SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: McKinley Panthers

SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: McKinley Panthers
McKinley Panthers (Source: Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The No. 16 stop for the Sportsline Summer Camp tour around high school football was with the McKinley Panthers.

SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: McKinley Panthers - Part 1
SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: McKinley Panthers - Part 2

A first-year coaching staff at any level of football often times brings struggle, hardship, and an adjustment period. That was the case at McKinley in 2019. The Panthers are now working to improve upon a 1-9 record from last season.

“We were new to them and they were new to us, so we had to get used to each other and get comfortable with how we all acted,” said senior athlete Noah Johnson. “They had to figure out us. We had to figure out them.”

“Well, I learned we have to learn how to work together because our problem is we fall apart easily,” added senior tackle Christian Turner.

But now in his second year as head coach, Richard Oliver is working to turn the corner as a program. The message to his team is clear.

“We’re going to have to outwork people,” Oliver explained. “The message is we have to work extremely hard. We have to be more disciplined. And, we have to be fundamentally sound. That’s the key to winning football games.”

“We have to be better and stronger because we don’t want to have the same season we had last year,” noted senior defensive end Jermier Washington.

Back at quarterback for the Panthers in his senior year is Richard Oliver Jr., who will lead a new option offense being implemented this summer. But Oliver Jr. has personal experience in the system from earlier in his prep career.

“It’s slower for me because I’ve been doing it but if you just started doing it, it’s not slow,” said Oliver Jr. “You have to get used to the speed.”

He also talked about the key to a good option attack offense.

“The key to any offense, period, is the O-line. Simple. You can have all the skill guys in the world but if you don’t have a good O-line, you can’t do anything,” Oliver Jr. added.

“We can’t have any tired linemen on the field. We have to keep going and pushing ourselves,” Turner pointed out.

“Get that weight on that hand so we can get off the ball faster,” stated senior offensive and defensive lineman Jacob Varnado. “We have to attack so we can get the yards we need to get.”

Oliver Sr. and his staff did their best to navigate no spring practice and the mandated time away from each other because of COVID-19. The head coach said they sent out daily workouts the players could do at home and hoped they would return in some type of shape.

He added he has been pleased with the effort the student-athletes have shown so far and if they continue to work hard each day, the staff will be able to get them back into playing shape.

With seven returners back on offense and defense, there is experience to improve upon the Panthers’ win total and the players say they’re much more comfortable with the coaching staff the second time around.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers are multiple but will emphasize the option attack with Oliver Jr., Washington, Johnson, and others in the backfield. More important than any Xs and Os this offseason, McKinley says team unity is what’s most important.

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