As the ball is snapped at Monday’s practice, Southern Lab football coach Marcus Randall unfolds his hands as he approaches the offensive huddle, clearly displeased by something he saw.
The screen pass was completed and blocking assignments made, but Randall expected something else — more hustle from his receiver.
“Run that again,” said Randall, the first-year Kittens coach. “This time pick up the tempo.”
It’s evident that the former LSU quarterback expects a lot from the SLHS offense. But the group he may expect the most from is the receivers.
After an 8-6 record that included a runner-up finish in Division IV, there’s plenty of anticipation and buzz for this Southern Lab team. With junior quarterback Bladrick Veal at the helm and a blended offensive line, this year’s receiving corps is an important nucleus. The unit lost only two players to graduation.
Southern Lab offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Corey Brownfield said he expects consistent play from his veteran receivers.
“The receivers are a special group of guys,” Brownfield said. “These guys have been with us two or three years already. They’re expected to lead the team this year as far as yards after catch and making perfect catches and just being examples of what leaders are supposed to be.”
Brownfield said he thinks all 13 receivers (three seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen) have the potential to play on the Division I level in college.
One reason that this group is special is because each player’s skill set complements the next.
There’s Tevis Abraham Jr., a 6-foot-1 senior and deep threat, and Xavier Bell, a junior, and screen and short route specialist.
Abraham and Bell were eager to speak on a third member, Curtlan Williams, a senior two-time all state selection. Williams is an all-round guy who has played alongside Veal since middle school.
“He’s just an athlete,” Abraham said of Williams. “He’ll play some defense, offense, kick return. Just look at (Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver) De’Athony Thomas.”
That Thomas-like speed is something all these receivers possess. Williams said they’ve all clocked sub 4.6 seconds 40-meter dash times with Bell, also a track athlete, being the fastest at a 4.3. Williams is a two-time all-state performer. Williams and Abraham each had around 800 yards receiving, while Bell had around 500 receiving yards.
One addition is sophomore defensive end Chris Allen. Allen is rated as a four-star prospect and a top 10 player in the state, according to Rivals.com. At 6-foot-5, 221 pounds, it’s easy to see why he would be an asset on offense.
These receivers are also quick to recognize the benefit of having a former collegiate and professional defensive back as a head coach.
“He’s a good teacher, so he taught us everything that he knew coming from LSU,” Bell said of Randall.
“He taught us all the techniques that he knew so we would be ready.”
But just days into fall practice, there are many improvements to be made. There’s an occasional dropped pass, bad timing on a pass or ball thrown too high.
“We just need to work on timing and getting better in and out of our breaks, us and the quarterback,” Williams said.
Each receiver will have an opportunity. Southern Lab hosts Bogalusa on Sept. 4 to open its season.
“We’re just deadly,” Abraham said. “We got the jump ball on one side. … three, four speeders. You choose what you want to do. It’s state championship or bust.”