GREENVILLE, S.C. -- With heavy emphasis on offense and linemen, Furman head football coach Bruce Fowler announced Wednesday the signing of 22 recruits to national letters of intent.
The Paladins' new crop of signees features 14 offensive players, six defenders, one special teams performer, and one recruit designated as an athlete. It includes eight linemen — four each on offense and defense — three running backs and wide receivers, and a pair of quarterbacks, tight ends, and defensive backs.
They come from five states, led by eight from Georgia and five from North Carolina. Four recruits hail from Florida, three from Alabama, and there are two Palmetto state recruits in the group.
Among the additions joining the Paladins, who captured the 2013 Southern Conference championship and league's automatic berth into the NCAA FCS playoffs, are a pair of first team all-state performers, including quarterback P.J. Blazejowski (St. Augustine, Fla./Bartram Trail H.S.) and offensive lineman Terrell Bush (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Tuscaloosa Academy).
Blazejowksi, a 6A all-state selection, passed for 2,468 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 874 yards and 14 scores in 2013 in helping Bartram Trail overcome an 0-5 start en route to eight consecutive wins and a state semifinal playoff appearance.
Bush earned AISA 3A all-state honors at two positions in his career, garnering his first tab as an offensive lineman in 2012 after helping Tuscaloosa Academy to a 13-0 state championship season, and his second scroll this past year a defensive lineman.
Wide receiver A'lencio Graham (Lawrenceville, Ga./Flowery Branch H.S.) was rated as a three-star recruit by 24/7Sports.com, and seven others were rated as two-star recruits by Rivals.com, Scout.com, or 24/7Sports.com.
Two Tar Heel state running backs are in the class, including Texas native Kealand Dirks (Lewisville, N.C./West Forsyth H.S.), who rushed for 1,501 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, and Issac Garcia (Charlotte, N.C./Olympic H.S.), who ran for 1,231 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry this past fall en route to amassing a school career record 7,000 all-purpose yards.
Among the notable performers from Georgia are 2013 All-Cobb County and Cobb County Touchdown Club Defensive Lineman of the Year Jaylan Reid (Marietta, Ga./Hillgrove H.S.) and multi-positional standout Joe Farrar (Tucker, Ga./Tucker H.S.), who served as starting quarterback on Tucker's 14-1 state runner-up squad this past fall. Other Peach state standouts include Chinedu Okonya (Riverdale, Ga./Riverdale H.S.), an All-Clayton County defensive end, and Georgia North-South All-Star Game safety Antonio Wilcox (Fitzgerald, Ga./Fitzgerald H.S.).
Furman's two Palmetto recruits include wide receiver Bradford Lemmons (Columbia, S.C./Dreher H.S.) and placekicker/punter Jon Croft Hollingsworth (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood H.S.). Lemmons caught 60 passes for 670 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 and is known statewide for his speed, winning state 3A titles in both the 200m (22.12) and 400m (48.20), and finishing second in the 100m (10.92) last spring. Hollingsworth, meanwhile, converted 7-of-10 field goal attempts last year and helped lead Greenwood to a 4A/Division 2 state championship (15-0) season in 2012. He also participated in the South Carolina North-South All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach in December.
A pair of Paladin signees, fullback Ridge Gibson (Marietta, Ga./Walton H.S.) and athlete Evan Jager (Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland Prep), boast special connections to Furman football as sons of former Paladin standouts. Gibson's father, Ernest, was an All-America defensive back and member of three SoCon championship teams (1979-82) who garnered NCAA Post-Graduate honors on the way to a six-year NFL career, primarily with the New England Patriots. Jager's father, Brian, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, NCAA Post-Graduate Scholar, and All-SoCon performer, rushed for a team leading 832 yards and nine touchdowns in 1985, helping Furman to a 13-2 season, league championship, national runner-up finish.
2014 FURMAN FOOTBALL SIGNEES
P.J. Blazejowski, QB, 6-0, 174, Fr., St. Augustine, Fla. (Bartram Trail H.S.)
