Furman Places 13 On All-SoCon Teams; Hendrix Earns Coach Of The Year, Schmidt Jacobs Blocking Award

Matthew Schmidt and Clay Hendrix
Matthew Schmidt and Clay Hendrix

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Thirteen Furman Paladins have earned 2017 All-Southern Conference recognition, Clay Hendrix SoCon Coach of the Year, and Matthew Schmidt the league's Jacobs Blocking Award, it was announced today.

In separate voting by SoCon head coaches and media, four Paladins — running back Antonio Wilcox, offensive guard Terrell Bush, center Matthew Schmidt, and tight end Andy Schumpert — were accorded first team recognition.  Four Paladins also earned second team accolades, including quarterback P.J. Blazejowski, running back Kealand Dirks, nose guard Jaylan Reid, and safety Aaquil Annoor.

The 2017 SoCon Coaches All-Freshman Team features five Paladins — offensive guard Reed Kroeber, running back Darius Morehead, linebackers Reynard Ellis and Elijah McKoy, and placekicker Grayson Atkins.

Hendrix, who less than a year ago took over a Furman program coming off a 3-8 campaign, guided the Paladins, a preseason No. 7 pick in a poll of SoCon head coaches, to a 7-4 record and 6-2 league mark this fall, good for second place finish and an at-large berth into the FCS playoffs — Furman's first since 2013.  A consensus coach of the year selection by league colleagues and media, the Commerce, Ga., native and 1986 Furman graduate is the ninth Paladin head coach to be named SoCon Coach of the Year but only the second to collect the honor in his first season as head coach, joining Dick Sheridan (1978).

Schmidt is the 15th Paladin to earn the SoCon's Jacobs Blocking Award, which has resided more often in Furman's trophy case than any other school in league history.  A Stokesdale, N.C., product, he has logged 37 starts and 2,348 plays in his career, including a unit high 715 this year.  His strong play fronted a Paladin offense that produced a SoCon leading 35.1 points and 435.5 yards per game during the regular season, including a revived Furman ground attack that has averaged 241.1 ypg and produced 34 rushing touchdowns.

Wilcox, a senior from Fitzgerald, Ga., has rushed for a team leading 698 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a career best 202-yard, two-touchdown performance in Furman's 28-6 road win over then 18th-ranked Western Carolina on Oct. 28.  He is the program's active rushing leader with 1,661 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Working alongside Schmidt, Bush, a Tuscaloosa, Ala., native, has fashioned a solid senior campaign, logging starts in all 11 games and totaling 693 plays.

Schumpert was easy choice for consensus first team all-conference honors following a regular season that saw him register 23 receptions for 483 yards and a Furman tight end record seven touchdowns.  The Brentwood, Tenn., senior recorded touchdown grabs in five consecutive games and was recently named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 Team.

Blazejowski, from St. Augustine, Fla., headlines the Paladins' four second team all-conference picks.  The Paladin senior has thrown for 2,028 yards and 16 touchdowns this year and currently leads the FCS in both passing yards per attempt (11.20) and completion (17.81), and ranks second nationally in passing efficiency (180.75).

Part of Furman's tandem of battering ram running backs, redshirt junior Kealand Dirks, from Clemmons, N.C., ranks third in the SoCon in rushing with 671 yards and nine touchdowns.  His 2017 campaign showcased three 100-yard rushing performances, including a 119-yard, two-touchdown worksheet against Western Carolina.

Reid, a team co-captain and redshirt junior, serves as a veteran anchor on a young Paladin defense that boasts only one senior in the two-deep.  The Marietta, Ga., native registered 41 tackles and 8.5 tackles for-loss, with 22 of his stops coming in the Paladins' last four games.

Annoor, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., collected 55 tackles and two interceptions in 11 starts out of his strong safety slot this year.

Furman's five SoCon All-Freshman Team picks have been major contributors this year.

Kroeber started the first three games at tackle before switching to guards, where he started the last eight contests on the way to 632 snaps, and Morehead returned from a concussion-shortened 2016 season to run for 546 yards and five touchdowns this fall.

On defense the Paladins were 0-3 when Ellis, a Jerry Rice Award finalist, and McKoy moved into the lineup and have gone 7-1 since, thanks in large measure to their strong play, which includes 72 and 64 tackles, respectively.

Atkins has fashioned an outstanding inaugural season in a Paladin uniform, leading the SoCon in kick scoring with 74 points by converting all 50 PATs and 8-of-11 field goals, including a pair of 46-yard attempts versus N.C. State.

Furman, ranked 22nd in this week's STATS FCS poll, will take on 15th-ranked Elon this Saturday in an FCS first round playoff game at Elon.  Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.

