There aren’t many FCS schools, much less HBCU schools, with the storied history of the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Florida A&M won the first-ever FCS national championship when it was labeled as I-AA and is still the only HBCU to win the whole enchilada.
FAMU has fallen on hard times recently, but it has started to right the ship under head coach Alex Wood. The Rattlers are now aiming to win more than four games in a season for the first time since 2011.
2016 Florida A&M Football Season In Review
Wood is one of the most traveled coaches at the FCS level. He flamed out during his time at James Madison in the mid-1990s, but he did enough as an assistant over the last decade to earn another head coaching gig.
FAMU found a quarterback last season in Ryan Stanley. While he didn’t light the world on fire, he was competent enough to lead the Rattlers to some wins against MEAC foes. He finished the season strong, with seven touchdown passes and two interceptions in his last five games.
Stanley proved to be a solid runner, too. He was the second-leading rusher on the team by the end of the season, averaging 4.8 yards per game. That was significantly better than the running backs, who all averaged under four yards per carry.
Brandon Norwood and Montavius Williams were the team’s primary receivers last season. The duo combined to haul in 96 passes for 890 yards and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, FAMU’s defense was middle of the pack. The Rattlers allowed 5.8 yards per play and were torn up by the better offenses on their schedule. They acquitted themselves well against most of their MEAC foes, though.
2017 Florida A&M Football Season Preview
Being able to practice again will be a huge boon to FAMU. The university was barred from spring practice last season because of NCAA penalties stemming from a low graduation rate. Those extra practices this spring should help quite a bit.
Eight starters return to this offense in 2017, including Stanley. However, he may have a tenuous grip on the starting job.
Junior college transfer Vincent Jefferies Jr. turned a lot of heads during spring practice and was fantastic in the team’s spring game. He outperformed Stanley on the field for the most part and will compete for playing time this fall. If Stanley struggles, Wood won’t be afraid to use Jefferies.
The ground game still looks to be an issue. FAMU’s offensive line wasn’t able to block well last season, and it didn’t look like it improved in the offseason. In scrimmages, the defensive line overwhelmed its counterpart, and that is cause for concern.
At least both starting wide receivers return to help out whoever is under center. Norwood was an all-MEAC selection last season and Williams wasn’t that far behind in terms of production. These two will see a lot of targets this year.
The defense should be better, too, with seven starters returning. The star of the defense is Elijah Price, who led the Rattlers with 15.5 tackles for loss in 2016. He was the best player on the field during spring practice and makes this front four one of the best in the MEAC.
2017 Florida A&M Football Schedule
August 26: Florida A&M vs. Texas Southern
August 31: Florida A&M vs. Arkansas (in Little Rock)
September 16: Florida A&M vs. Tennessee State (in Tampa)
September 23: Florida A&M at Savannah State
September 28: Florida A&M vs. North Carolina Central
October 7: Florida A&M at Norfolk State
October 14: Florida A&M vs. North Carolina A&T
October 21: Florida A&M at Hampton
October 28: Florida A&M at Morgan State
November 4: Florida A&M vs. Howard
November 18: Florida A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman (in Orlando)
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
The Rattlers play three neutral site games, but only one will truly fit the bill. That game is by far the most important to FAMU fans.
It’s been seven years since FAMU has bested Bethune-Cookman in the Florida Classic, but the Rattlers have a great shot this year. They will have a full two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats, while their opponents must face MEAC favorite North Carolina Central on the road the week before.
The cards are aligning just right for a FAMU victory, so jump on the Rattlers in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that feature the Florida Classic.