FAMU flexed its recruiting muscle in the state and around the country, putting together a talented 2003 class of 32 high school and junior college players, featuring eight first-team and three second team All-State players from several states.
The headliner of the class is Jacksonville Episcopal quarterback Albert Chester, who earned All-State honors as a junior and senior. Chester’s family has ties to FAMU. His father was the quarterback for the Rattler’s 1978 National Championship team.
“At the [Division] I-AA level, the only way you can land a great recruit like Chester is to have him ‘delivered’ to you,” Billy Joe, FAMU’s head coach.
Joe said he placed emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines during the recruitment period. The Rattlers recruited 19 players that are capable of playing on either Side of the line. Both lines were hit hard by the injury bug, which forced the coaching staff to move personnel to compensate for the losses throughout the season. Joe said he wanted to make sure he doesn’t have that problem again.
“We didn’t have a lot of depth on the [offensive and defensive] lines going into last season,” Joe said. ” The fact that we had as many injuries as we did during the season didn’t help either. We had third and fourth-string players starting.
“We met our needs in a big way with this recruiting class, so hopefully that will alleviate that problem.”
The Rattlers also needed to address the receiving corps, where they lost their top three receivers from last season, and linebacker, where they lost Joe Sanders, their top tackler from last year, and Rickey Funches, who started the past two seasons for FAMU.
“Linebacker may be the only position that I think still needs to be addressed,” Joe said. “We’re working on that as we speak.”
FAMU placed emphasis on the southeastern region. Twenty recruits are from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi or South Carolina. However, the Rattlers also managed to get seven players from California, all from junior colleges.
The Rattlers lost 22 players from last year’s team, many of whom made a significant contribution. “Our goal was to go after players we knew we had a chance of landing,” sports information director Alvin Hollins said. “I think we did a good job of getting everybody we set out for.”
FAMU releases 2003 football schedule
The football team recently released its 2003 schedule. The highlight game is at Florida on Sept. 13. The schedule features four home games, all against Mid-Eastern Athletic conference opponents.
FAMU will also have four ‘classics,’ including the inaugural Detroit Classic against Alabama State to start the season. Other out-of-conference classic games include Jackson State at the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis and Tennessee State in the annual Atlanta Football Classic.
Player/Position, City/State, School
Eliott Berry, OG/DT, Kansas City, KS, Independence JC
Michael Bode, OL, Miami, FL, Coral Gables Sr. HS
Joshua Brown, DE, Columbus, OH, Marion-Franklin HS Albert Chester, Ath, Jacksonville, FL, Episcopal HS
Justin Cooper, DB, Carson, CA, L.A. Southwest CC
Allen Dickens, LB, Marianna, GA, Cottondale HS
Matt Douglass, FS, Belfonce, CA, Compton CC
Andrew Gill, DL, Los Angeles, CA, L.A. Southwest CC Gale Green, WR/DB, Vero Beach, FL, Sebastian River HS
Daniel Henderson, OL/DT, Columbus, OH, Marion-Franklin HS
Paul Johnson, PK, Tallahassee, FL, Chiles HS Kyle Joiner, OL/DT, Bartow, FL, Bartow Sr. HS Broderick Jones, OL/DL, Stone Mountain, GA Lynnel King, OL, Houston, TX, Elsik HS Roosevelt Kiser, Jr., Lauderdale Lake, FL, Boyd Anderson HS
Richard Koonce, OL, Boynton Beach, FL, Boynton Beach Community HS
Darwin Laidley, OL, Inglewood, CA, Compton CC
Charles McCullum, QB/DB, Atlanta, GA, Fredrick Douglass HS Gary Mack, TE/DE, Kingston, PA, West Chester HS
Mario Palomino, OT/OG, Los Angeles, CA, L.A. Valley CC
Bryant Pontoon, OT/DT, North Augusta, SC, North Augusta HS
Willie Pope, WR, Miami, FL, West Laurens HS
DeMarcus Sapp, LB, Crawfordville, FL, Wakulla HS
Faafetai Seti, DT, Long Beach, CA, Compton CC
Walter Showes, OT/DT, New Hebron, MS, Copiah-Lincoln CC
Ron Smith, OL/DL, Dexter, GA Adrain Spence, OT/DT, Pembroke Pines, FL, Charles W. Flanagan HS
Bruce Taylor, WR, Miami, FL, South Miami Sr. HS
Rodney Thompson, OG/DT, Miami, Fl, Norland HS
Jarvis Thomas, OL/DL, Cochran, GA, Twiggs County HS
Mafello Vakalahi, OL, San Bernadino, CA, San Bernadino JC
Derek Williams, Ath, Port St. Lucie, FL, Ft. Pierce Central HS
Kevin Fair can be reached at email@example.com.