Miami Hurricanes opponent watch: Florida A&M optimistic about 2016 after 1-10 finish

For an early look at Miami’s first opponent of 2016, here’s the Florida A&M preview story by Post correspondent Bob Ferrante that ran in our college football preview section (click here for more info). 

Click here for the report on Miami’s scrimmage on Thursday, in which UM’s scout team — mimicking FAMU — edged the Hurricanes’ first-stringers (after being spotted a 28-point lead with one half to play). 

Montavious Williams gives Florida A&M a talented target at wide receiver. Williams had 45 receptions for 627 yards last season. (FAMU Athletics)

Montavious Williams gives Florida A&M a talented target at wide receiver. Williams had 45 receptions for 627 yards last season. (FAMU Athletics)

TALLAHASSEE — There is optimism at Florida A&M heading into the fall. But more than anything, there is confidence that the Rattlers won’t repeat a woeful 2015.

FAMU went 1-10 last year, losing nine games by 10 or more points. The problems were everywhere: two quarterbacks combined to complete just 49 percent of their passes, the running game generated just 839 yards and the defense allowed 33.5 points per game.

“We need to give up less explosive plays on defense,” second-year FAMU coach Alex Wood said. “We have to be more effective in the special teams area. And the obvious — we have to score more points.

“We’re all excited. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead of us.”

And there will be plenty of challenges for FAMU. One of last year’s starting quarterbacks, Carson Royal, has moved to tight end. That has created an open competition between sophomore Kenneth Coleman and redshirt freshman Ryan Stanley.

Whoever wins the job will have a pair of go-to receivers in Montavious Williams (45 receptions, 627 yards, one TD) and Brandon Norwood (49 receptions, 442 yards, two TDs). But the running game will need to improve after the Rattlers averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in 2015.

Wood said an increased emphasis on strength and conditioning in the offseason will help FAMU up front.

“Physically, we’ve made a lot of gains,” Wood said. “We’re a much more explosive football team than a year ago.”

The defense will have more experience in 2016. The line will be anchored by sophomore defensive end Curtis Alexander, who had 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2015. Cornerback Jacques Bryant (75 tackles, one interception) leads the secondary.

FAMU again plays a challenging schedule, opening at Miami on Sept. 3 along with neutral-site games against Tuskegee (at Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 17) and Bethune-Cookman (at Orlando on Nov. 19).

The Rattlers play just four games in Tallahassee, including the home opener against South Carolina State on Sept. 24 and homecoming against Hampton on Oct. 22.

“Playing on the road is always interesting,” Wood said. “We’re going to try to do a good job of planning those out. Good teams, they can win at home and on the road.”

Wood admitted that FAMU’s goals are modest. The Rattlers are developing depth and still rebuilding. Finishing above .500 is realistic, he said.

“The most important thing that we’re focused on is to have a winning season for our seniors and do the best job that we can for our senior football players,” Wood said.

“They’ve done a great job to this point in leading our program and setting the precedent for our younger players.”

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