Eddie Battle, the former starting quarterback before Curtis Pulley, is fighting to regain his starting spot after an injury plagued his season, which gave sophomore Martin Ukpai a chance to shine on Florida A&M’s biggest football stage.
Instead of tearing the team apart, the competition gives the Rattlers an extra boost through spring practice.
Head coach Joe Taylor and his players agreed that the competition for spots on the field is helping the team achieve its potential.
Positions began to open up for backups when injuries tore through the team toward the latter half of last season. Pulley went down before a 25-0 loss to Hampton University, and backup Eddie Battle went down during that same game.
Battle’s shoulder injury meant then-redshirt freshman Martin Ukpai would start for the Florida Classic against Bethune Cookman. Ukpai’s performance in the game gave him a head start for the position as the post-Pulley field general.
Battle, a senior, now works to the starting job that was his before Pulley.
“It’s been a tough journey,” Battle said, “but you don’t want anything to be just given to you. The guys around me that are competing did a great job of pushing me. They don’t slack off, they come every day ready to play. The offense does a great job of lifting all three quarterbacks. It’s been tough, but it’s worth it.”
The competition leaves Taylor with a difficult decision to pick his starter after spring practice. Battle made his case Saturday by completing four of 10 passes and not throwing an interception. He was the only one out of three rotating quarterback’s to do so.
“It’s good to have competition,” Taylor said. “They are really pushing each other. We’ve definitely got three guys that are very, very, capable. Overall, after two weeks of practice, we’re making progress.”
Not resting continues to be Battles mentality as spring practice draws to a close.
“You never settle,” Battle said. “The offense feeds off the quarterback. If the quarterback comes in drowsy and lagging then that’s how the offense is going to play.”
Taylor mentioned that he plans to name a starter before the end of spring practice. Battle, Ukpai and freshman Austin Trainer split time during Saturday’s game to give Taylor extra insight from his potential starters.
“I saw some good things from all three,” Taylor said. “We just can’t make those blunders, fumbling snaps. Outside of that some good balls were thrown. We moved the ball.”