Author Archives: Farren Davis

About Farren Davis

Farren Davis is a sports writer for LouisianaFB.com. She attended Georgia State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health. Farren has experience in the digital magazine industry and has an interest in health communication and sports journalism. She is currently earning a master’s degree in mass communication at LSU.

Eric Randall talks football, coaching and personal success

You can probably say the game of football came naturally to someone like Eric Randall. The Louisiana native from Baton Rouge, who dominated as quarterback for Southern University from 1992 – 1995, led his team to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and a Black College National Championship title in 1995.

But when Randall began playing sports at a young age, his dreams of athletic stardom did not include a helmet or marked fields of green.

”If I had a choice, I would’ve chosen basketball,” he said. “I had a love for basketball, but I wanted to be realistic with myself. I had more potential to go to college on scholarship as a football player. I was only 6-foot-3, so I decided football was the best thing, and it’s been great.”

Growing up, Randall found inspiration in watching NFL greats like former Washington Redskins player Doug Williams and hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana, but not just because of their exceptional playing abilities.

“As a quarterback, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Doug Williams. He’s the only African American who’s won the Super Bowl, and I’ve been able to talk to him as a life long friend.”

In eighth grade, Randall met Williams who mentored him during his time at Glen Oaks High School in Baton Rouge, and the two have been connected ever since.

Montana’s influence stems from Randall’s beliefs in education.

“He was not only a football player, but he was an academic guy, and that’s what I wanted to be, a student-athlete and not just an athlete.”

Now the newly appointed head football coach at Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge, Randall is helping push that same message to student-athletes on his team.

Having coached previously for Southern Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Randall said he and his staff are “just trying to change some of these kids lives, and I think we’re doing that each and every single day.”

Along his side on Scotlandville’s coaching staff is Eric’s younger brother, Marcus, who proves the football gene runs in the Randall family.

After playing quarterback at LSU, Marcus found a spot in the NFL playing for the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers.

Despite Marcus’ professional success, Eric said he never felt jealousy toward his brother. Although Eric dreamed of going to the NFL, he knew that Marcus might surpass him.

Before Eric’s father, Eric Sr., died when Eric was 16, he prepped Eric for the possible truth.

“My father made the comment when I was around 12 and Marcus was 4.” “He said, ‘Your brother’s going to be better than you’.” Eric, offended and confused by the remark, later asked his father why he was convinced his sibling would outperform him. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said his father explained. “The younger brother is supposed to outdo the older brother because you’re supposed to show him the tricks of the trade and he’s supposed to surpass you. If he does not, then you are a failure.”

Though his father’s comments were difficult to receive, Eric was not fueled by sibling rivalry. He said he loves his brother and always made sure he did the right things. And having a brother in the NFL isn’t exactly a burden.

“He made a lot of money in three quick years, and we visited a lot of new places riding on his coattails,” said Eric playfully.

Eric also acknowledges how the roles have reversed.

“People used to say, ‘That’s Eric Randall’s little brother,’ and now they say ‘That’s Marcus Randall’s big brother,’ and I love it because he’s a successful man.”

Marcus attributes much of his success to his older brother.

“When my dad passed, he (Eric) took that role on and not only pushed me athletically but academically. I looked up to him, and he was a role model to me. I watched him play, and he always taught me the game.”

Marcus added that he and Eric push each other to be the best they can be.

Eric may not have gone pro, but as a tribute to his prominent college success and continuing role in football, Southern University inducted Eric into their hall of fame in 2010, but it wasn’t the first time the opportunity had presented itself.

In 2002, Southern attempted to honor Eric with the induction, but he declined. “I turned it down initially because I knew my wife was pregnant with our son, and I wanted him to be able to see that,” he said. “Someone said I may not get that chance again, but thank God I did, and my son was there.”

Eric hopes his son, Eric III, will follow in his footsteps. “I care if he goes the athletic route because I have a passion for sports, but if he chooses not to play sports he will have to do something because everyone has been blessed with a talent. And I’ll put as much behind my kids as I need to put behind them to make sure they develop that talent.

If Eric hadn’t pursued sports himself, he said he probably would have fulfilled his dream of being an engineer, but if he weren’t coaching he’d be back in administration.

Before accepting the coaching position at Scotlandville, Eric served as assistant principal at Baton Rouge High School. Eric said what he wanted in life has come to fruition including being a principal. Eric’s mom, Linda Clark Randall, also worked in education and always pushed the concept of self-actualization, a psychological theory that promotes the realization of one’s full potential.

