HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Florida A&M.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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FLORIDA A&M (6-5 IN 2018)
The MEAC (FAMU was Tied for 2nd in 2018)
COACH: Willie Simmons – At School: 2nd year (6-5 record), Overall: 5th year (27-16)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2001 (first round loss to Georgia Southern)
2018 OFFENSE: 26.4 ppg. (71st in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 22.1 ppg. (23rd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 19 – vs. North Carolina A&T (in Tallahassee): Last year, FAMU beat North Carolina A&T. Now, the two-time defending Celebration Bowl winning Aggies want revenge and they also want to make it three HBCU national titles in a row — and standing in the way will be the Rattlers at home. This should be a good one, folks. Obviously, we could put the well-attended Florida Classic here with rival Bethune-Cookman, but this battle with the Aggies was too good to pass up.
SUM IT UP: Last fall, Florida A&M won five straight games in the middle of the season — including over eventual MEAC champion and Celebration Bowl winner North Carolina A&T on its home field. The Rattlers showed they could compete with the best in the league after several years of mediocre play. Well, this year 15 players who started as underclassmen in the Florida Classic are back on the roster. The program did receive bad news in the spring when past issues within the athletic program pulled away the potential of being in the Celebration Bowl, but the Rattlers are still focused on being the regular season MEAC champions — even with the imposed sanctions.
The offense looks pretty solid, especially at the skill positions. With 2,000-yard passer Ryan Stanley returning and all of his weapons, this team should move the ball much better than it did last year. The O-line has a few holes to fill, but it still possesses some serious talent, like First Team All MEAC selection Obi Nwankwo. And when it comes to the defense? Who are we kidding? This is the biggest reason this program was so darned competitive last year — it had a Top 25 defense in the country, statistically. Six of the seven top tacklers return from last year. This is a tenacious group, and it performed well in Willie Simmons' first season at the helm. Don't be surprised if the Rattlers hold MEAC opponents to under 20 points per game this fall.
Oh, and the Rattlers return the best punter in the nation in Chris Faddoul. So there's that. He averaged a modest 46.8 yards per punt, hit 16 for more than 50 yards and hit a long of 67 yards. Did I type "modest'?
OUR TAKE: The sanctions hurt, for sure. This program has the potential to be in the Celebration Bowl, but it can use that as fuel and aim for it next year. We think FAMU could still win the MEAC this year, and it'll all come down to that game with MEAC power North Carolina A&T in Tallahassee in October. This Rattlers team should hit at least the eight-win mark this year, and will be in the MEAC discussion all fall long, sanctions or not.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./OL Obi Nwankwo (First Team All MEAC in 2018)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./P Chris Faddoul (HERO Sports First Team All-American last year — nearly 47 yards per punt); Sr./RB DeShawn Smith (2nd Team All MEAC – 640 yards rushing, 4 TDs); Soph./WR Xavier Smith (HERO Sports Freshman All American last year – 727 yards receiving, 4 TDs as a freshman last year); Sr./DB Terry Jefferson (2nd Team All MEAC – 57 tackles, 3.5 TFLs); Sr./LB Elijah Richardson (75 tackles in just 9 games led the team – 9.5 TFLs); Sr./QB Ryan Stanley (2,519 yards passing, 17 TDs); Jr./WR Chad Hunter (555 yards receiving, 6 TDs); Jr./LB Derrick Mayweather (70 tackles – 2nd on team); Sr./DB Andrew Hines (3 INTs, 54 tackles); Jr./LB Josh Crutchfield (10 TFLs – tops on team coming back); Soph./DB Herman Jackson (31 tackles, 8 passes defensed).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./LB Moezies Telfort (HERO Sports No. 8 overall FCS signee in the nation – held five P5 scholarship offers and 10 FBS offers overall)
THE QUOTE: "Our motto this year is ‘Fight to Finish.’ Last year is done. We did some good things last year obviously, brought some excitement back to the program. But, our ultimate goal is to win a championship and in order to do that it takes a daily effort from everyone from the players to the coaches to the support staff to try to do things the right way. We started that in January with offseason conditioning and hopefully it will continue through Spring bal." — Head Coach Willie Simmons said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Florida A&M Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MEAC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast