When the Florida A&M Rattlers travel to Washington D.C., they will have a new weapon on their defensive line. Josh Newkirk is excited about the challenge facing the defense when they take on the Howard Bison.
Head coach Joe Taylor began Tuesday’s press conference by complimenting the way his special teams kept the Delaware State Hornets from gaining good field position last Saturday. He said the team showed improvement in all three aspects of the game, and that they achieved their goal of giving a full 60 minute effort.
“That’s what our theme is, play 60 minutes. I really thought the difference in the game, and one of the reasons we start of every practice with special teams, was special teams. Our punter Brandon [Holdren] did a fine job of keeping them in bad field position, but again keeping us in good field position.”
T.J. Lawrence caught his first collegiate touchdown pass against DSU, not as a Florida Gator, but as a FAMU Rattler.
“Once I caught it, it was like a burst of energy throughout the rest of my body being the fact that it was my first college touchdown,” the receiver said. “As I got to the sideline, coach Taylor came up to me and said ‘there are many more to come’. That brought a smile to my face.”
Taylor says he is familiar with the triple-option offense of the Bison. Howard hired offensive coordinator Brad Bernard from Bethune-Cookman in the spring, and he has implemented the option into the struggling Bison offense of years past.
Making his first start for the Rattlers against DSU was Newkirk, who registered five total tackles, and one for a four-yard loss. The defensive end was present at the weekly press conference, and said he was excited about playing his first game dressed in Rattler orange and green.
“After I first heard the news that I was eligible to play, I was excited. As soon as I got out there on the field I was like a wildcat, as in not going by my assignments. Once I calmed down and started going by my assignments, it started clicking and I started making plays.”
Newkirk says he already feels comfortable in the defense now that the coaching staff has moved him from linebacker to defensive end.
“When I first got here I started off at linebacker, and learned some stuff. They put me back at end where I actually feel more comfortable, and can make some plays.”
The Rattlers have felt the brunt of Newkirk’s relentless playing style before when they faced his old team, Winston-Salem State last year. The transfer finished the season with 54 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and one sack for the Rams.
“He played against us last year and had seven tackles at defensive end, so that’s where he should have been,” said Taylor. “He made a real big play on a potential counter last week that would’ve been a big gainer, but he was able to shed his block and make the play near the goal line. [Newkirk] is a welcome addition.”
The biggest difference between the defenses of the two schools for Newkirk, is the pro-style they run here at FAMU.
“When I was at Winston-Salem State it was pretty much line up and go,” Newkirk said. “I basically played by instinct, and that’s how I made all my plays. Here, I learned so much more. I learned a lot more terminology when I came out here, and I started going through my playbook. Learning how to two-gap [for example].”
Newkirk has set lofty goals for himself in the 2010 season.
“I try to up my goals every year. Last year I had over 50 tackles, this year I want over 60 or 70. I know I might not get as many reps as I did WSSU because we go through a two-man rotation at defensive end, but I’m still going to set my goals high.”
The Rattlers will take on the Bison in Greene Stadium Saturday night. WXBX will broadcast the game live at 1 p.m. EST, and the webcast can be found on howard-bison.com.