“I always knew I wanted to become a coach, I always knew I wanted to play football, and I always knew that self-actualization was the best form of becoming who you wanted to be.”

Eric believes that until you challenge yourself, or someone else challenges you, “you never know how far you can go.”

Sean Payton talks Saints 2013 draft class

With the New Orleans Saints recovering from a less than stellar 2012 season, head coach Sean Payton spoke on the 2013 draft class and what the new players will have to offer this year.

Among those drafted to the Saints was defensive end Rufus Johnson from Tarleton State, who the team selected first. Payton said, “… he has that physical stature that you are looking for. We feel like he is a guy that can rush the passer really well. So he can line up one of those outside positions and we will see how he develops. You are looking for some traits that stand out and with him clearly that’s the case.”

On Kenny Stills, the wide receiver from Oklahoma who the Saints drafted 10th, Payton said, “he is someone who runs exceptionally well, he is fluid, and then I think at the very beginning of the draft with Kenny Vaccaro, there is a real good background or body of work the way he plays.”

Arkansas-Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead, who the Saints selected in round three as their 13th pick, adds to the defense and fits Payton’s preference for stature and athleticism with an impressive skill-set.

Payton mentioned that not only were the Saints looking for size, speed and measurables, but also at how the players will fit in with the team. He said, “I think our players are counting on likely motivated guys- guys who have that in common. I think that that is one of the things you get to find out pretty quickly.”

Louisiana racks up at NFL Draft

Louisiana represented well at this year’s NFL draft wrapping up day three with a total of 12 players selected to a team. Making up majority of that number is SEC powerhouse LSU, which drafted nine players overall including defensive end Barkevious Mingo and free safety Eric Reid. Mingo was picked sixth by the Cleveland Browns in round one while Reid went to the San Francisco 49ers as the team’s first pick and 18th overall draft pick.

Also from LSU, linebacker Kevin Minter was selected in round two by the Arizona Cardinals as the 45th overall pick. Round three spewed out three more Tigers with the Philadelphia Eagle’s selection of defensive tackle Bennie Logan (67 overall), Cardinal’s selection of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (69 overall), and the Houston Texans’ pick of defensive end Sam Montgomery (95 overall).

The Seattle Seahawks picked up cornerback Tharold Simon (138 overall) in round five and running back Spencer Ware (194 overall) in round six. Ware stands as the only offensive player from LSU to be called in the draft, making the Tiger defense nearly unmatched.

Although no Tigers were selected in the final round, LSU made history setting a record with nine players drafted this year, the most in the school’s existence.

The Atlanta Falcons selected cornerback Robert Alford from Southeastern Louisiana in round two as pick 60 overall. From Louisiana Tech, wide receiver Quinton Patton went to the 49ers (128 overall) while the Chicago Bears selected offensive tackle Jordan Mills (163 overall).

Also making a big statement were SEC schools Alabama and Florida with nine players drafted and Georgia with eight. ACC school Florida State leads the pack with 11 players drafted.

LSU defense tries to pick up after losing so many pieces

With LSU experiencing a major turnover on defense with the early departure of six key players, the Spring Game was the perfect preview to gauge what we can expect from the newly formed Tiger defense in the fall.

Delivering big for the White team were returning defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony “Freak” Johnson. Ferguson completed for a total of seven tackles with one tackle for loss, and both players received outstanding player awards for their top performances during the award ceremony immediately after the game. The two paired up as the ultimate defensive duo helping lead the White team to a 37-0 victory over the Purple team.

Even with losing players central to the team’s defense- including defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, defensive backs Eric Reid and Tharold Simon, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter, Ferguson remained confident that he and the rest of the squad would not come up short in 2013. “A lot of people said that we couldn’t do it and that we were a lot thinner of a defensive line since we lost a few people. I had the mindset that I wanted to prove a lot today,” Ferguson said.

In regard to his partnership with Johnson, Ferguson said, “I feel like we are going to be the best duo in the country this year. I feel like if we keep pushing each other, then the sky is the limit.”

Making an immense contribution defensively was sophomore Danielle Hunter, who finished the game with a game-high eight total tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. Seniors Lamin Barrow and Craig Loston also stepped up on defense with Barrow recording seven total tackles and Loston six.

