GREENVILLE, S.C. -- When Furman lines up against Wofford on Sept. 2 in the 2017 season opener, it will do so with an experienced cast of performers in the backfield.
"We may have as much depth in the backfield as we do anywhere on our football team," said head coach Clay Hendrix earlier this week about his unit, which is comprised of four running backs and four tailbacks.
Leading the group will be senior running back Antonio Wilcox, a versatile performer who has paced the Paladins in rushing in each of the last two seasons and who enters the 2017 campaign just 37 yards shy of 1,000. The 2017 preseason All-Southern Conference performer is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, evidenced in his 40 career receptions.
"Antonio Wilcox has missed some time in the preseason due to injury but has come back well. He can play either position."
Wilcox will backed up by redshirt juniors Ridge Gibson and Kealand Dirks, and redshirt sophomore Deon Sanders — all with various levels of experience.
"Ridge has had a really good camp, and Kealand is a big-body guy who has decent running and blocking skills. Deon is coming back from an injury last year and could help us," added Hendrix.
Gibson, the son of former Paladin All-American and NFL defensive back Ernest Gibson, has contributed significantly on special teams the last two seasons while Dirks has offered glimpses of potential, including his 17-carry, 171-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 49-21 pasting of Western Carolina last year. Sanders, who sat out the 2016 campaign due to a knee injury, played as a true freshman in 2015.
While Wilcox is expected to get the start at running back, tailback is "still up for grabs and looks like a play-by-committee situation," according to Hendrix.
The principals include redshirt freshman Darius Morehead, junior Triston Luke, redshirt junior A'lencio Graham, and freshman Devin Wynn.
Morehead, who ran for 80 yards in his collegiate debut at Michigan State last year before a concussion the following week at The Citadel ended his season, possesses excellent speed and big-play potential — a commodity Furman's ground game lacked last year as evidenced by the Paladins' posting only three runs of 20 yards or more.
Luke made five starts and rushed for 371 yards as a freshman in 2015. Graham, meanwhile, will be looking for his first action, as will Wynn, who led the state of Georgia in rushing with 2,343 yards and 34 touchdowns last year at Greene County High School.
"Darius certainly gives us some real ability at tailback, and Triston is a guy who's battled injuries but has proven himself to be a dependable player who can also play running back. A'lencio Graham is a player with some speed who we moved from receiver in the spring to give us some depth, which we've also addressed with the addition of Devin Wynn.
"Right now our plan is to play all four guys, but it remains to be seen how our rotation goes. We hope to ride those guys a little bit as we go forward and continue to get more consistent in everything we do."
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Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information