Spring football returns to Florida A&M University

Fans and athletes arrive and prepare for the 2022 Orange and Green Spring Game. Photo courtesy: Jaylen Rodriques

Spring football was back in action this Saturday as the Florida A&M Rattlers took to the field underneath clear Tallahassee skies to entertain fans with a game filled with aerial attacks and defensive prowess.

The Rattler offense ranked 45th out of all FCS schools according to Sports Illustrated. That is a statistic they hope to build upon next season, and this spring game was a perfect way to measure the strength of their returning athletes and evaluate their new players who have joined the roster via the transfer portal.

Last Saturday, Florida A&M football concluded their spring season with their Orange and Green Spring game, which saw Team Orange take the victory over Team Green with a final score of 28-10.

A competition for quarterback

The quarterback battle took center stage during this pass-heavy game. Team Orange rotated between last year’s starting quarterback Rasean McKay, who started the game for Team Orange, Junior Muratovic and transfer student, Jeremy Moussa from Vanderbilt University.

The quarterback group started slowly in the first half of the game, throwing short passes that were a little off target. However, things began to heat up for these quarterbacks in the second half.

Moussa began his first series as a Rattler with an interception on his first play from scrimmage but made up for his mistake on the next series by completing his subsequent two passes, driving the offense down the field for a field goal in the first quarter. Moussa threw a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and displayed his pocket presence and awareness, down the field accuracy, and willingness to take risks.

Muratovic turned a few heads this game, throwing the second touchdown for Team Orange on a 63-yard score in the third quarter. Muratovic showed improvement from last season, looking more comfortable in the pocket and displaying to fans and coaches his ability to push the boundary and go for the long ball every once in a while.

McKay displayed his between the numbers accuracy and ability to sneak the ball into tight pockets for only his receivers to catch. McKay, a redshirt senior, led Florida A&M to a 9-3 record as the starting quarterback last year. This was their second season in a row, winning nine games or more.

For Team Green, quarterbacks Cameron Sapp, Jacory Jordan and LeJohn Howard rotated throughout the game. LeJohn Howard started the game for Team Green, but Cameron Sapp threw the game’s only touchdown on an 83-yard strike in the fourth quarter.

The Rattlers have added 30 new players to their roster via the transfer portal. Photo courtesy: Jaylen Rodriques

Speed kills

Proving that speed kills, there are big shoes to fill at the running back position now that Bishop Bonnet’s time at Florida A&M has ended. According to ESPN, Bonnett rushed for 995 yards last season, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Running back coach Joseph Henry will make his return to Florida A&M this season and is now tasked with finding a suitable replacement.

Running backs Lelan Wilhoite, a transfer student from Fort Scott Community College, Jaylen McCloud, a redshirt senior, Terrell Jennings, a redshirt junior and Daylen Hall, junior, led the rushing attack for Team Orange, rotating between the four athletes each series.

Team Green was led by redshirt senior Eddie Tillman III and Destin Coates, a transfer student from Georgia State University. In a game filled with passing, the running backs put on an impressive display with their shifty moves and speed, resulting in breakout runs that set up the offense in scoring position.

The wide receivers for Florida A&M had a busy day, and though the game began with a couple of dropped passes, the receiving core handled their business and displayed their pure speed and quick movements.

For Team Orange, receiver Trevonte Davis connected with Muratovic on a 63-yard touchdown reception, and Tight End Kamari Young caught a 15-yard touchdown from Moussa. Xavier Smith was on the receiving end of the only touchdown for Team Green, racing the defense down the field on an 83-yard touchdown catch.

A stingy defense
HBCU Gameday reports during the 2021 football season, Florida A&M ranked top 10 in defense among FCS schools. The Rattlers boast one of the stingiest defenses in the conference, only allowing 11.8 points per game.

This unwavering defense was once again on display Saturday. Isiah Major, a transfer student from Independence Community College, was responsible for an interception on the second defensive series for Team Green. Team Orange collected an interception of their own, with linebacker Makel McClenton showing fans his tip drill proficiency in the third quarter.

Team Orange and Green’s defensive line was highly active this game, showing their prowess and ability to get to the quarterback.

Special teams
Kickers Jose Romo-Martinez, a transfer student from Delaware State, and sophomore Leonardo Zuazo were responsible for most of the points in this game, combining for six field goals. Martinez was responsible for the longest field goal of the game, nailing a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter to tie the game for Team Green.

Looking forward
There are plenty of fresh faces on the Rattler’s roster, and new faces mean more competition for starting roles. With the multitude of impressive performances in this spring game, Coach Simmons and the rest of the coaching staff will have some tough decisions to make this season.

The Rattlers open their football season on Aug. 27, 2022, where they will head to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels. Their first home game will be against Albany State (GA) on Sept. 10, 2022.