Florida A&M University’s football program collected 15 letters of intent from high school seniors in addition to the mid-season transfers who are already enrolled.
Factor in three current players who have yet to see action, and the team has a total of 25 new recruits. Feb. 3 was the first day of the national signing period.
It was long strenuous process, but Taylor and his staff can sleep well at night knowing that they have brought in a talented class of recruits.
“We don’t want a guy that nobody else wants. I always tell my players, if you’re the only one that wants your girlfriend, then there’s something wrong with her,” said Taylor.
With that attitude, the program was able to acquire several highly touted transfers.
Jarien Moreland, Steven Robinson and James Poe are all transfers from the University of Central Florida. Moreland and Robinson are both talented and mobile offensive linemen who are expected to compete for starting jobs when spring practice begins. Both were ranked in the top 100 nationally at their positions. Poe is expected to start at fullback for the Rattlers with the loss of senior Mykel Benson.
Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina also recruited Steven Robinson, a Tallahassee native. Florida State, Louisiana State and Miami recruited Jarien Moreland as well.
Offensive line refurbishing was atop Taylor’s to-do list this off-season after losing four starters to graduation.
“We needed some upperclassmen. We needed some maturity on our [offensive line/defensive line.] That why we had a mixture of high school and transfer guys,” Taylor said.
This new group of linemen possesses more athleticism than last year’s line. An improved line should not only buy a few more seconds for whichever quarterback is under center next season, but also open up a few more holes for Philip Sylvester and the running game.
Besides the offensive line, the main priority for the Rattlers was to build depth.
“If a player plays all-out, then he can’t play a whole game,” Taylor said.
Though there will be no freshman at the top of the depth chart to start next season, the Rattlers have added players with speed that could emerge during midseason to take on greater roles.
Rodney Johnson, a running back from Hillsborough High School in Tampa, runs a 4.4. He’s a big-play athlete with a knack for making defenders miss tackles.
Rickards High star Terry Johnson could take some snaps in FAMU’s version of the “Wildcat” formation called, the “Rattler.” Johnson has good speed and although he was recruited as a defensive back, the high school quarterback could also be utilized on offense.
Another incoming freshman, Dante “Bubba” Black from Dunnellon High School, is already receiving high praise from Coach Taylor. He runs a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash and could be among the team’s best running backs.
Despite key losses suffered by the Rattlers on both sides of the ball, Taylor said his team had even more key additions on signing day.
“We’ve added value. We’ve added leverage. We’ve added speed. We’ve added athleticism.”
The question of who LeRoy Vann’s replacement will be may have an answer; however, it will not be running back Philip Sylvester. Sylvester was FAMU’s kick/punt returner until injuries forced Taylor to give Vann a shot. Now, the job will most likely belong to sophomore defensive back Jarral Stewart.
Newcomer Devan Roberts, out of Ocala Forest High School, will be challenging Stewart. Roberts, a safety in high school, joins the Rattlers having amassed career totals of over 700 return yards and 10 touchdowns.
FAMU DRS star linebacker Willie Ferrell will be a player to watch when spring practice opens up. The 2008 graduate left Ole Miss to join the Rattlers. Ferrell was ranked as the 13th best linebacker nationally by Scout.com and made over 300 tackles in his junior and senior season.