TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Apr. 21) – The Florida A&M Orange and Green game answered several questions about this Spring’s 15 days of practice. The offense proved that it has picked up a good portion of Willie Simmons’ offense, while the defense showed that it will be the leaders of the team with a veteran squad of players that demonstrated their ability to dominate and make plays. Though everyone came to see the game, it was the biggest formal welcome back to the Big Bend of Willie Simmons to date.
“I thought today was a very productive day. I wanted to see the guys get out there and compete on both sides of the ball. Doing an offense versus defense scrimmage is always a little dicey with the scoring systems, so it was good seeing the game being close…competitive game. Defense was making plays indicative of their scores of tackles-for-loss, interceptions, three-and-outs…things of that nature gave them their points. Offense was able to put some drives together. Guys made some really good individual plays. It was a good scrimmage, a great culmination of 15 productive days of spring ball,” Simmons said.
A bevy of family, friends, classmates and other associates packed together on the west side of the stadium, including Simmons’ wife Shaia and their children. It was a family affair as fans of all ages congregated in Bragg Stadium.
Ryan Stanley distanced himself as the Rattlers’ starting quarterback. With an offense based on options on virtually every play, Stanley has adapted well to the new freedoms the playbook offers. He wasted no time in the game, hitting Chad Hunter on a 75-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage to ignite the 7,622 in attendance. They would connect again on another drive where Hunter made a diving catch in the end zone on a perfectly placed pass outside the reach of defenders.
Stanley was pleased with the team’s adaptation of the wide-open offense Simmons and staff have implemented. “It’s a really fun offense to play in. It allows us to use our playmakers. Chad was doing what Chad does, which is make plays. I think he’s one of the best, not just in our conference,” Stanley said. Dock Luckie also got into the act, hauling in a TD pass in the scrimmage.
Simmons was aggressive with installing his offense. “ We installed 90-percent of the offense this Spring. It was aggressive, but they absorbed most of it and they can build on it in the offseason,” Simmons said.
Tahj Tolbert is showing improvement in evolving into the backup signal caller. DJ Phillips and Mack Green, formerly a defensive back, also got snaps under center in the game.
Devin Bowers and Bishop Bonnett carried the load in the backfield. Ricky Henrilus was held out of the game with a tweaked ankle, but was very animated and involved in the game from the sideline.
While defensive standouts Terry Jefferson and Jabril Hazly led the defense, there was a point in the game where the defensive line totally dominated the line of scrimmage. Jefferson said their success depends on the men up front. “We can’t be successful as a defense without the guys up front. The game is controlled there. They allow us to fly around and do what we need to do, but it’s not possible if a team controls the line of scrimmage. It was a total team effort,” Jefferson said.
A very responsive crowd was in attendance looking to see what the 2018 season might bring. The north parking lot at Bragg Stadium was filled with tailgaters and revelers hoping to get a glimpse of the Rattlers’ glorious past. FAMU Sports Hall of Famer Ken Riley drove up from Bartow to deliver the pre-game speech. He and FAMU Director of Athletics John Eason played together under legendary head coach Jake Gaither. Also in attendance was former ESPN and Fox Sports anchor Fred Hickman.
The game was a jumbalaya of alumni, friends, fans and students. The FAMU Student Government Association commandeered the north end zone for a tailgate with free food, bounce houses, ice cream and DJs. Popular radio DJs, DJ Dap and DJ E-Zone, kept the sounds going between the action and the Marching “100” pep band playing.
While the Marching “100” was there, they conceded halftime to the Greek student organizations. The “Divine 9,” HBCU Greek organizations performed at midfield, strolling to their theme songs.
“This was a really great turnout. The atmosphere was amazing. I’m really encouraged about the direction we’re headed in and looking forward to a great offseason and hopefully continue to build in our quest to win a MEAC championship,” Simmons concluded.
FAMU Orange & Green Game 2018
- Today marked the first look at new head coach Willie Simmons at the helm of the Rattlers
- Announced attendance was 7,622
- FAMU quarterback Ryan Stanley passed for over 200 yards, including a strike of 75 yards to Chad Hunter
- FAMU receiver Chad Hunter caught passes for over 150 yards, including a touchdown
- Bishop Bonnett was the team’s leading rusher with 60+ yards
- Safety Terry Jefferson, Vandrick Verdier and Jabril Hazly were the leading tacklers for FAMU
- McKinley Horton grabbed two picks on the defensive end. Chris Jerry also got an interception.
- Bishop Bonnett was also the team’s leading return man with
- Quarterbacks Tahj Tolbert, DJ Phillips and Mack Green (converted from DB) all got snaps in today’s scrimmage.
- Chad Hunter (2) Dock Luckie, Devin Bowers all scored touchdowns