Opening up the season against NC State and Florida was always going to be a daunting task, but now the Bulls will have the opportunity to play perhaps a more manageable opponent in Florida A&M.
Although the Rattlers (1-1), an FCS team, appear to be a step down from the likes of the Wolfpack and the Gators, USF (0-2) is in no position to disregard them.
“We haven’t done anything to be able to look past anybody, that’s for sure,” coach Jeff Scott said in a Tuesday press conference. “They’ve won a lot more games over the past year, year and a half, two years than we have. I think everybody in our room knows that we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I brought that up.
“I also brought up that there’s been four or five FCS wins this year, so at the end of the day it’s football, and if you execute you’ve got a chance to win. If you don’t, you can lose against anybody that you play. We’re definitely not in a position to overlook anybody, we’re looking to go out and get our first win of the year.”
FAMU didn’t play last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2019, the Rattlers were 9-2 with one of their losses coming in the season opener against UCF.
The Rattlers have split their first two games of the season this time around, but the defense has proved formidable in both contests, allowing just seven points apiece to Jackson State in a 7-6 loss and Fort Valley State University in a 34-7 win.
“Their speed in the backend is really good,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. said in a Zoom press conference Wednesday. “Their safeties and their nickel [and] sam do a really good job. [They] play fast, [they] play physical, [they] take away a lot of things right there. The other thing is they’re extremely well-coached.
“Those guys do a great job on their defensive staff, those guys know exactly where they’re supposed to be, they know how to fit plays … They’re going to make you have to execute to beat them. They just do a fantastic job of being coached in the backend and up front. So I think they are well-coached, [they] have great team speed, and that’s obviously a recipe for a really good defense.”
One of the more premier players on that defensive unit is graduate student safety Antwan Collier who transferred to the Rattlers from UCF in the offseason.
Collier played three seasons with the Knights and started all 13 games at safety in 2019 before being dismissed from the team in November 2020 and entering the transfer portal soon after.
“When I saw [Florida A&M’s] depth chart this week, I remembered playing him in 2019 when I was at FAU, and he made a whole bunch of plays that day,” Weis Jr. said of Collier. “Immediately when that came out, [I was like] ‘Ok, they’ve got a good safety in the backend.’
“He’s a fantastic football player. He’s good against the run and the pass. He’s very athletic, [he’s] got some length to him. … They match him up on the slots and he does some really good things. So, he’s definitely somebody our guys need to be aware of, both their safeties.”
It’s still unknown who will start at quarterback for the Bulls, and for how long that starter will stay in the game.
Regardless of who lines up under center, that player will have to keep an eye not only on Collier, but on the Rattlers’ defense as a whole.
The Bulls will host FAMU in Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.