Hunter Branch, WR, 6-0, 175, Fr., Birmingham, Ala. (Mountain Brook H.S.)
Jack Bryant, OL, 6-3, 273, Fr., Atlanta, Ga. (Woodward Academy)
Kedar Bryant, TE, 6-4, 230, Fr., Jacksonville, Fla. (Providence H.S.)
Terrell Bush, OL, 6-3, 310, Fr., Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Tuscaloosa Academy)
Daniel Butler, DL, 6-4, 268, Fr., Enterprise, Ala. (Enterprise H.S.)
Kealand Dirks, RB, 6-0, 228, Fr., Lewisville, N.C. (West Forsyth H.S.)
Joe Farrar, DB, 5-10, 189, Fr., Tucker, Ga. (Tucker H.S.)
Issac Garcia, RB, 5-10, 195, Fr., Charlotte, N.C. (Olympic H.S.)
Ridge Gibson, FB, 5-11, 206, Fr., Marietta, Ga. (Walton H.S.)
A'lencio Graham, WR, 6-0, 173, Fr., Lawrenceville, Ga. (Flowery Branch H.S.)
Jon Croft Hollingsworth, PK/P, 5-11, 152, Fr., Greenwood, S.C. (Greenwood H.S.)
Connor Jackson, DE, 6-2, 254, Fr., Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State University School)
Evan Jager, ATH, 6-2, 200, Fr., Orlando, Fla. (Lake Highland Prep)
Bradford Lemmons, WR, 6-3, 177, Fr., Columbia, S.C. (Dreher H.S.)
Chinedu Okonya, DE, 6-2, 200, Fr., Riverdale, Ga. (Riverdale H.S.)
Jaylan Reid, DL, 5-11, 266, Fr., Marietta, Ga. (Hillgrove H.S.)
Harris Roberts, QB, 6-2, 175, Fr., Cumming, Ga. (North Forsyth H.S.)
Matthew Schmidt, OL, 6-3, 287, Fr., Stokesdale, N.C. (McMichael H.S.)
Chris Wade, OL, 6-4, 278, Fr., Charlotte, N.C. (Independence H.S.)
Antonio Wilcox, S, 6-2, 190, Fr., Fitzgerald, Ga. (Fitzgerald H.S.)
Ajay Williams, TE, 6-4, 241, Fr., Elm City, N.C. (Beddingfield H.S.)
P.J. Blazejowksi, QB
6-0, 175, Freshman
St. Augustine, Fla. (Bartram Trail High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Bartram Trail (6A) High School...football coach was Darrell Sutherland...played quarterback...two-year starter who passed for 4,500 yards and 46 touchdowns and rushed for 1,300 yards and 26 scores in his career...named 2013 FloridaHSFootball.com first team all-state and second team all-state in voting by the media after throwing for 2,468 yards/17 TDs and rushing for 874 yards/14 TDs in helping Bartram Trail to a district runner-up finish and appearance in the state playoff semifinals...squad started 0-5 before winning eight straight to finish 8-6...passed for 291 yards and rushed for 108 yards in 50-20 quarterfinal round playoff victory over Ed White...selected St. Augustine Record 2013 Player of the Year...also played baseball and competed in track & field during his prep career.
Personal: Full name is Paul Joseph Blazejowski, Jr....born November 2, 1995, in Springfield, Massachusetts...son of Tawny and Paul Blazejowski...has two brothers, Devin and Logan, and a sister Kayla...father played football at Bridgewater State.
Hunter Branch, WR
6-0, 175, Freshman
Birmingham, Alabama (Mountain Brook High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Mountain Brook (6A) High School...football coach was Chris Yeager...played wide receiver...caught 81 passes for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns in his career...served as team captain and earned first team Birmingham/Hoover All-Metro, All-Over The Mountain, and All-Metro South first team honors as a senior after collecting 64 catches for 1,081 yards, and eight scores...caught game-tying touchdown against arch-rival and No. 2 ranked Vestavia Hills in eventual 10-7 victory...had a 71-yard game winning touchdown grab against Buckhorn that secured a 2013 playoff berth...notched 200-yard receiving performances against both Huffman and Shades Valley last fall.