Loston explained that the key to a successful season is for each player to take accountability and carry out their individual roles.

“You have about three seconds to get the ball out and that’s what we try to accomplish. We make sure to take care of our jobs. If each of us does our job individually, then we will get the play we want,” Loston said.

Coach Les Miles was pleased with the defensive performance from the White team. “Defense played well,” Miles said. “We played one front and one coverage and tackled well and played how they’re supposed to. Danielle Hunter had a nice day. Anthony Johnson, Lamin Barrow and Craig Loston looked like the first team defense.”

While the purple team was unable to put any points on the board, sophomores Kwon Alexander and Tommy LeBeau proved they could potentially be assets to the Tiger defense during the regular season. Though unable to make crucial stops against Mettenberger and the white team offense, Alexander was able to complete for a total of seven tackles and one tackle for loss while LeBeau finished with six total tackles.

The Tiger’s defensive line couldn’t be much more new, but Ferguson assures that the newer players are capable of handling the job if needed.

He said, “We have a lot of speed and young guys stepping in and picking it up for us.”

Saints running back takes visit to New York

New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory could be looking at a 2013 season with the New York Jets. Ivory, who remains the only unsigned restricted free agent on the Saints team, visited the Jets facility on Friday.

The 6-foot-2, 220 pound running back saw an outstanding 2010 season, leading the Saints in rushing with 716 yards. Overall, Ivory has rushed for 1,307 yards and only has 256 career carries but has been limited due to multiple injuries.

Now fourth behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles on the depth chart, Ivory is not a definite pick for the New York squad. The Jets don’t intend to give up their second-round pick for Ivory but would be willing to give up a late-round pick, according to a report from ESPN. The Saints could decide to keep Ivory and trade Thomas instead.

If the Jets do acquire the physically gifted 25-year-old, he would be an excellent compliment to running back Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson who make up the team’s current backfield. Last month the Jets lost power back Shonn Greene to the Tennessee Titans, and Ivory could be just the player to fill the void.

Another chance at redemption

He may have been at the center of seemingly endless controversy during the 2012 season, but Tyrann Mathieu is determined to make headlines in a different light.

After multiple failed drug tests, dismissal from the LSU football team and a drug related arrest, many ruled Mathieu’s football career as over. Frustrated that the Heisman trophy candidate who was expected to help lead his team to national glory had practically written himself out of the script, some skeptics don’t want to believe Mathieu will have another shot on the field. But chances are he will.

After entering the draft, Mathieu impressed at February’s combine finishing with a time of 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash. “I feel like I was the best one there by far,” he told TMZ. But some critics wonder if his underwhelming size in conjunction with his very public past downfalls will prevent him from seeing a career in the NFL.

It all comes down to which team will be willing to take a risk on Mathieu. The 20 year old expressed that the Patriots seemed very interested in him as a prospect for the 2013 season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if at least a few other teams felt the same way.

On whether Mathieu will be drafted, current LSU cornerback and former teammate Jalen Mills had no doubts. “Oh yes. Of course he’ll be drafted,” Mills said. “He’s a great ball player, and I actually like the comment he made. You have to have confidence that you’re the best player, and you have to come into the game with the attitude he had at the combine.”

Unfortunately, there are some who are still not convinced that Mathieu deserves yet another chance. Fans supported him while he stood at the height of college football, but many of those same supporters comprise the hand of unforgiveness he now faces: a pattern all too familiar with fallen athletes.

Whether or not people believe Tyrann Mathieu should be afforded the opportunity to earn a spot in the league, most would agree that his absence would be a sad case of a wasted talent. And luckily his fate lies in the hands of NFL owners and coaches versus his critics. Hopefully, The Honey Badger can uphold his promises and prove that he is indeed worthy of redemption.

It would probably be safe to say that Mathieu desperately wants that chance, along with the opportunity to show that the game would not be the same without him.

New NFL rule: nonsense or necessary?

Use your head.

Obeying this rule of thumb could never steer you wrong, unless you happen to be an NFL player. In an effort to settle the growing issue of player safety, the league recently passed a rule that will prevent players from initiating contact with the crown of their helmet. As expected, the new rule hasn’t surfaced without criticism.

Although the rule, which was approved in a 31-1 vote by NFL owners, applies to defensive and offensive players, many are concerned with how the rule will affect running backs in particular. The most successful running backs have used the “crown of the helmet” technique to break tackles and gain yardage, and many of them are not necessarily celebrating about the new changes.

