The Associated Press
Five Furman Players To Watch
Junior free safety Aaquil Annoor — The 5-10, 171-pounder was a preseason All-Southern Conference choice after amassing 62 tackles, eight passes broken up, one interception and two forced fumbles in 2016. He had six tackles, a sack and an interception against Elon last week. He added nine stops against Wofford in the opener.
Senior quarterback P.J. Blazejowski — The veteran quarterback has started 15 games and played in 21, completing 224 of 398 passes for 2,843 yards with 15 touchdowns, while adding 632 yards and six scores on the ground. The 6-0, 195-pounder has connected on 18 of 37 throws for 362 yards with touchdown while also rushing 25 times for 91 yards and a score through two games this season. He threw for 224 yards against Wofford in the season opener, which is third-highest total of his college career.
Sophomore flanker/returner Thomas Gordon — The former Charlotte Mallard Creek receiver provides big-play speed for the Paladins offense. He caught 43 passes for 629 yards and four touchdowns his freshman year. The 6-0, 174-pounder caught five passes for 107 yards against Wofford, and had a 77-yard score against Elon. He also handles both punt returns and kick returns. He is averaging 26.6 yards on five kick returns.
Redshirt junior nose guard Jaylan Reid — The 5-11, 270-pounder is an accomplished athlete in two sports for Furman. The co-captain has played in 24 football games, starting 19, and was the SoCon shot put champ last spring. He was named to the preseason All-SoCon squad. Reid had 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble last year. He had six tackles and a forced fumble against Wofford in the opener.
Senior center Matthew Schmidt — The 6-3, 290-pounder was a second-team All-Southern Conference selection by the media last year. The co-captain has started 28 of the 29 games he has played in, and was a preseason All-SoCon choice by league coaches going into this season. Schmidt, who attended McMichael High in Mayodan, N.C., had 52 knockdowns and 17 pancakes in 737 plays last year for the Paladins.
Three Keys To The Game
Work out the kinks: NC State is expected to welcome back starting redshirt junior right tackle Will Richardson from a two-game suspension, and if everything goes fine this week at practice, senior cornerback Mike Stevens will be back from injury.
NC State has missed both players through the first two games. South Carolina had four second-half sacks and the running game has been uneven the first two contests without Richardson.
South Carolina junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel caught five passes for 83 and two touchdowns in the opener. That proved to be a warm-up act for the record-setting game Marshall redshirt junior wide receiver Tyre Brady had the next game. The Miami (Fla.) transfer had 11 catches for a Carter-Finley Stadium record 248 yards and a touchdown.
Stevens’ skills might come in handy in obvious passing downs against Furman, but sophomore wide receiver Thomas Gordon has certainly proved to be a downfield threat in his young college career. NC State isn’t expected to play Stevens the majority of the snaps as he makes his return from a knee injury.
The other main area NC State needs to clean up is on kick return coverage. The aforementioned Samuel had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Marshall star kick returner Keion Davis made his way to the end zone, but the score was called back due to penalty.
Attack The Youth Movement: NC State’s defensive line has two sacks through two games, and while Furman might not pass too much, this is a game where the Wolfpack should dominate the line of scrimmage.
Furman has gone with a bit of a youth movement on the offensive line with redshirt freshmen Reed Kroeber and Bo Layton starting at left tackle and right tackle, respectively. Kroeber checks in at 6-4 and 284 pounds, and Layton is a rangy 6-7 and 287 pounds.
Redshirt sophomore right guard Chris Breedlove is the third newcomer and he made his first career start in the season opener against Wofford. He played 54 snaps in four games last year.
NC State’s senior-dominated defensive line, led by end Bradley Chubb, should be something the young trio have never come close to seeing. The Wolfpack might not pile up sacks against the Paladins’ triple-option attack, but should do well with tackles for loss.
Challenge new cornerbacks: NC State will likely want to run the football in relentless fashion, but perhaps in the first quarter, it will be too tempting to not go after Furman’s inexperienced cornerbacks.
