Florida A&M finally has its head coach. Here’s what he needs to focus on first. — Andscape
Several Board of Trustee meetings and a search firm later, Florida A&M University finally has a new head football coach: James Colzie III.
On Saturday, Colzie, a former Rattlers cornerback coach who had been named interim head coach following Willie Simmons’ departure, had his interim tag removed, becoming the 19th head football coach in Florida A&M history.
Throughout the course of the contentious head coaching search, several players, including quarterback Junior Muratovic and tight end Jeremiah Pruitte, expressed support for Colzie to replace Simmons, who left FAMU to become running backs coach at Duke University on Jan. 1, two weeks after the Rattlers won their first Celebration Bowl.
With National Signing Day set for Feb. 7, Colzie has a list of things to do to prepare the Rattlers to defend their title next season. Here’s what his top priorities should be.
Ramp-up recruiting fast
The three-week delay to officially hire a new coach has impacted Florida A&M’s recruiting. Since Simmons’ departure, several Florida A&M players have entered the transfer portal, and the university lost commitments from Power 5 transfers Sage Ennis (Clemson University) and Rodney Hill (Florida State University). The Rattlers will lose quarterback Jeremy Moussa and linebacker Isaiah Major, the respective current Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive and defensive players of the year, to graduation. Florida A&M’s former recruiting director, Devin Rispress, also left the Rattlers on Jan. 11 to become assistant director of player personnel and high school relations for the University of Colorado’s football program under coach Deion Sanders. According to a Florida A&M athletic department source, Colzie, as the interim head coach, was actively recruiting players to replace key members of the championship team. The Rattlers have secured some players during the early signing period and with an official head coach now they should aim to add more players in the next week.
Secure co-defensive coordinator Ryan Smith
Since the hiring of Ryan Smith in 2018, Florida A&M’s defense has been one of the best in the SWAC. The Rattlers finished last season as the No. 3 ranked scoring defense in the FCS and led the SWAC in total sacks with 37. Under Smith, the Rattlers’ defense has produced a Buck Buchanan Award winner (Isaiah Land in 2021), two SWAC defensive players of the year (Land in 2021 and Major in 2023) and NFL talent (Markquese Bell and Land). During the coaching search, Smith was rumored to be a candidate for other coaching positions, so retaining him would be a strong step toward maintaining the Rattlers’ defense.
In the last month, the Rattlers coaching staff has lost Rispress and former assistant athletic director of football operations LaTroy Johnson, who left for a similar role on new South Carolina State football coach Chennis Berry’s staff. Filling both positions to ensure a smooth start to spring football should be a high priority for the new head coach.