Scouting Florida A&M

Florida A&M visits Ohio Stadium on Saturday, so we took some time to scout out the Rattlers. What do they bring to the table for the Buckeyes to deal with as they close out nonconference play? Pro-style schemes on each side of the ball but perhaps not the personnel to make them work.

As luck would have it, Florida A&M's first game of the season was televised by ESPN so I had the chance to take a look at what the Rattlers bring to the table.

They beat Mississippi Valley State 27-10, but it really wasn't pretty on either side.

FAMU has a coaching staff full of former NFL players, so it is probably not coincidental they want to establish a pro-style offense. While an admirable goal, it is hard to do with the personnel on hand in Tallahassee, though.

Junior quarterback Damien Fleming has good size (6-3) and can sling it naturally, but he let his mechanics slip from time to time in the Rattlers' season opener and that resulted in a lot of off-target throws. He is mobile enough to gain yards scrambling, but he did not appear especially dangerous in the open field.

He had a lot of problems with accuracy and threw more than one pass up for grabs that should have been intercepted.

He operated under center a lot as FAMU's primary set was an offset I with two backs and a tight end. They also used a fair amount of two-tight end, one-back sets and of course got in the shotgun with three or more wide receivers most of the time in passing situations. They ran zone, power and lead draws but none with a lot of success. After a slow start, senior tailback James Owens (5-9, 180) showed a little more burst in the second half but still wasn't exactly dynamic. Purdue transfer Al-Terek McBurse showed more speed than Owens but had fewer attempts.

The backs did not have a lot to work with as the FAMU offensive line left a lot to be desired. It's not a very athletic group, though right guard Reginald Turner was effective as the pulling guard on the power play a time or two. I would expect this group to have a really hard time with Ohio State, especially in pass protection.

On the outside, 5-9, 175-pound Lenworth Lennon is Fleming's favorite target and has some shimmy and some shake. He is built pretty powerfully for his size and seems like clearly FAMU's biggest weapon. He also made a spectacular diving catch on a long play-action pass early in the game. The other starting receiver – DeWayne Harvey – brings more size (6-1, 205), but he only stood out for dropping a pass. Ditto backup Casey Glines, a 6-6, 210-pounder who looks better suited to play tight end than receiver.

Wanting to be a two-back power team and actually being able to do it are two different things, so I would not be surprised to see the Rattlers scrap their general attack and work more on spreading the Buckeyes out. That figures to give them a better chance to prolong the game, although they'll have to execute better in the passing game than they did in the opener or since. Perhaps that is possible as Fleming completed almost 70 percent of his passes last season, but he is only 31 for 64 (48.4 percent) so far this season.

If they do come out in a lot of power sets, they run the risk of getting suffocated by pressure Ohio State showed against San Diego State, but the FAMU coaching staff might want to stay with it to prove to their guys that is the type of team they're going to be once everything is in place.

Defensively, FAMU plays an aggressive 3-4 scheme head coach Earl Holmes in all likelihood became familiar with during his six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Urban Meyer said he expects the Rattlers to blitz a lot, and they showed that against MVS.

A safety won't hesitate to get involved in trying to stop the run, but that figures to put a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks.

Linebackers Williams Smalls and Michael Ducre flashed a couple of times, but no one in the front seven really did much to distinguish himself.

In the secondary, cornerback Devonte Johnson stood out by showing a willingness to come up and make a hit against the run, and he intercepted an errant pass playing zone defense.

All in all, this is not a team that looked very good against a Mississippi Valley State team that also looked pretty below average as both teams made numerous mistakes. Yes, it was the first game of the season, but it was also FAMU's only win to date.

The Rattlers have lost their two games since to Tennessee State and Samford, so it is hard to imagine them putting up much of a fight at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.


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