Junior Jacque Evangelister checks in at 5-9 and 170 pounds and redshirt sophomore Quandarius Weems is bigger at 6-1 and 182 pounds. They both have the same thing in common — they made their first career starts against Wofford in the opener.
Weems is a gifted hurdler for Furman, finishing fourth in the 110-meter hurdles (14.9 seconds) at the SoCon Championships, and he played in 11 games last year. Evangelister has appeared in 17 contests the last two years, but primarily played on special teams. He had eight tackles against Wofford.
NC State redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Finley is off to a terrific start with 756 passing yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. Sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Harmon has topped 100 yards in each of his first two contests. The Wolfpack will want to establish the running attack, but should have success when it is needed through the air.
Three Questions With Furman Head Coach Clay Hendrix
How tough a loss was the Elon game?
"We obviously dug ourselves a huge hole in the first quarter. We weren’t ready to play and didn’t play well. Credit our kids for hanging in there and get us in position to win the game.
“It is the same story, different week. We can’t finish in the fourth quarter. I think we only had three possessions on offense and we would get backed up or get a penalty. We can’t get off the field on third downs on defense. A lot of blame to go around and we have to coach better.
“We aren’t a very good football team right now. I do like our kids and they do fight. We have to find a way to give ourselves a chance to win.”
With 49 freshmen or redshirt freshmen, how did that affect summer workouts and fall camp?
“They’ve been good. We had quite a majority of them, and some of them were redshirt freshman, but a good better part of the first part of summer, we certainly could do some football stuff with them.
“When you can have them here and they can workout and be in our strength program and be at school, they are a little different than a freshman that shows up day one.”
What was your approach on utilizing a full roster for the first two games?
“You can’t get everybody get ready to play a game. At some point we have to productive as coaches and players. I have told them that we are going to play the best players and most productive players.
“There are a lot of things that go into that, from assignment-wise and just dependability and just consistency with everything we do.”
Three Questions With NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren
What do you think of the start of redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Finley?
“I think it all started just with him building chemistry with the players around him. He came in last year and didn’t know anybody and was learning their skill set as he was getting to play, and he was trying to fight for the job, whereas I think this offseason he’s a returning starter, he spent a ton of time building relationships with players, so he understands them.
“He’s built 15 pounds of muscle on his frame. He’s throwing the ball really well. His timing is good. His understanding of what we want to do offensively and what [offensive coordinator] Coach [Eli] Drinkwitz expects, how he manages the perimeter and getting the ball to the right people at the right time. He’s playing at a high level, and he’s just got to keep doing that.
“He doesn’t have to do too much, just be himself and take the throws that are there and know that if the defense does a good job, the next play may be a great one.”
What have you seen from senior defensive end Bradley Chubb in the first two games?
“He’s playing at a high level and he’s seeing things extremely fast and he’s playing within himself. He’s not trying to create plays. He’s just taking the plays that are there and really playing within the scheme and playing with great effort.
“His leadership ability has been incredible on the sideline. There were moments in the game where we were struggling at some positions, and he was over there encouraging guys and picking guys up, and then at the end of the game, he was as good as he could be in pass rush when they were trying to catch back up. I was really proud of him.”
How will the return of redshirt junior right tackle Will Richardson help junior running backs Reggie Gallaspy and Nyheim Hines?
“I think a lot of it goes to the moving around we’ve had to do on our offensive line in the first two games. This will be the first game this year where we have our true five guys that we expected to play with playing together. Will is back, and Terronne Prescod played the entire game at right tackle last week. He’ll be back at left guard.
“So we’ll have five experienced offensive linemen that have played together in this game, and we were playing the two redshirt freshmen, Justin Witt and Joe Sculthorpe, in the last two games at times, and they both played well for a redshirt freshman, but they both struggled, which you’d expect.
“I think a lot of that in the run game is creating the lanes that those guys need to be able to see. On top of that, obviously the backs are going to get better and better as the holes do. I don’t think there’s one singular thing that you can point to, and it’s definitely not because Reggie and Nyheim aren’t talented players. They’ve got to run through contact and we’ve got to do a better job of being consistent and creating lanes for them.”
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