GREENVILLE, S.C. (Furman SID) — The Furman Paladins opened the most unusual preseason in the university’s gridiron history on Friday when they hit the practice field at 4:00 p.m. in preparation for the eight-game 2021 spring season, which gets underway on Feb. 20.

The session was held in shorts and helmets at Paladin Stadium.

The last time Furman practiced football in January in preparation for an upcoming season or played a game on the front end of a yearly calendar was 1890, in only the program’s second season of intercollegiate play.  Furman defeated Wofford 12-0 in Spartanburg on Jan. 24, 1890, and completed the two-game season with a 28-2 win over Wofford in Greenville on Mar. 21 of that year.

The spring 2021 season was planned after the Southern Conference announced on Aug. 13 the postponement of all league competition due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Furman announced on Aug. 17 it would forego all fall non-conference athletic competition.

The Paladins will kick off the 2021 campaign Feb. 20 at home against Western Carolina in a 2:00 p.m. contest.

Selected by SoCon media on Wednesday as the preseason favorite to win the league, Furman boasts a squad of 95 players and returns 13 starters off a 2019 team that posted an 8-5 overall record, 6-2 SoCon mark, and second place league finish, which earned the Paladins an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) at-large playoff berth.

Among the top returnees on offense are senior tailback Devin Wynn (1,182 yds. 14 TDs), senior wide receiver Ryan DeLuca (19 rec., 288 yds., 4 TDs), senior offensive guards Reed Kroeber and Jordan Harris, sophomore center Evan Jumper, and a pair of redshirt sophomores, running back Devin Abrams (615 yds., 6 TDs) and quarterback Hamp Sisson (51×84, 638 passing yards, 3 TDs).

On defense Furman’s top returning performers include redshirt junior bandit Adrian Hope (49 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks), senior outside linebacker Elijah McKoy (64 tackles), redshirt sophomore cornerback Travis Blackshear (51 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FF), and redshirt senior defensive end Dru Seabrook (27 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks.

Furman finished the 2019 season ranked 19th in the final ACFA Poll.

The Paladins are under the direction of Clay Hendrix ’86, who is in his fourth year in charge of the program and 27th campaign with Paladin football that spans tenures as a player, assistant coach, and head coach.