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Furman looks to bounce back from critical injuries in 2015 as coach takes blame for 3-9 season


SPARTANBURG, South Carolina — Furman coach Bruce Fowler blames no one but himself for the Paladins injury problems last year.

The team lost starting quarterback Reese Hannon after less than three quarters in its opener, then saw starting linebacker Carl Rider tear the labrum in his shoulder after just three plays a week later.

For a group coming off a conference title in 2013 and armed with bigger expectations last fall, it was a double-barreled loss that quickly spiraled out of control.

Furman lost eight straight games — a run of futility it had not had since the 1969 and 1970 seasons — and nine of its last 10 to finish a disappointing 3-9.

Fowler, starting his fifth season at Furman, said it was his responsibility to have backups ready to elevate their games because of injuries, something that did not happen a year ago.

"I'm the one responsible and I didn't do a good job handling that," Fowler said. "When you go through those things, that's when your leadership has got to do a good job of negotiating it."

Fowler said he, his players and staff are now better prepared when the injury bug strikes again.

Things to watch with Furman football:

LOTS OF QBs: Fowler said the team used six quarterbacks in the last two years. All, including Reese Hannon, are back and healthy, giving the Paladins lots of experience.

PLENTY OF LBs, TOO: Linebacker Cory Magwood led the Southern Conference with 123 tackles in 2014, while Carl Rider missed all but three plays due to injury. Rider topped the league with 136 tackles in 2013 as Magwood missed six games with injury. Both are healthy and ready to play alongside one another.

STAFF CHANGES: Fowler replaced longtime defensive coordinator John Windham with Kyle Gillenwater. The head coach also elevated Norval McKenzie to special teams coach after letting go of Antonio Goss.

THIN AT D-LINE: Furman is not so stocked up front on defense, where the school has five fewer linemen on the roster than before the 2014 season. Linebacker T.J. Warren has moved up to fill in some gaps.

YOUNG RUNNERS: Sophomores Isaac Garcia and Antonio Wilcox will look to make up the yards gained by last year's senior Hank McCloud, who rushed for team highs with 541 yards and five TDs. Garcia started three games last year while Wilcox started two

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