Defensive transfers choose the Rattlers for a better chance to compete

With spring practice drawing to a close, several FBS transfers are finding their way in head coach Joe Taylor’s system.For one of these athletes, the relocation has been somewhat of a homecoming.Eric Watts, a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker transferred from the University of Illinois. The Jacksonville native was redshirted his freshman season with the Illini. As a senior at Wolfson High School, ESPNU and rated Watts in the top 100 outside linebackers. He also averaged more than 10 tackles per game.Watts joins a solid core led by last season’s leading tackler Alvis Graham, who averaged 6.27 tackles in 2009. This spring, he’s enjoying the coziness that comes with being back in Florida.“It really wasn’t a big difference. Just being far away from home, then being close to home, that was the biggest difference,” said Watts of his move from Urbana-Champaign, Ill., to Tallahassee.“Every thing was on the same level. The only thing different was the name,” he said.Linebacker is one of the most competitive positions this spring, with Harrison Sweeting, Brandon Hepburn and Winston-Salem State transfer Joshua Newkirk all vying for time on the field. Tampa Catholic standout Brandon Green and former FAMU DRS star Willie Ferrell, who will both join the team in the fall, are also expected to compete for playing time once the season begins.Another FBS transfer, James Poe, is meshing well and impressing coaches. Poe starred at Orlando’s Freedom High School as a running back and was ranked fifth statewide in his junior season. Poe originally committed to Louisville, but academic issues led him to attend Georgia Military College for two seasons. Poe attended the University of Central Florida last season before coming to Florida A&M. Coach Taylor said, his size – 6 feet four inches, 240 pounds – may be best suited for tight end, so Poe has been getting repetitions at both positions.Two other transfers from University of Central Florida, Steven “Moose” Robinson and Jarien Moreland, are taking classes at Tallahassee Community College. ranked Robinson, a Tallahassee native and a Lincoln High standout, in the top 25 offensive guard prospects as a senior. Moreland and Robinson are expected to join the team this summer.“Right now, that left guard position is one we feel like we can upgrade,” Taylor said.“All those guys coming in not only will really provide more depth, but a couple of them like Robinson, we project him to probably come in and start.”Taylor gushed about offensive lineman Shelley Anthony, a transfer from Western Kentucky. Anthony has been at center throughout spring practice and is also a front-runner to start at the position. Once the entire unit is intact and develops some type of cohesiveness, it could be a headache for defenses, Anthony said.“I think we’re going to be a dominating offensive line. We’re trying to be the best. We will be the best,” Anthony said.

Ethridge in AttendanceMichael Ethridge, FAMU’s first signee this offseason, was a spectator at Thursday’s practice. Ethridge was a standout tight end at Tallahassee’s Godby High School.Ethridge said he was ecstatic about playing for the Rattlers and plans on majoring in criminal justice in the fall.