In a new internship program with the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, we will have story contributions from some students interning this semester with sports information. This initial offering was penned by Marvyn Joseph and Natalie Johnson.
After ending the 2011 season fourth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Coach Joe Taylor added more talent to get the same result he had achieved in 2010, the MEAC Championship. In that season, they lost only one conference game and capped off the season with a win against rival, the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats.
One of the new key elements Taylor added was beef on the front line. Eight offensive linemen committed to help protect the freshman talented quarterback, Damien Fleming. The eight linemen bring in height, from 6-foot-3 or above, and a combined weight of 2,380 lbs. A few of them were either captains in their senior year of high school and/or earned first or second team all-state and all-area honors. Others played in notable all-star games and recorded multiple pancakes in a game.
Taylor said he already has skilled players to help Fleming, but all he needs is more protection.
"Well, the key was to bring in more offensive lineman to protect him.... as long as he's on the field and he's upright, good things will happen, "said Taylor.
The eight linemen can help the Rattlers' offense maintain or increase the numbers in the passing game, following a great season where they had an average of 227.2 passing yards per game and a total of 2,499 passing yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Rattlers are coming off of an average defensive performance led by freshman defensive back Devontae "Terry" Johnson and the Rattler secondary. Johnson was recently named to the Madness 2011 FCS Football All-American third team. He finished this past season with five interceptions, with 79 return yards to lead the MEAC in picks. As a team, the Rattlers finished the season with 22 interceptions, doubling what they had the previous year.
The challenging stat on the defensive side was sacks. The Rattlers forced only 29 sacks, two more than the previous season. With four committed linebackers and two defensive linemen, the defense is looking to improve their front seven.
Taylor was also able to nab four defensive backs. Included in that number is strong safety Christopher Amos, who recorded 10 interceptions his senior year in high school.
"If you are winning consistently, it's because you have a good defense. So, we always start with making sure we have a strong defense. You can see that by the defensive backs and linebackers we brought in. "
Taylor said there is no particular player he is excited about. Instead, he is excited to add all of them to the team.
"I could call some names like Lee Williams from Maclay, with 28 touchdowns last year. Also, we could mention Akil Blount, who broke his high school sack record this year. With those kinds of accolades, you would think they might come in and compete right away. But again, it is a transition. A lot of them look good on paper; that's the way it should be. But, the key is how they test."