Nine games into the season and the Rattlers defense is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
Florida A&M University is now 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The past two games against Morgan State and North Carolina A&T have been won by defensive stops in overtime and fourth and two in the fourth quarter respectively.
“This defense is very strong,” said junior defensive back Qier Hall. “We could be the best defense in the country.”
According to Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor, injuries are forcing the team to play more four-man front schemes than usual.
To adjust to playing with fewer linebackers, Taylor has defensive backs like junior Curtis Holcomb and senior Leroy Vann lining up in linebacker slots to put the same amount of pressure on the quarterback.
Redshirt senior defensive end Joseph Wims missed Saturday’s 31-27 victory against North Carolina A&T with a right hamstring injury. Senior linebacker Bryan Parker suffered a pinched nerve in the first half of the same game and senior lineback Damien Priester has been dealing with a left ankle injury.
Taylor said the injuries are minor and “not a major concern.” He fully expects Parker and Wims to be back for the Rattlers game against the Hampton University Pirates this Saturday.
“Definitely Parker,” Taylor said. “Wims I’m sure [will play] too. We kept him out so that he could be ready for the next game.”
Taylor is confident that his team can handle losing players to injuries that he describes as “not debilitating.”
“We tell the guys, every time somebody gets hurt, that’s an opportunity for somebody to step up and provide more depth for us,” Taylor said. “Every time you get reps, now you are becoming an experienced guy for us.”
Parker and Wims account for for 68 of the Rattlers defense’s total tackles. Parker recorded one tackle before being taken out of the game against the Aggies for the second half.
The Rattlers defense held the Aggies to only six second half points with the help of redshirt sophomore linebacker Alvis Graham and true freshman linebacker Jerod Brisbon. Graham and Brisbon has eight and four tackles respectively.
“We were just being smart,” Taylor said about taking Parker out of the game. “Guys like Graham and Brisbon are doing a great job.”
The defense faces its next challenge against Hampton University in Hampton, Va., on Saturday at 1 p.m.