Rattlers prepare for next season

With spring football practice underway around the country and the Rattlers a week into theirs, here is a position-by-position status report on how FAMU is looking.

Quarterback Key players lost: Casey Printers, Reggie HayesKey players returning: Ben Dougherty, Toney Scott

Status: If a team loses both its starting and backup quarterbacks in the same season, the team is supposed to be in bad shape the following year. The Rattlers are far from it. Both Dougherty and Scott are talented and capable of running coach Billy Joe’s “Gulf Coast” offense. Throw in Arkansas State transfer Josh Driscoll, and you have one of the most intriguing battles at any position this spring.

Running Back Key players lost: noneKey players returning: Rashard Pompey, Devvin Richardson

Status: With the addition of Miami transfer Alfonso Mounts, Jr., this may be the Rattlers’ strongest position coming into the spring. Even Joe says this “could be potentially the best corps of back [he’s] had at FAMU.” But Joe also points out that only Pompey and Richardson have proven themselves. The backfield may have to carry the load next season until the passing game gets in sync.

Wide ReceiverKey players lost: Charlie Allen, Dennis Bonga, Marco JuniousKey players returning: Rod Miller, Andrae Harrison

Status: The receiving position is in the same situation as the quarterbacks. The Rattlers are returning with only one of their top four receivers from last year. Miller may have to have the type of season that Allen had last year, when he led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in receiving. FAMU does have some talent at this position, albeit inexperienced.

Offensive LineKey players lost: Lamar Demps, Shedrick MotenKey players returning: Fletcher Williams

Status: As of spring practice, the Rattlers only have 11 offensive linemen on the team. For this reason, Joe paid extra attention to this position during recruiting, nabbing 15 offensive linemen. The quantity may soon be there, but the quality may take a little longer to show.

Defensive LineKey players lost: Dwayne BeverlyKey players returning: Sean Kelly, Jeff Green, John EdwardsStatus: There’s a ton of talent on the defensive line but, like the offensive line, there’s not much depth. Getting Kelly back, who earned All-America honors two years ago, but suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, will provide a big boost. Green stepped up in Kelly’s place, leading the team in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (23). With recruiting solving the depth problem, the defensive line should perform very well.

LinebackerKey players lost: Joe Sanders, Rickey FunchesKey players returning: Chris Sessions

Status: The linebacker corps took a big hit, losing last season’s leading tackler (Sanders) and a two-year starter (Funches). Although the Rattlers are returning Sessions along with Jason Grace, who played well in limited action last season, linebacker may be a problem area for FAMU.

Defensive BackKey players lost: Marco WilliamsKey players returning: Levy Brown, Shedrick Copeland, Edward Kwaku

Status: The most solid part of the Rattler defense last season will go into next season in the best shape. All-American safety Brown, who led the team in interceptions (eight) and was third on the team in tackles (59) heads what could very well become the most talented and experienced secondary in the MEAC next season.

Special TeamsKey players lost: noneKey players returning: Juan Vasquez, Damon Miller, E.J. Collier

Status: While kick and punt coverage remained a constant problem throughout last season, kicker Vasquez and punter Miller both turned in good years. Vasquez, who was an All-American in 2001, made nine of 10 field goals last year, while Miller averaged 38.6 yards per punt. Collier and Maurice Demps will have to fight for their return jobs next season against new recruits who specialize in kick and punt returning.

-compiled by Kevin Fair