FAMU football opens spring training and looks to build on 2021 success
FAMU had one of its finest football seasons in school history last year.
However, when the Rattlers opened spring training Saturday morning at Bragg Memorial Stadium under sunny blue skies, coach Willie Simmons was uninterested in reflection.
He challenged his team to strive for perfection.
“It’s a daily challenge, the grind is relentless, so our commitment to excellence is (built) into everything we do,” Simmons said. “And we know that the only way to achieve excellence is to strive for perfection. We have 15 workouts to try to be as perfect as possible.
“Again, that will determine what kind of football team we eventually become.”
Building on the success of 2021
The Rattlers are looking to build on their successful SWAC debut last season.
They won nine games for the second straight season, beat Bethune-Cookman at the Florida Classic and made an FCS playoff appearance for the first time since 2001.
However, FAMU’s season-opening loss to Jackson State 7-6 in the Orange Blossom Classic left it chasing Deion Sanders’ Tigers all season.
Jackson State clinched its first SWAC title since 2007 and its first Celebration Bowl appearance.
The Tigers also signed the two highest-rated rookies in program history, led by five-star cornerback Travis Hunter — the No. 1 player overall in the nation who had verbally committed to the state of Florida for two years.
Simmons and his team made national headlines by signing FCS’s 7th-best recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. Simmons added that his returnees have had “a phenomenal offseason so far. Our bodies look great. We are pleased.”
The Rattlers are also to replace the household names from last year’s team that finished 25th in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25.
That list includes All-America safety Markquese Bell, cornerback Antwan Collier, named defensive MVP in the recent HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans, and running back Bishop Bonnett.
Lots of talent coming back
The good news is FAMU is coming back with plenty of flair, anchored by linebacker/defender Isaiah Land and quarterback Rasean McKay.
While Land (hip) is one of 10 returning players who will miss spring training due to injury, he was the winner of the 2021 Buck Buchanan Award as the best defensive player in FCS football.
McKay, of Godby High, threw for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns last season as a first-time starter. He must also continue to improve to maintain his role as a starter.
“McKay is our holder. He started last season and did a phenomenal job,” Simmons said.
“But there are five other guys in the room who would like to be the starting quarterback for Florida A&M. It’s about the daily competition, their daily approach to doing the right things. The guy who can lead not only this offense but this team will be the guy who comes out on top.
After Saturday’s practice in shorts and helmet, Simmons and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Smith traveled to Tampa for the 2022 FL Coaches Coalition Clinic, a one-day event. Both were among the guest speakers, including FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller and first-year head coaches Billy Napier in Florida and Mario Cristobal in Miami.
The FAMU Spring Game is Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m. at Bragg Memorial Stadium, which continues to undergo renovations.
Spring training dates
Practice 2: March 2; Practice 3: March 4; Practice 4: March 5; Practice 5: March 9; Practice 6: March 11; Practice 7: March 23; Practice 8: March 25; Practice 9: March 26; Practice 10: March 30; Practice 11: April 1; Practice 12: April 2; Practice 13: April 6; Practice 14: April 8
Contact Jim Henry at [email protected]