The game may have some permanence as the two schools are billing it as 'The Emerald Coast Classic'. The contest between homestanding Tulane and FAMU, a Historically Black College and University, promises to have a significant impact on the economy for New Orleans and the surrounding areas due to the strong fan, student, and alumni base for both institutions.
Traditionally, Florida A&M fans from across the country, as well as their home base of Tallahassee, Fla., have gathered in large numbers at Rattlers' 'classic' contests in locations such as Miami, Atlanta and Detroit. Last season the Rattlers' played Alabama State in Detroit before 54,951; Tennessee State in Atlanta before 70,185; Jackson State in Indianapolis before 58,198; and Bethune Cookman in Orlando before 73,358. However, a second game in Indianapolis against South Carolina State drew only 11,044.
The Rattlers averaged 21,323 in their three home games last season.
It's hard to get a gauge on a 1AA program because the coverage just isn't there. I'm going to try and sort through the little that I've been able to collect and put together some kind of coherent picture of the Rattlers on offense and defense, starting with the offense. Please bear with me, the Rattler roster gives little help in determining whether a player has redshirted or not.
The Rattlers were planning a move to 1A status but that's on hold and there have been reports that the university administration is pursuing a program of wooing it's former conference mates in the MEAC about possibly rejoining the east coast equivalent of the SWAC, abandoning their quest to become the first historically Black college to be admitted to NCAA Division 1A.
Coach Billy Joe's Rattlers run a basic one-back spread offense. Tight end is not shown as a position on their depth chart and neither does anyone on their roster carry that positional designation. One running back position is identified on the depth chart but apparently there's a distinction between running back and fullback, which may mean that two back sets are possible in the Rattler's Gulf Coast spread offense.
9 starters return on offense, headed by senior quarterback Ben Dougherty, 6-4 215. Daugherty threw for 2,502 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 starts on numbers that sound like 234-368-9 (C/A/I). Daughertyis backed by senior Josh Driscoll, 6-2 220. Driscoll does not appear to have seen any action in 2003.
Consider Daughtery a dual threat, because he added 674 net yards rushing on 155 carries and 8 touchdowns.
The running game is sparked by junior fullback Rashard Pompey, 5-10 199. In 2003 Pompey had 163 attempts for 721 net yards rushing, a per rush average of 4.4, and scored 6 touchdowns. Pompey is a major receiving threat out of the backfield, having caught 43 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown in 2003.
Pompey's backups include junior fullback Paul Sharpe, 5-11 242, who gained 123 yards on 23 carries last season and junior Alfonso Mounts, 5-11 235.
The top returning receiver is senior slot receiver Rod Miller, 5-10 180. In 2003 Miller made 71 catches for 829 yards and scored 6 touchdowns. Miller started all 12 of the Rattler's games last season.
Ronny Thomas, a 5-11 190 junior, is the starter at the other slot receiver position.
Two-way sophomore Cardan Alexander, 6-2 190, is the number two returning receiver. Alexander is also shown on the defensive depth chart as the backup free safety. Alexander totalled 53 catches for 594 yards and three TD's in 12 starts last season.
Roosevelt Kiser, a 5-9 160 sophomore and sophomore Gerard Morgan, 6-2 170, will contend with Alexander for the two starting wide receiver spots. Kiser played in 11 games in 2003, grabbing four passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Morgan played in only four games but caught 11 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Anthony Demps, 5-9 172, is still listed on the roster but is not shown on the Rattlers' post-spring depth chart. In 2003 Demps caught 27 passes for 310 yards, the longest being a 74 yard non-scoring reception.
Up front the Rattlers feature an aggregation nearly as large as Mississippi State's o'line.
The starters along the o'line are:
RT-Lenard Black 6-4 310 So.
RG-Dan Henderson 6-3 320 Fr.
C-Tarell Baldwin 6-4 340 Jr.
LG-Mafileo Vakalahi 6-2 340 Sr.
LT-Daniel Parrish 6-7 340 Fr.(br>
Being large is easy enough to do. But that's not always the best thing for a football player. The key to blocking success is as much quick feet and agility as it is size and strength. FAMU o'linemwen allowed 32 sacks last season.
Interim defensive coordinator Derek Hill is keeping the FAMU 11 in a 4-3 alignment, with some element of the attacking 46 defense thrown in, however the depth chart published on the FAMU official site indicates a 4-4 defensive alignment. This is an experienced unit with 18 of the two deep being either seniors or juniors. However, the Rattlers' top four tacklers from 2003 have departed.
The front seven starters:
RE-Altarig Brown 6-1 275 Jr.
RT-John Edwards 6-1 306 Sr.
LT-Clarence Laws 6-4 270 Sr.
LE-Demetrius Burks 6-4 270 Jr.
ROLB-Brandon Finnie 6-0 200 Sr.
RILB-Allen DIckens 5-11 245 So.
LILB-Brandon Whaley 6-0 245 So.
LOLB-Justin Cooper 6-1 197 Sr.
Cooper is the top returning tackler on the team with 55 total tackles after starting 9 games in 2003. Cooper also produced an interception, a sack and 3.5 tackles for losses. Defensive tackle John Edwards totalled 50 tackles, 2 sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses in 11 starts. Edwards is probably the top handreturning on defense.
A pass rush problem may be evident in the fact that the Rattler's managed only 12 sacks in 2003. For the type of defense that they have been playing, this sack total is both low and highly dangerous, as you're running a defense that concedes a lot in order to get to the quarterback. If you can't get there in time, you're probably giving up a whole lot of big plays.
The Rattlers rush defense allowed 4.2 yards per carry last season, a figure that can use some improvement.
The secondary features two senior and one junior starter. See below:
RCB-Edward Kwaku 6-1 191 Sr.
LCB-Julius Ware 6-0 180 Jr.
S-Ben Johnson 6-0 180 Sr.
Kwaku started all 12 games and made 50 tackles in 12 starts and added a an interception and a tackle for loss to his stat sheet.
Veteran punter Damon Miller, a 6-3 200 senior, returns after averaging 38.9 yards per punt but had a net punting average of only 33 yards per kick.
The Rattlers will be breaking in a new place kicker because of the departure of Juan Vasquez. The leading candidate to succeed Vasquez is sophomore Paul Johnson, 6-2 180.
The punt return chores will be between receivers Roosevelt Kiser and Anthony Demps. Demps averaged 8.2 yards per return on 12 returns while splitting responsibility with Levy Brown last season. Reserve running back Michael Fisher,5-8 185, returns as the primary kick off returner after averaging 20.5 yards per return on 17 returns. Fisher broke a 100 yarder for a score last season.
The cover units allowed 11.6 yards per punt return and 23.8 yards per kick off return. Both are pretty poor figures.
A lot is going to depend upon the athleticism of the Rattlers' o-and-d linemen. You expect to find athleticism at the skill positions at a school like Florida A&M, but athleticism up front is much harder to find. If this team is comparable o Southern, than Tulane shoud win in a cruise. On the other hand if FAMU is appreciably better than Southern, Tulane will have a struggle on their hands.