2017 All-Southern Conference Coaches Team

Offensive Player of the Year
Devlin Hodges, Samford, R-Jr., QB

Defensive Player of the Year
Ahmad Gooden, Samford, Jr., DL

Freshman of the Year
Kaelan Riley, Mercer, QB

Jacobs Blocking Award
Matthew Schmidt, Furman, Sr., OL

Coach of the Year
Clay Hendrix, Furman

First Team Offense
QB Devlin Hodges, Samford
RB Antonio Wilcox, Furman
RB Detrez Newsome, Western Carolina
OL Tyler Davis, The Citadel
OL Terrell Bush, Furman
OL Matthew Schmidt, Furman
OL Zach Weeks, Western Carolina
OL Ross Demmel, Wofford
TE Andy Schumpert, Furman
WR Kelvin McKnight, Samford
WR Terryon Robinson, Western Carolina

First Team Defense
DL Isaiah Buehler, Mercer
DL Ahmad Gooden, Samford
DL Miles Brown, Wofford
DL Tyler Vaughn, Wofford
LB Lee Bennett, Mercer
LB Shaheed Salmon, Samford
LB Tahjai Watt, Western Carolina
DB Kailik Williams, The Citadel
DB Omari Williams, Samford
DB Lucas Webb, Chattanooga
DB Marvin Tillman, Western Carolina
DB Devin Watson, Wofford

First Team Special Teams
PK Luke Carter, Wofford
P Ian Berryman, Western Carolina
RS Chandler Curtis, Mercer

Second Team Offense
QB Tyrie Adams, Western Carolina
RB Tee Mitchell, Mercer
RB Andre Stoddard, Wofford
OL Alex Rios, ETSU
OL Thomas Marchman, Mercer
OL Austin Sanders, Mercer
OL Nick Nixon, Samford
OL Josh Cardiello, Chattanooga
TE Bailey Lenoir, Chattanooga
WR Chris Shelling, Samford
WR Steffon Hill, Western Carolina

Second Team Defense
DL Jaylan Reid, Furman
DL Isaiah Mack, Chattanooga
DL Derek Mahaffey, Chattanooga
DL Mikel Horton, Wofford
LB Myles Pierce, The Citadel
LB LeMarkus Bailey, Mercer
LB Allan Cratsenberg, VMI
DB Aron Spann III, The Citadel
DB Aaquil Annoor, Furman
DB Darius Harvey, Samford
DB Greg Sanders, VMI

Second Team Special Teams
PK JJ Jerman, ETSU
P Austin Barnard, Samford
RS Quan Harrison, ETSU

All-Freshman Offense
Jonathan Cole, The Citadel
Jon Barrett Lewis, The Citadel
Brandon Rainey, The Citadel
Reed Kroeber, Furman
Darius Morehead, Furman
Kaelan Riley, Mercer
Montrell Washington, Samford
Mike Williams, Samford
Cole Copeland, Chattanooga
Kris Thornton, VMI
Donnavan Spencer, Western Carolina

All-Freshman Defense
Blake Bockrath, ETSU
Reynard Ellis, Furman
Elijah McKoy, Furman
Malique Fleming, Mercer
Sidney Otiwu, Mercer
Koi Freeman, Samford
Brett Granger, Samford
Jerrell Lawson, Chattanooga
A.J. Smith, VMI
Michael Murphy, Western Carolina
Deon Priester, Wofford

All-Freshman Special Teams
Grayson Atkins, Furman
Brandon Dowdell, Chattanooga
Victor Ulmo, Chattanooga

2017 All-Southern Conference Media Team

Roy M. "Legs" Hawley Offensive Player of the Year
Devlin Hodges, Samford, R-Jr., QB

Defensive Player of the Year
Ahmad Gooden, Samford, Jr., DL

Freshman of the Year
Kaelan Riley, Mercer, QB

Wallace Wade Coach of the Year
Clay Hendrix, Furman

First Team Offense
QB Devlin Hodges, Samford
RB Detrez Newsome, Western Carolina
RB Andre Stoddard, Wofford
OL Tyler Davis, The Citadel
OL Terrell Bush, Furman
OL Matthew Schmidt, Furman
OL Roo Daniels, Wofford
OL Ross Demmel, Wofford
TE Andy Schumpert, Furman
WR Kelvin McKnight, Samford
WR Terryon Robinson, Western Carolina

First Team Defense
DL Nasir Player, ETSU
DL Isaiah Buehler, Mercer
DL Ahmad Gooden, Samford
DL Miles Brown, Wofford
LB Lee Bennett, Mercer
LB Shaheed Salmon, Samford
LB Allan Cratsenberg, VMI
DB Aron Spann III, The Citadel
DB Omari Williams, Samford
DB Marvin Tillman, Western Carolina
DB Devin Watson, Wofford

First Team Special Teams
PK Luke Carter, Wofford
P Ian Berryman, Western Carolina
RS Chandler Curtis, Mercer

Second Team Offense
QB P.J. Blazejowski, Furman
RB Kealand Dirks, Furman
RB Antonio Wilcox, Furman
RB Tee Mitchell, Mercer
OL Thomas Marchman, Mercer
OL Josh Cardiello, Chattanooga
OL Andrew Miles, Western Carolina
OL Zach Weeks, Western Carolina
OL Jared Jacon-Duffy, Wofford
TE Bailey Lenoir, Chattanooga
WR Marquise Irvin, Mercer
WR Chris Shelling, Samford

Second Team Defense
DL Ja'Lon Williams, The Citadel
DL Jaylan Reid, Furman
DL Nate Link, Western Carolina
DL Mikel Horton, Wofford
LB Myles Pierce, The Citadel
LB Brian Lipscomb, VMI
LB A.J. Newman, Western Carolina
DB Aaquil Annoor, Furman
DB Eric Jackson, Mercer
DB Lucas Webb, Chattanooga
DB Greg Sanders, VMI

Second Team Special Teams
PK JJ Jerman, ETSU
P Austin Barnard, Samford
RS Darius Harvey, Samford

Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information