At age 37, Marcus Randall is still a young head coach.
Players are creative when they ask about his role in LSU’s “Bluegrass Miracle” win over Kentucky in 2002.
“Even if they don’t know it, they hear about it, I’m guessing from parents or older relatives. I think they go and Google it,” said Randall, a former Glen Oaks and LSU quarterback. “Then they mention it, just to see what I am going to say. That lets me know they are doing their homework.”
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Returning to Woodlawn, the school where he started his career as an assistant coach, is special for Randall. There are concerns since Woodlawn moves up to Class 5A and District 5-5A with the likes of Division I finalist Catholic High and 5A quarterfinalist East Ascension this fall.
Randall won’t push any panic buttons. He would rather find what buttons to push to motivate and elevate a squad that will feature multiple first-year starters.
“When there is a coaching change, there is usually a culture change. Being a month into the summer program I can tell you things are totally different than they were a month ago,” Randall said. “I see the kids buying in, I see them understanding how we want things done and how to do it our way. I see them moving faster and making plays. With 7-on-7, we’ve got work in on the passing game, which is a good start.”
Randall said he uses things learned at each coaching stop. He was an offensive coordinator for his brother, current Baker coach Eric Randall, at Scotlandville, followed by stints at Southern Lab and The Church Academy, which closed this spring. Sandwiched between the last two stops was a one-year suspension that followed LHSAA sanctions.
These days, there is no time to look back because the focus is on the Panthers and their future.
“Woodlawn is better than I remember," he said. "I’m older and wiser and I have help in the form of coach Steve (Baronich, strength/conditioning coach) and coach (Randy) Gonzales (athletic trainer) that I did not have in other places, along great staff. People talk about the grass being greener someplace else. Sometimes it isn’t.”
To impress Randall, players have kept moving. Randall returns the favor. He stayed behind Wednesday to work with linemen while skill players and assistant coaches competed in a 7-on-7 league at Live Oak High.
Senior receiver Caleb Blanchard gushes about the new “swag” the coaches have brought in. Of course, the 6-foot-3 Blanchard is excited about a pass-oriented offense.
“It is definitely a culture shock. They are pushing us to our max. The new system is different and we have to work a long time to get some things right,” Blanchard said. “Instead of moving on after we make a mistake, we keep doing it until we get it right."
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Safety/wide receiver Lanard Harris is used to clearing hurdles. He was the Class 4A 300-meter hurdles champion last month as a sophomore. Harris said any worries he had about Randall and the new coaches throwing any unneeded obstacles at the Panthers disappeared quickly.
“That first (spring) practice, (Randall) and the other coaches were ready to go,” Harris said. “It was intense, but good. Since then, it’s more of the same. They are who we thought they were.”
Whenever there is a coaching change, the “buy in” to a new philosophy can make it hard to see a possible payback. Offensive lineman Quinton Ross, a senior and a returning starter, watched carefully. For Ross, seeing was believing.
“I wanted to see who would emerge as leaders and how it came together,” Ross said. “Once people started to buy in, things came together. (Randall) has a lot of knowledge as a former player and a coach that he teaches.”
As Blanchard notes, “When (Randall) says stuff about finishing every play because you never know what will happen, you’ve gotta believe it. He’s seen it and done it first-hand.”