Personal: Full name is Hunter Crow Branch...born March 14, 1996, in Birmingham, Alabama...son of Chuck and Elisabeth Branch...has two brothers, Charles and Chris, and a sister, Janie.
Jack Bryant, OL
6-3, 275, Freshman
Atlanta, Ga. (Woodward Academy)
Projected 2014 graduate of Woodward (3A) Academy...football coach was John Hunt...Rivals.com 2-Star recruit...saw action was an offensive and defensive lineman...two-year starter who worked at both offensive guard and tackle as a junior and tackle as a senior, when he also served as team captain...helped lead Woodward to three straight playoff appearances, including a 9-3 season in 2013...also competed in track & field, specializing in the shot put.
Personal: Full name is John Fletcher Bryant...born April 25, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia...son of Nancy and Doug Bryant...has three siblings: Peter, Cole, and Douglas.
Kedar Bryant, TE
6-4, 230, Freshman
Jacksonville, Fla. (Providence High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Providence (3A) High School...football coach was Bobby Raulerson...played tight end and defensive end...starred at Camden County (Ga.) High School as a junior in 2012, helping his squad to an 11-2 season and 6A state quarterfinal playoff appearance before losing to eventual state champion Norcross...transferred to Providence for 2013, his senior year, where he totaled 15 tackles, including two for-loss, and 1.5 sacks...starter on Providence's 2013-14 nationally ranked basketball squad.
Personal: Full name is Kedar Malik Bryant...born April 17, 1996, in New York, New York...son of Robert Bryant and Syron Keeley...has a brother, Mashelik Keeley, and a brother Jyoti Harper...father played basketball at Florida State.
Terrell Bush, OL
6-3, 300, Freshman
Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Tuscaloosa Academy)
Projected 2014 graduate of Tuscaloosa (AISA 3A) Academy...football coach was Robert Johnson...saw action on the offensive and defensive lines...Scout.com and 24/7Sports.com 2-Star recruit...two-time first team all-state selection, first as an offensive lineman in 2012 and again as a defensive lineman in 2013, his senior year...returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown in Tuscaloosa Academy's 27-26 state championship victory over Lee-Scott Academy in 2012, completing a perfect 13-0 season...posted a season blocking grade of 95 percent and credited with 65 pancake blocks this past fall...notched 75 tackles and five sacks...also competed in basketball and in track & field.
Personal: Full name is Billy Terrell Bush...born October 18, 1995, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama...son of Billy and Denise Bush...has a brother, Brandon.
Daniel Butler, DL
6-3, 265, Freshman
Enterprise, Ala. (Enterprise High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Enterprise (6A) High School...football coach was David Faulkner...played nose guard, defensive tackle, and defensive end during his prep career...Rivals.com and 24/7Sports.com 2-Star recruit...two-time Southeast Sun Elite 11 selection...helped lead his squad to back-to-back 7-5 records in 2012 and '13...totaled 47 tackles, six tackles for-loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery, three caused fumble, and 11 quarterback pressures his senior year...as a junior was credited with 45 tackles, nine tackles for-loss, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries.
Personal: Full name is Daniel Clayton Butler...born September 1, 1995, in Jackson, Mississippi...son of Allen and Sally Butler...has two brothers, Ben and twin brother Caleb, who is signing to play football at South Alabama.
Kealand Dirks, RB
6-0, 228, Freshman
Clemmons, N.C. (West Forsyth High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of West Forsyth (4A) High School...football coach was Adrian Snow...played running back...grew up in Commerce, Texas, before moving to North Carolina prior to his sophomore year...rushed 516 times for 3,462 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons at West Forsyth...two-time all-county, All-Central Piedmont Conference, and Winston-Salem Journal All-Northwest selection...ran 248 times for 1,501 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, helping lead his squad to a 12-3 record, conference championship, and state playoff semi-final finish...also starred in track, earning all-region honors in the shotput, 4x100m and 4x200m in 2013.
