I think we’re going to try to spread the field a bit more.”
After spending the spring of 2021 playing a SoCon season that was postponed in 2020 due to COVID, Hendrix was happy to have regular spring training this year. He believes a typical off-season, including spring training, will only make Wilson better.
Wilson completed 63 of 122 passes for 1,020 yards last season with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 101 yards and two scores. Huff, who is eligible for two more years, completed 17 of 21 passes for 224 yards last season with four touchdowns in four games with the Blue Hose.
“I thought Jace played pretty solid last season and he made great progress off-season like you think he would naturally,” Hendrix said. “I really like Tyler Huff. He has been there this summer, but has not practiced with us. He’s a proven commodity in a tough environment he’s been in. He has great leadership skills and is definitely talented.
“And we also have Carson James as a freshman coming in there. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all goes. Competition just makes you better and I think we finally have some competition there.”