Simmons pleased with defense in first spring scrimmage


Receivers coach Jelani Berassa takes the unit through a drill prior to Saturday’s scrimmage.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

Willie Simmons saw a lot of things to be pleased about after his FAMU football team completed a mini scrimmage to cap its first week of spring practice last Saturday.

He just didn’t see enough of running back DeShawn Smith, who had a breakout season last year. Smith was hampered by a muscle injury that he said made it difficult for him to run without pain.

Smith attempted one run in his only rep during the scrimmage, then sat out the rest of the afternoon while four other running backs worked out of the backfield.

“It was tough,” Smith said. “It hurts seeing everybody running the ball. I don’t like being on the sidelines.”

Smith wasn’t the only player who found himself on the sidelines for various reasons, but Simmons said Smith can’t afford to miss too many days. The team is working an abbreviated spring schedule, one reason that Simmons would like Smith to be fully engaged in practice.

“We need to get him back out there as quickly as possible,” Simmons said. “With an abbreviated spring schedule, we have to make sure we maximize every day that we have. Hopefully we get him back out here to allow him to continue to grow and develop as a football player.”

The Rattlers have seven more practices before the Orange and Green spring game on March 30.

Simmons was especially pleased with the defense during Saturday’s workout. The unit showed fall camp-like sharpness in covering passes and stopping the run game.

“Typically, at the beginning of spring the defense is ahead of the offense,” Simmons said. “If it’s the other way around we might have some concerns about where we are right now defensively. Those guys did a great job of flying around the football, tackling in the open field and making routine plays. They definitely have something to build on.”

That’s what the focus will be during the upcoming weeks.

“Obviously we have a lot of work to do but for a first mini scrimmage we won the day,” Simmons said.

Quarterback Ryan Stanley demonstrated vast improvement over last season, when a back injury slowed him down during the last four games. He is 100 percent healed, Simmons said.

“He had three long months to recover from the season,” Simmons said. “He has taken his off season personally. This is his last go around and I think he has the eye of a Rattler and he knows he is the guy that has to lead us to the Promise Land. I’m pleased of the progress he had made.”

Stanley seemed to have gained a few pounds of muscles, something that Simmons attributed to the team’s commitment in the weight room during the off season.

“He probably put on five or six pounds of muscle but that’s pretty consistent with most of the guys on the team,” Simmons said.

“Coach (Parker) Brooks has done a phenomenal job in the weight room this off season. The guys look faster, stronger and that’s the staple of any great program.”