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Furman Picked Seventh, Four Paladins Earn SoCon Preseason Tabs

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Matthew Schmidt

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Furman is a seventh place pick in the Southern Conference coaches preseason poll, and four Paladins have been named to preseason all-conference team announced today at the league's annual football media day held at Spartanburg's Marriott hotel.

Furman garnered 26 points in the coaches poll to place seventh, finishing ahead of East Tennessee State (17) and VMI (12).

Wofford was the No. 1 pick, collecting seven first place votes and 63 points among the nine cast by the head coaches, and defending champion The Citadel was second, earning the other two first place votes to finish with 54 points.  Samford (52), Chattanooga (41), and Mercer (32) rounded out the top five, with Western Carolina (27) placing sixth in the poll, one point ahead of Furman.

The last time Furman was picked as low as seventh in a SoCon preseason poll was 2013, which the Paladins defied by winning the league crown.

Paladin senior center Matthew Schmidt was the Paladins' lone representative on the preseason all-conference first team.  Earning second team accolades were senior fullback Antonio Wilcox, redshirt junior nose guard Jaylan Reid, and junior safety Aaquil Annoor.

Schmidt, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound product from Stokesdale, N.C., earned second team All-SoCon honors in 2016 and heads into the 2017 campaign with 26 career starts — tops among Paladin linemen.

Wilcox, a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Fitzgerald, Ga., has paced the Paladins in rushing each of the last two years and heads into this season just 37 yards shy of 1,000 career yards.

Defensively, Furman's top returnee is Reid, a 5-foot-11, 274-pound performer from Marietta, Ga., who registered 31 tackles, including 3.5 for-loss a year ago.  The two-sport standout, who captured the shot put crown at the 2017 SoCon Outdoor Track & Field Championships, owns 17 starts in his career.

Annoor blossomed a year ago, posting four early season starts at cornerback before moving to safety, where he registered starts in the Paladins' final seven games.  The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Nashville, Tenn., native finished 2016 with 62 tackles and eight pass deflections, and also contributed significantly as a kickoff return specialist (22.5 av.g).

Furman, which returns 12 starters, will welcome players to campus on Monday, July 31, with preseason practice set to commence on Aug. 1.  The Paladins kick off the 2017 campaign on Sept. 2 at league foe Wofford.

The Paladins are under the direction of new head coach Clay Hendrix '86, who assumed the program's reins in late December following 10 years as an assistant coach at Air Force. Prior to his stint with the Falcons, he spent 19 years at Furman (1988-06), playing a key role in one of the greatest eras in program history.  The Commerce, Ga., native was a standout offensive guard for the Paladins (1982-85) and part of three SoCon championship teams.

2017 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll
Team (1st-place votes)    Total
1)    Wofford (7)    63
2)    The Citadel (2)    54
3)    Samford    52
4)    Chattanooga    41
5)    Mercer    32
6)    Western Carolina    27
7)    Furman    26
8)    ETSU    17
9)    VMI    12

2017 Preseason All-Southern Conference Football Teams
Offensive Player of the Year: Devlin Hodges, R-Jr., QB, Samford
Defensive Player of the Year: Kailik Williams, Sr., DB, The Citadel

First Team Offense
QB    Devlin Hodges, R-Jr., Samford
RB    Cam Jackson, Sr., The Citadel
RB    Detrez Newsome, Sr., Western Carolina
OL    Tyler Davis, Jr., The Citadel
OL    Matthew Schmidt, Sr., Furman
OL    Thomas Marchman, Sr., Mercer
OL    Josh Cardiello, Sr., Chattanooga
OL    Roo Daniels, Sr., Wofford
TE    Sam Walker, R-Jr., Mercer
WR    Kelvin McKnight, Jr., Samford
WR    Terryon Robinson, R-Sr., Western Carolina

First Team Defense
DL    Ahmad Gooden, R-Jr., Samford
DL    Isaiah Mack, Jr., Chattanooga
DL    Miles Brown, Jr., Wofford
DL    Tyler Vaughn, Sr., Wofford
LB    Shaheed Salmon, Sr., Samford
LB    Dale Warren, Sr., Chattanooga
LB    Allan Cratsenberg, Sr., VMI
LB    Datavious Wilson, So., Wofford
DB    Kailik Williams, Sr., The Citadel
DB    Omari Williams, Sr., Samford
DB    Lucas Webb, Sr., Chattanooga
DB    Devin Watson, Jr., Wofford

First Team Specialists
PK    Cole Fisher, Jr., Mercer
P    Ian Berryman, R-Jr., Western Carolina
RS    Detrez Newsome, Sr., Western Carolina

Second Team Offense
QB    Alejandro Bennifield, Sr., Chattanooga
RB    Antonio Wilcox, Sr., Furman
RB    Richardre Bagley, Sr., Chattanooga
OL    Alex Rios, Sr., ETSU
OL    Caleb Yates, Sr., Mercer
OL    Malcolm White, So., Chattanooga
OL    Nathan Dalton, R-Jr., Western Carolina
OL    Ross Demmel, Jr., Wofford
TE    Chandler Gouger, Sr., Wofford
WR    Marquise Irvin, Jr., Mercer
WR    James Stovall, Sr., Chattanooga

Second Team Defense
DL    Ken Allen, Jr., The Citadel
DL    Jonathan King, Sr., The Citadel
DL    Jaylan Reid, R-Jr., Furman
DL    Isaiah Buehler, R-Jr., Mercer
DL    Taylor Reynolds, Sr., Chattanooga
LB    Myles Pierce, Sr., The Citadel
LB    Dylan Weigel, R-Jr., ETSU
LB    Ryan Francis, R-Sr., VMI
DB    Aaquil Annoor, Jr., Furman
DB    Trevor Wright, Sr., Chattanooga
DB    Greg Sanders, Sr., VMI
DB    Keion Crossen, Sr., Western Carolina
DB    George Gbesee, So., Wofford

Second Team Specialists
PK    JJ Jerman, Jr., ETSU
P    Austin Barnard, R-Sr., Samford
RS    Chandler Curtis, Sr., Mercer

NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.

Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information