The FAMU Rattlers headed back to the gridiron yesterday afternoon as they strapped up their helmets for their first spring practice.
The Rattlers began the day looking energetic as they got their first taste of football since last year’s grand finale win over Bethune-Cookman at the Orlando Classic.
“Well last year’s game against Bethune is what everybody remembers.
And we wanted to build on that,” said head coach Rubin Carter.
While the team is still piggybacking off of last season’s success, Carter realizes that this is a totally different team.
“We lost a lot of key players. We lost a lot of people that helped us be successful last year,” Carter said.
The fall graduation robbed the Rattlers of some of its best players on both sides of the ball.
FAMU’s third all-time leading rusher Rashard Pompey took a walk across the graduation stage, as did last years leading tackler O’Bryan Brandy.
The Rattlers will also be without two down linemen in Altariq Brown and Steve St. Felix along with secondary starters Sam Doughty and Keith Williams.
“When you lose guys like that, you have to find a way to replace them,” Carter said.
The task of stepping into the vaunted footprints left by former FAMU stars will be left to freshmen hopefuls.
Approximately 160 freshmen tried out early in the year for the team, and only 18 of them were given the opportunity to walk-on.
“We wanted to give people a chance to come out and prove that they can come from high school and play at this level,” Carter said.
Freshman walk-on Shaheed Rashad feels he and others have what it takes to join the football program.
“Practice went really good today. The coaches are just looking for people that work hard and that can move,” Rashad said. “If you can do that, you have a good chance.”
While all players were allowed to suit up, a solid roster had not been set as practice began.
But that didn’t stop everyone from giving their all on the field.
Wide receivers routinely dove for passes in the grass, while many a defensive end fought back the urge to make this a full contact practice.
“Man, we worked really hard today. Everybody was real quick and moved well on their plays,” said Kenny Menelas, a sophomore wide receiver.
Despite a superb effort for the first day of practice, Carter made sure the team did not get ahead of themselves.
“At this point it is hard to tell how good we will be, but we will really be able to tell once everyone gets the pads on and we head into training camp,” Carter said. “We still need to understand the schemes a little better, but we will be OK if they stay enthusiastic and energetic like they were today.”
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