Personal: Full name is Kealand O'Neil Dirks...born October 5, 1995, in Greenville, Texas...parents are Ricky and Barbara Dirks...has a brother, Keasean...father was a standout running back at Texas A&M-Commerce, where he was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame in 2004.
Joe Farrar, DB
5-9, 185, Freshman
Tucker, Georgia (Tucker High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Tucker (5A) High School...football coach was Bryan Lamar...multi-position standout in a career that saw him register action at quarterback, running back, cornerback, and safety...also saw duty returning punts and kickoffs...made the switch from running back to quarterback as a senior and passed for over 1,000 yards while also leading his team with over 750 rushing yards in 2013 campaign that saw Tucker post a 14-1 record and state runner-up finish...passed for 178 yards and two scores and ran for 74 yards and another touchdown in state championship game loss to Creekside...also participates in baseball at Tucker.
Personal: Full name is Joseph Antonio Farrar...born July 18, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia...parents are Marlene and Joseph Farrar..has a sister, Morgan.
Issac Garcia, RB
5-10, 195, Freshman
Charlotte, N.C. (Olympic High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Olympic (4A) High School...football coach was Barry Shuford...saw most of his action as a running back but also returned punts and kickoffs in addition to punting...amassed over 7,000 all-purpose yards in his career — a school record...earned first team South Meck 8 All-Conference honors in 2013 after rushing for 1,231 yards and three touchdowns...averaged 8.1 yards per carry as a senior on a 7-5 squad...also starred in track at Olympic, posting a third place finish in the state 200m in 2013...named to the Top 100 Young Black Men of Charlotte.
Personal: Full name is Issac Antonio Garcia...born November 26, 1995, in Wilmington, North Carolina...son of Kimberley and Lavar Clark...has three great uncles who played major professional baseball: Henry Threadgill, who attended Clemson and was a 34th round draft selection of the Anaheim Angels; George Threadgill, a second round draft selection of the Texas Rangers in 1983; and Chris Threadgill, a third round draft pick of the Anaheim Angels in 1987.
Ridge Gibson, FB
5-10, 211, Freshman
Marietta, Ga. (Walton High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Walton (6A) High School...football coach was Rocky Hildago...played fullback and linebacker...racked up 105 tackles and garnered All-Cobb County honors as a senior...selected to the Cobb County Senior Bowl...member of Walton's state runner-up team in 2011, his sophomore year.
Personal: Full name is Ridge Andrew Gibson...born April 19, 1996, in Jacksonville, Florida...son of Ernest and Barbara Gibson..has a sister, Rachael, and a brother, Ryan...father was a member of three Southern Conference championship teams (1980-82), All-America defensive back, NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient, and sixth round draft selection of the New England Patriots in 1984 who played six years in the NFL, primarily with the Patriots, and was a starter in the 1986 Super Bowl.
A'lencio Graham, WR
6-0, 173, Freshman
Lawrenceville, Ga. (Flowery Branch High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Flowery Branch (5A) High School...football coach was Chris Griffin...played wide receiver and also returned kicks...24/7Sports.com 3-Star, Rivals.com 2-Star recruit...caught 54 passes for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career...participated in the 2013 FCA East-West All-Star Classic...helped lead Flowery Branch to a 7-4 record his senior year and 8-3, region championship campaign in 2012.
Personal: Full name is A'lencio Kalonte Graham...born September 16, 1995, in Honolulu, Hawaii...mother is Kimberly Brooks and grandmother, Hortense Reid.
Jon Croft Hollingsworth, PK/P
5-11, 152, Freshman
Greenwood, S.C. (Greenwood High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Greenwood (4A - Division 2) High School...football coach was Gene Cathcart...served as placekicker and punter...converted 9-of-12 field goal attempts in his prep tenure, helping Greenwood to a 36-6 record over his final three seasons, including a 15-0 state championship run in 2012...made 7-of-10 attempts in 2013, his senior year...two-time All-Lakelands selection as a punter...South Carolina North-South All-Star Game choice...also played soccer at Greenwood.
