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Furman Preseason Preview: Defensive Line

Jaylan Reid
Jaylan Reid

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Furman's new "3-4" defense represents a departure from the program's long-time "4-3" look, and the bulk of personnel who will comprise the three-man front reflects another change, evidenced in the fact that nine of the unit's 13 players sport freshman eligibility.

"I've been pleased with that group so far and how hard coach (Josh) Miller has those guys working," said head coach Clay Hendrix earlier this week.  "It's really a mixture of a few guys who have played and many who haven't played at all.  Given that, we've been repping the freshmen a bunch because several of them are going to have to play and have a long way to go."

Furman's three projected starters represent the vast majority of the group's experience.  They include redshirt junior nose guard Jaylan Reid, sophomore tackle Jonah Tibbs, and redshirt junior end Chinedu Okonya.

Reid, from Marietta, Ga., is an unquestioned program leader and anchor of Furman's defense.  The owner of 17 starts and 52 tackles over the last two seasons, the 5-11, 270-pound preseason All-Southern Conference selection will again command attention from the opposition with his physical, high-motor play.

A Birmingham, Ala., native, Tibbs earned quality playing time in 10 games in 2016, including starts against both Chattanooga and Coastal Carolina.

Okonya registered seven starts and 38 tackles, including 4.5 hits for-loss, a year ago while also notching a pair of sacks.  At 6-2, 245 pounds, the Riverdale, Ga., product, who has added approximately 25 pounds to his frame over the last two years, will look to be a bigger pass rushing threat this fall.

"Jaylan Reid is a heckuva football player and a great leader for us. Jonah Tibbs played a good bit as a freshman, and Chinedu came back in great shape and is playing his best ball right now," said Hendrix about his three returning veterans.

While Furman's starting defensive line appears settled, just who will claim the backup roles has yet to be determined.

The Paladins sport a pair of redshirt freshmen, tackle Jordan Harris and nose guard Justin Taylor, at the two inside slots, and at end, Alec Hanff, a redshirt sophomore, and Dru Seabrook, a redshirt freshman, are in the mix.  Beyond that, six true freshmen dot the group's roster.

The newcomers include Parker Stokes at nose guard, and Ross Detamore and London Lewis at tackle, while true freshmen Landon Lawrence, Matt Sochovka, and Ben Page comprise the trio of first-year players at defensive end.

"Parker Stokes is one of those guys we've known will have to play, and Alec Hanff is a guy who was around last year who has done some good things, as have Landon Lawrence and London Lewis.  The whole group has been battling, and though we hope to redshirt some at least four of those guys are going to have to play."

Stokes earned Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) All-State first team honors in 2016 after tallying 72 tackles, including 11 tackles for-loss, and nine sacks on a Jefferson County (2A) High School squad that went 10-2.  He played his first three season of prep ball at Evans (Ga.) High School, where he totaled 61 tackles, including 19 for-loss, as a junior.

Lawrence, likewise, collected AJC All-State first team honors as senior at Darlington (2A) School in 2015 before prepping at Avon (Conn.) Old Farms last year, while Lewis, a 6-4, 287-pounder, chose Furman over 14 offers, including eight from Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs.

Furman's Mast General Store-Ingles FanFest is set for Saturday, Aug. 19 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at Fluor Field in downtown Greenville.  Earlier that day the squad will practice in Sirrine Stadium from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.  Sirrine Stadium served as the home of Furman football from 1936-80 prior to the construction and occupancy of Paladin Stadium on Furman's campus beginning with the 1981 season.

Furman Preseason Preview: Tight Ends
Furman Preseason Preview: Secondary
Furman Preseason Preview: Offensive Line

Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information