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FAMU eager to 'regain some respect'

Lost scholarships and four years of probation, handed down by the NCAA, are not the only challenges awaiting the once-proud Rattlers.

By IZZY GOULD
Published September 1, 2006


Rubin Carter's first coaching season ended with an overtime win against Bethune-Cookman.

Somehow, he pulled Florida A&M from a pool of turmoil to victory against its bitter rival for the first time in three years.

A wondrous finish to a hectic beginning.

Carter was hired just days before fall practice. He inherited a coaching staff and was desperately behind in recruiting.

Carter quickly became an organizer, an ambassador and a psychologist.

"I needed to bring the coaches and players together to try and develop some trust," Carter said. "We needed to be on the same page to understand the concepts of how we do things minus the egos and personalities."

Carter is still cleaning up.

The NCAA recently placed the Rattlers on four years' probation for more than 200 infractions in various sports before Carter's arrival. FAMU lost football scholarships as a result.

Awaiting word on a penalty hung over the team all season. The low point came when a compliance officer informed Carter that seven of his players were ineligible moments before the South Carolina State game.

The Rattlers lost 49-3.

"They had to come off the field immediately," Carter said. "Five of those players were starters."

FAMU finished 2005 with a 6-5 record but suffered heavy losses on defense.

What about this season?

The Rattlers face a daunting task on Sept. 9 at Miami, Carter's alma mater. The bruising defensive lineman was an All-American for the Hurricanes and was inducted into their hall of fame in 1992.

FAMU will surely head to Miami with plenty of questions.

The most glaring loss on offense is that of running back Rashard Pompey, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards during his career. He accounted for almost one-third of the Rattlers' touchdowns and rushed for 1,095 yards last season.

Offensively, the Rattlers get back top receiver Roosevelt Kiser, a first-team All-MEAC selection with 64 catches for 739 yards and five touchdowns.

Albert Chester returns as the starting quarterback after he was handed the job midway through last season. He completed 71.8 percent of his passes for 641 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. Backup Leon Camel has limited experience.

The offensive line boasts a talented trio of 6-footers: 310-pound Lenard Black, 310-pound Richard Koonce and 340-pound Dan Parrish.

On defense, Tyrone McGriff returns to end after having 72 tackles and 61/2 sacks last season. Ernest Williams, with 62 tackles and a fumble recovery, will help solidify the secondary. Vernon Wilder anchors the linebackers after collecting 57 tackles and two sacks.

Special teams is led by junior All-American punter Wesley Taylor, who averaged 45.9 yards per punt.

"I'm pleased with the direction of our program to try and regain some respect and also the competitive spirit of the conference," Carter said. "I'm certainly not satisfied at this time with where we are. I want to rebuild the program one recruiting class at a time. We'll get the program back to where it needs to be."

FLORIDA A&M

WHERE: Tallahassee

ENROLLMENT: 10,750

NICKNAME: Rattlers

COACH: Rubin Carter (6-5, first season; entering second season)

CONFERENCE: Mid-Eastern Athletic

LAST SEASON: 6-5, 5-3 MEAC (fourth)

LOCAL TIES: K/P Wesley Taylor (Riverview), DL Lymon Reed (Chamberlain), LB Victoriano Arboleda (Middleton)

STADIUM: Bragg Memorial (25,500)

OUTLOOK: FAMU suffered heavy losses on defense (seven starters) and perhaps its most talented offensive threat in RB Rashard Pompey.

WEB SITE: thefamurattlers.cstv.com

SCHEDULE: Saturday - Delaware State at Detroit (Detroit Football Classic), 1 p.m.; Sept. 9 - at Miami, TBA; Sept. 16 - at Howard, 1 p.m.; Sept. 23 - Winston-Salem State, 6 p.m.; Sept. 30 - Tennessee State at Atlanta (Atlanta Football Classic), 3 p.m.; Oct. 14 - S.C. State, 6 p.m.; Oct. 21 - at Norfolk State, 1 p.m.; Oct. 28 - Morgan State, 3 p.m.; Nov. 4 - at North Carolina A&T, TBA; Nov. 11 - Hampton, 6 p.m.; Nov. 18 - Bethune-Cookman at Orlando (Florida Classic), 3:30 p.m.