Alex Wood knows there are plenty of challenges ahead of him at Florida A&M.
The first-year coach of the Rattlers is ready to take them all on.
Wood was named the 17th coach in school history in December and will be the fourth in the past four years.
A former assistant who won national championships under Dennis Erickson at Miami in 1989 and 1991, Wood said he is ready to bring the Rattlers back to prominence.
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“I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, having replaced a guy who won 10 games and now replacing a guy who won six in two years,” said Wood, who was hired after last year’s disastrous 3-9 campaign in which the Rattlers started 0-5 and were outscored 162-43 in the process. “There’s only one way to go and that’s up.
“It’s a good thing, actually. We understand folks have high expectations here no matter what, and everyone wants a winner. We’re going to give it our best shot.”
Wood’s first game with the Rattlers comes Saturday against USF at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
“Things are going good right now,” Wood said. “The kids are working hard, making the transition from the system they were in to what we’re running. It’s going as good as can be, and we’re excited about it.”
Since winning a share of the MEAC title in 2010 after going 8-3 under Joe Taylor, the Rattlers have trended down.
FAMU went 7-4 the following season under Taylor, but the next three seasons haven’t been kind to the Rattlers as they have finished just 10-25 overall.
With the losses have come a lack of continuity throughout the athletic department.
Taylor coached FAMU for five seasons before retiring with two games remaining in 2012. He was replaced by popular FAMU Hall of Famer Earl Holmes — who was FAMU’s defensive coordinator under Taylor.
After going 6-16 in two-plus seasons, Holmes was unceremoniously fired by athletic director Kellen Winslow Sr. last October just four days before FAMU’s homecoming game on the heels of a 40-21 loss at North Carolina A&T.
Defensive backs coach Corey Fuller took over in an interim basis, and under Fuller the Rattlers lost their homecoming contest 12-10 to Norfolk State.
FAMU only won one of four games under Fuller, beating Delaware State 41-7 before losing a heartbreaking Sunshine Classic to rival Bethune-Cookman 18-17 in overtime.
A few days after the loss to the Wildcats, Winslow resigned after just eight months on the job. Winslow received a vote of no confidence from the FAMU board of trustees not long after he fired Holmes.
Enter Wood, the fourth coach for FAMU in the past four seasons.
“Things aren’t perfect, but it’s a work in process,” said Wood, who was the head coach at James Madison before joining the Vikings. “We’re coming along.”
Aside from the on-field problems, Wood must also address off-field issues at FAMU. The school is ineligible for the MEAC championship and a berth in the new Celebration Bowl to be held in December because of poor academics.
“There’s still a lot of value in our season, a lot of pride to be taken out of winning,” Wood said. “I’d rather not go to a bowl game and go 12-0 than be eligible for one and go 3-8. I always point to Ohio State going 12-0 when they were on probation and going nowhere.”