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte expressed his frustration with the league’s latest imposition in a YouTube post recently.

“I’m all for trying to keep the game safe, but I think it’s messing up the game. Every rule is contradicting what offense does and what defense does.”

In reference to the dropped helmet motion, Forte said, “As a running back that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to use your speed and your power, burst through the hole, make moves or whatever you’ve got to do and hit guys. They’re coming to hit you, so you’ve got to hit them.”

Forte’s comments represent the side of the argument that suggests the rule is making a game based on contact, toughness and brute strength too soft. Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith agreed.

“This has to be one of the most absurd rules I’ve heard in a long time in the game of football,” Smith told ESPN radio.

While players like Forte and Smith argue that the rule takes away from the game, other respected leaders like Hall of Famer Jim Brown fully support the league’s stance on attempting to protect its players.

During the annual NFL meetings in Phoenix, Brown said, “I didn’t use my head. I used my forearm, the palm of my hand, and my shoulder and my shoulder pads. I wasn’t putting my head into too much of anything. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Apparently the NFL doesn’t think it’s a good idea either, and for good reason.

According to ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainura-Waida, the number of reported concussions in the NFL has increased 68 percent over the last three years.

Whether that stat is based on harder hits or harder scrutiny is uncertain, but it is certain that the long term effects of concussions and other serious head trauma show a less appealing side to the game.

The league is facing litigation from about 4,000 former players regarding the physical conditions the players now face from head trauma sustained while playing in the NFL.

With effects ranging from memory loss, paralysis and cases of suicide, the NFL apparently decided the time to address the dangers of the game could not be more appropriate than now.

But while the NFL is taking a handle on player safety, the pool of players next in line to join the league isn’t seeing the same protection.

College football players play a more physical game and are more susceptible to head trauma than professional players. A November 2012 Real Sports documentary revealed that on average, college football players endure about 70 percent more hits than NFL players annually and receive about 1,000 head impacts per year.

Still, some college running backs side with Forte and Smith.

“It’s a dangerous sport and everyone who commits themselves to play the game has to understand that big hits are going to happen and people are going to get hurt, said LSU running back Alfred Blue, who sat out most of the 2012 season with a knee injury. “You can’t take all of the excitement away from football. What will you have then?”

Fellow teammate and running back Terrence Magee expressed similar feelings toward the new regulation.

“I understand them trying to protect everyone, but at the same time you’re a running back,” he said. “And you have to be able to protect yourself too. Part of that sometimes is having to put your head down. I understand where they’re coming from with the safety aspect but, it’s football. It’s a violent game so you know what you’re getting yourself into when you step on the field.”

Running back safety as well as the ability for players like Marshawn Lynch, whose game depends on power versus agility moves, to adjust to the new rule has also been a concern, but Rams head coach Jeff Fisher says it really shouldn’t be.

“We know there is going to be helmet-to-helmet contact,” Fisher told the NFL Network recently. “The running back has an opportunity to protect the football, and lower his head and lower his shoulder, as long as he doesn’t load up and strike with the top of the helmet. And that is also the case with the defensive player.”

Still, Fisher added that the new rule will not change the game.

“It is not going to be over-officiated,” he said. “We are just protecting the players against themselves.”

Passions run high from all players who just want to play the game and play it well. The real question lies in whether the rule will make a difference.

Will we see a substantial decrease in concussive injuries over the next season? Whether the NFL has imposed this new regulation for player safety or the safety of their own pockets, they’ve created a focus on fixing a troubling trend.

The move toward helping preserve healthier lives for players may very well change the game, but the NFL may have no other choice.

Special teams likely to again be special for LSU Tigers

As the warmer weather quickly approaches, the LSU tigers will begin spring football practice this week with an eye toward their annual Spring Game on April 20 in Tiger Stadium. While winning games is a collective effort, many times special teams can make the difference.

The Tigers will certainly field a different group of special teams specialists in 2013. The team is losing punter Brad Wing early to the NFL draft, along with kicker Drew Alleman and kick returner Michael Ford. This leaves some key spots to fill, but the Tigers seem prepared for the changes.