Personal: Full name is Jonathan Croft Hollingsworth...born January 31, 1996, in Greenwood, South Carolina...son of Lynn and Croft Hollingsworth...has a sister Grace.
Connor Jackson, DE
6-2, 254, Freshman
Tallahassee, Florida (Florida State University School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Florida State (4A) University School (FSUS)...football coach was Jarrod Hickman...four-year, two-way starter along the offensive and defensive lines...also handled punting chores and saw action as a long snapper... Rivals.com 2-Star recruit...combined to record 71 tackles, including six for-loss, and 5.5 sacks over his junior and senior seasons...registered 24 pancake blocks and 44 tackles in 2013 in helping FSUS to an 8-5 record and third round state playoff appearance...invited to play in Georgia-Florida Border War All-Star Game...state qualifier in wrestling as a junior.
Personal: Full name is Connor Merle Jackson...born November 18, 1995, in Tallahassee, Florida...parents are Dee Anne and Jay Jackson...has a brother Jordan and a sister Mallory.
Evan Jager, ATH
6-3, 200, Freshman
Orlando, Florida (Lake Highland Prep)
Projected 2014 graduate of Lake Highland (5A) Preparatory School...football coach was Tim Borcky...played quarterback...four-year starter who passed for 4,200 yards and 40 touchdowns and rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 scores in his career to rank among the most productive signal callers in the school history...served as team captain his junior and senior seasons...three-time team offensive MVP choice...selected to play in Central Florida All-Star game but could not participate due to basketball...threw five touchdown passes against Cocca Beach his junior year...led his team to a district runner-up finish and state playoff appearance as a sophomore in 2011...started as a freshman and paced his team to a district crown...member of highly successful Lake Highland Prep basketball program...team is currently ranked in Top 10 in Florida...was sixth man on 2012-13 4A state championship team, scoring seven points and claiming three rebounds in 67-50 title game win over St. Andrews.
Personal: Full name is Evan Charles Jager...born September 11, 1995, in Orlando, Florida...parents are Brian and Keri Jager, both Furman graduates...has a brother, Matthew, and a siser, Anna Beth...father was an All-Southern Conference running back, two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, and NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient at Furman who rushed for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns on Furman's 1985 SoCon championship, NCAA I-AA (FCS) national runner-up team.
Bradford Lemmons, WR
6-3, 175, Freshman
Columbia, S.C. (Dreher High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Dreher (3A) High School...football coach in 2013 was Treigh Sullivan...played wide receiver...all-region choice who caught 60 passes for 670 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, his senior year...rated No. 53 among state's Top 100 players...outstanding performer in track & field...captured 2013 state championships in the 200m (22.12) and 400m (48.20), and finished second in the 100m (10.92).
Personal: Full name is Bradford Peiere Lemmons...born April 19, 1996, in Columbia, South Carolina...son of Elease Legette and James Lemmons...has two sisters, Amanda and Anita...uncle, Tyrone Legette, played seven years in the NFL (1992-98) with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco.
Chinedu Okonya, DE
6-1, 215, Freshman
Riverdale, Ga. (Riverdale High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Riverdale (2A) High School...football coach was Terry Herrod...played outside linebacker and defensive end...Rivals.com and 24/7Sports.com 2-Star recruit...three-year starter...served as team captain in 2013 and registered 66 tackles, including 19 for-loss, and seven sacks...first team all-region and All-Clayton County selection.
Personal: Full name is Chinedu Maduabuchi Okonya...born December 7, 1995, in Fulton County, Georgia...son of Patricia and Romanus Okonya...has four siblings, Chika, Ikechi, Chigozie, and Chidi.
