During the Florida A&M Rattlers‘ Fall Football Training Camp (Aug. 4-Aug. 26), Gerald Thomas III, a reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat, will be chronicling the team’s journey as they prepare for the 2023 season. Thomas will offer practice reports, spotlights on players and coaches, and exclusive insights into the program as they become available. This series, titled ‘FAMU HARD KNOCKS,’ will provide a comprehensive look into the team’s progress.
In the upcoming week, the Florida A&M Rattlers will exclusively focus on preparing for their season opener against Jackson State scheduled for September 3rd. At present, their efforts are centered on refining their approach before entering game mode.
The Rattlers recently completed their 16th practice session as part of the fall football training camp. This session took place 12 days prior to the Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic clash against the JSU Tigers. The Tigers themselves are commencing their season against South Carolina State in the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge this Saturday.
Head coach Willie Simmons, who is in his sixth year and holds a record of 54-23 overall, with 33-12 at FAMU, emphasized that the team is embracing the training camp experience fully. He stressed the importance of focusing on each day’s progress rather than counting down to the eventual games.
Simmons stated, “We’re not keeping track of the days. Our emphasis is on building upon each day’s accomplishments. Today was another step towards improvement, and that’s our main focus. We discussed with the team the significance of being present in the training process. While championships and upcoming games are important, they’ll fall into place if we concentrate on the present and the necessary steps for success. Transitioning to a game mindset will come in due time. Right now, we’re fully invested in training camp.”
The Rattlers recently held their second scrimmage session during the training camp, and Coach Simmons expressed his initial satisfaction with the performance. Following the scrimmage, he spent the weekend reviewing the recorded footage. He noted that the scrimmage involved an extensive number of plays, with the intention of testing the team’s response to various challenges. Some players excelled while facing adversity, while others faced challenges.
Simmons acknowledged the inevitability of mistakes during practice sessions and highlighted the significance of learning from these errors. He emphasized that ample practice time allows for continuous improvement, honing the habits necessary for success. Simmons remained optimistic about the team’s potential to achieve their goals if they maintain this trajectory.
As the training camp progresses, the focus will shift towards enhancing the special teams unit. FAMU welcomes several new kickers, including Marko Dubak (sophomore transfer), Logan Fuller (redshirt freshman transfer), Cameron Gillis (graduate transfer), and Michael Smith (true freshman). Additionally, Trey Wilhoit, a junior and a former Chiles player, who transferred from Eastern Illinois, stands out in the punter role. A dedicated kicking scrimmage is planned, marking the first comprehensive emphasis on the kicking game.
The Rattlers’ roster features a substantial number of transfers, with 33 currently listed. Among them, some are anticipated to make immediate impacts as they prepare for their debut with FAMU in less than two weeks. One notable transfer is wide receiver Jamari Gassett, a junior who previously spent two years at NCAA Division I-FBS Buffalo. He is part of a receiver group known as the ‘RACBOYZ 2.0,’ consisting of 19 receivers in total. Gassett, hailing from Tampa, is enthusiastic about returning to his home state of Florida and has embraced the competitive atmosphere of the fall camp.
Allen Smith Jr., a graduate student who came to FAMU from the FBS program at Louisville, is undergoing a transition from his traditional linebacker role to a hybrid defender position in the Rattlers’ 2023 Dark Cloud Defense, which ranked ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) the previous season. Smith’s participation in his first FAMU training camp aligns with Coach Simmons’ philosophy of pursuing excellence with the aim of achieving perfection. Smith remains focused on discipline, positivity, and attention to detail, emphasizing the importance of the smaller elements in achieving success.
In conclusion, the Florida A&M Rattlers’ Fall Football Training Camp is a pivotal period of preparation and growth for the team as they gear up for the upcoming 2023 season. With a focus on continuous improvement, embracing challenges, and maintaining a present mindset, the Rattlers are working diligently to shape a successful campaign.
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