PREVIEW: Simmons, Rattlers begin 2018 with conference runners-up Fort Valley State

By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
August 31, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The wait is nearly over, and a new era of football on the highest of the seven hills is nearly here.

Willie Simmons and his new-look Florida A&M Rattlers will take the brand new turf at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Saturday against Fort Valley State, a squad that logged a 5-5 record last season, and went 5-1 in Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

The Jaguars will be without their leading rusher from a year ago in Chauncey Jackson, who touched the ball 115 times for 481 yards and three scores, but return their number two (who will look to get a bulk of the work this year) in Jamari Clark, who rushed 63 times for 242 yards.

Senior quarterback Slade Jarman returns after throwing for 1,678 yards in 10 games last year, completing 56 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns as opposed to five interceptions.

Defensively, the Wildcats will look to replicate numbers that kept them in ball games last year; FVSU allowed 180.4 yards per game on the ground and 149.5 yards through the air.

There is no shortage of questions for Simmons' new-look Rattlers, and maybe the biggest is what will the numbers for Ryan Stanley look like in the up-tempo offense.

Stanley will look to improve upon a year that saw him complete 64 percent of his passes (183-for-284) for 2,190 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Arguably the biggest improvement for FAMU will be on the defensive side of the ball with a unit led by Jibreel Hazly, who recorded 55 tackles (25 solo) last year, with four coming for a loss.

The Rattlers and Wildcats will kick off on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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