Rattlers begin search to replace QB Stanley

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Forget a quarterback battle in the conversation about FAMU football. Spring is too early for that.

However, there is a pertinent concern when it comes to the position. It begs the question how will the Rattlers respond to not having record-setting quarterback Ryan Stanley.

Based on passed performance, Godby product Rasean McKay is the next guy in line. But while the job might be his, Cameron Sapp, John Holcomb, a Kansas State transfer, and LeJohn Howard are out there competing, too.

Coach Willie Simmons is also expecting two freshmen to join the signal callers in the fall.

Stanley will continue to be the benchmark for all of them until someone breaks out. That is essential because before Stanley left at the end of his senior season in 2019, he walked off with almost every important passing record. 

When the season was over, Stanley led the team to its first national ranking since 2009 with a 9-2 record. He also left as the MEAC Offensive Player Of The Year. 

An impressive record, but Simmons wasn’t about to say replacing Stanley is a goal.  It’s about grooming the next quarterback, he said.

“Attrition is a part of any program,” Simmons said. “Successful programs reload. You never can replace a Ryan Stanley. You have to recruit guys that have those skill sets that allows you to be successful. Then, it’s our jobs as coaches to figure out what those guys can do and then devise a scheme that gives them the best chance to be successful.”

In his final season, Stanley threw for 2,566 yards and 23 touchdowns, leading the conference in both categories. He also was the best quarterback in passing efficiency with a 146.6 rating. 

Those statistics might bring a little pressure on the guy who steps in. That person “doesn’t have to be Superman,” Simmons said.

He added: “We have a lot of really good players around the quarterback position so he just needs to do what we call just drive the car.”

McKay believes he can do that. Stanley gave him instruction on how to succeed.

“He told me stay in the playbook and do what he did,” McKay said. “Ryan left a big impression so I just want to keep going from where he lift off.”

Along the way, he wants to build his own legacy.

“My transition is to always be myself,” he said. “I don’t want to be someone else. Ryan was a great quarterback and I liked everything he did. But I just want to leave my impact on the team.”

Doing that will require help from returning players like Azende Rey. He played receiver in 2019, but during the team’s third spring practice, he ran the ball more than a few times.

Each of the four quarterbacks who have been participating in spring practice has strong suits, Rey said. 

“I believe in them,” he said. “Either way, any time any of them gets into the game I trust them. They prepare in practice the same way.”