Jaylan Reid, DL
5-11, 266, Freshman
Marietta, Ga. (Hillgrove High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Hillgrove (6A) High School...football coach was Phil Ironside...played defensive line...Rivals.com 2-Star recruit...racked up 94 tackles, including 16 for-loss, and seven sacks in 2013, helping Hillgrove to an 11-2 record and third round state playoff appearance...two-time first team all-region selection...named to 2013 All-Cobb County squad and tabbed Cobb County Touchdown Club Defensive Lineman of the Year...standout performer in track...captured state championship in the shot put as a junior with throw of 56' 2"...placed fifth in the state in the discus.
Personal: Full name is Jaylan Anthony Reid...born July 19, 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia...son of Petra Reid..has a brother, Khory.
Harris Roberts, QB
6-2, 175, Freshman
Cumming, Ga. (North Forsyth High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of North Forsyth (6A) High School...football coach was Jason Galt...played quarterback...served as team captain as a junior and senior and was a three-time team academic player of the year selection...played in only five games in 2013 due to injury, passing for 454 yards/5 TDs and rushed for 161 yards/2 TDs...helped lead North Forsyth to a 7-4 record and first playoff berth as a member of 6A classification...threw for 1,042 yards and registered 11 touchdown responsibilities his junior year...also played baseball and basketball...Salutatorian, Georgia Merit Scholar, and AP Scholar with Distinction.
Personal: Full name is Jameson Harris Roberts...born November 5, 1995, in Atlanta, Georgia...parents are Brian and Julie Roberts...has a brother, Brian, and a sister, Julie.
Matthew Schmidt, OL
6-3, 287, Freshman
Stokesdale, N.C. (McMichael High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Dalton L. McMichael (3A) High School...football coach was Charles Shields...played both offensive and defensive line, working at all three positions on the offensive front...two-time Mid-State All-Conference, All-Rockingham County, and Greensboro News-Record All-Area selection...totaled 163 tackles, including 31 tackles for-loss, and 124 pancake blocks over his final two seasons...topped all conference defensive linemen in tackles (91) in 2013....attended Oak Ridge Military Academy for two years prior to enrolling at McMichael High School.
Personal: Full name is Matthew August Schmidt...born June 29, 1995...son of Gregg and Jen Schmidt...has two brothers, Taylor and David, and two sisters, Abby and Emma...father played football at South Dakota State (1985-87).
Chris Wade, OL
6-4, 278, Freshman
Charlotte, N.C. (Independence High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Independence (4AA) High School...football coach was Joe Evans...played offensive tackle...Rivals.com 2-Star recruit...two-time Southwestern 4A All-Conference first team selection...helped pace Independence to an 8-5 record and state quarterfinal round playoff appearance in 2013...also competed in track & field, specializing in the shot put and discus.
Personal: Full name is Christopher Wade...born November 4, 1995, in Charlotte, North Carolina...son of Darlene and Christopher Wade, Sr...has a sister, Shante'.
Antonio Wilcox, S
6-2, 190, Freshman
Fitzgerald, Ga. (Fitzgerald High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Fitzgerald (2A) High School...football coach was Jason Strickland...played wingback and safety in two years of action at Fitzgerald...rushed for 566 yards and two touchdowns and collected 46 tackles, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries as a senior...earned first team all-region honors as a safety in 2013...selected to play in Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game...also played basketball and competed in track.
Personal: Full name is Curtis Antonio Wilcox...born January 14, 1996, in Fitzgerald, Georgia...mother is China Edwards.
Ajay Williams, TE
6-4, 241, Freshman
Elm City, N.C. (Beddingfield High School)
Projected 2014 graduate of Beddingfield (2A) High School...football coach was Tyrone Johnson...played quarterback, defensive end, tight end, and wide receiver...caught 39 passes for 614 yards and seven touchdowns, and registered 43 tackles, including 13 for loss, as a senior...named first team all-conference...also starred in basketball and baseball.
Personal: Full name is Ajay Carles Williams...born December 13, 1995, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina...son of Jimmy and Dorothy Williams...has three brothers: Deon, James and Mack.