Sophomore Jamie Keehn should easily take over the punter position. Keehn finished the 2012 season with four punts over 50 yards in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson. Junior James Hairston is likely to take over as the primary kicker after playing in all 13 games for the tigers last season.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to continue as the punt returner and kickoff returner in his third season as a Tiger. Beckham completed a career long 89- yard punt return against Ole Miss last season, which fueled a win for LSU. Fellow wide receiver and return man Jarvis Landry is also a capable prospect for the kickoff return position along with incoming freshman Jeryl Brazil. Brazil is expected to step onto the field as a return man because of his outstanding speed. According to the Times-Picayune, Brazil is the fastest high school player who will join LSU this year with a 4.32-second time in the 40-yard dash, though he won’t join the team until August. Once again, spring practice will likely prove that special teams will again be a strong point for the Tigers.

A look back in history

Breaking barriers when the odds are against you isn’t an easy feat, especially in sports. Just ask former NFL star and Louisiana native Doug Williams. Twenty five years ago, Williams became the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl and currently remains the only black quarterback to have done so.

Photo courtesy of Washington Post

Photo courtesy of Washington Post

At a time when black players were considered to be inferior to the more intellectually driven position, Doug Williams proved that race was not a factor in quarterback success. During Super Bowl XXII, Williams silenced any skeptics and led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos. According to the Los Angeles Times, Williams remembered the words of his college coach Eddie Robinson right after the unforgettable moment. “He told me that I would never, ever, understand the impact of what I just had accomplished until I got older, and he was right.”

Now as the head football coach of Grambling State University, Doug Williams continues his leadership role in the game he helped revolutionize. From being the lowest paid quarterback in the league to making history that would change football forever, Doug Williams understands how far the league has come. Williams told ESPN, “Back in the day, there wasn’t an article written that didn’t include the word “black”… you don’t read about the Washington Redskins quarterback, the Tampa quarterback being black. They just happen to be their quarterback, and I think that’s the way it should be. Hopefully, that’s the way it will be from here through eternity.”

LSU defense without Nkemdiche

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At Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., on Wednesday, the nation’s top football recruit announced his long-awaited commitment to his school of choice: Ole Miss.

It seemed to be Robert Nkemdiche’s clear choice with his older brother already playing there, but after visiting LSU’s campus the weekend just before National Signing Day, Nkemdiche was open about the decision becoming increasingly difficult. Ultimately, Nkemdiche decided Coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels would be the right fit.

Could LSU’s missed grab at the best defensive player in the country be a cause for concern? The Tigers will be experiencing a heavy turnover on the defensive end for the 2013 season. The team is losing 11 players to the NFL draft, including star defensive end players Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.

Mingo completed the 2012 season with 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Montgomery finished with 37 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. Also among those leaving are four more defensive players, Bennie Logan (defensive tackle), Kevin Minter (linebacker), Tharold Simon (cornerback), and Eric Reid (safety), all who were key instruments to the Tiger defense.

Perhaps gaining an explosive player like Nkemdiche could have put LSU in a prime defensive position. Playing both running back and defensive lineman, Nkemdiche had 96 total rushing yards on 16 carries with 7 touchdowns in just the last four games of his senior year. He finished the season with 59 tackles, five sacks and ended with 41 career sacks.

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Nkemdiche’s star athleticism earned him the top prospect position and caused him to be sought after by high ranking coaches like Les Miles.

But Coach Miles has not let Nkemdiche’s decision affect his outlook on this up and coming season. At LSU’s National Signing Day news conference, Les Miles spoke confidently about his new class of players.

“I think the depth of this recruiting class is very strong,” Miles said. “I don’t think there’s much difference between the highest-ranked guy and the lowest-ranked guy. I think they are all very similar and competitive.

“This loss of the junior class … the idea that we’re looking for a big man class, offensive line and defensive line … we matched that class with some real skilled speed.”

The Tigers’ coach went on to praise the strength of the team’s newly signed defensive ends, particularly Tashawn Bower, who was the last player to commit to the LSU class.

Bower is a five-star prospect from New Jersey and the 11th-ranked defensive end in the country.

“I always had a good strong feeling that Tashawn would be a Tiger,” Miles said. “And frankly, the best guys, they want to make the decision. They don’t want mom and dad to necessarily have a heavy hand.”

It’s no secret that Nkemdiche’s mother was largely influential in his decision to play at Ole Miss. She made public her wishes for her sons to play together (Nkemdiche’s brother Denzel plays linebacker for the Rebels), which he admits played a huge role in choosing a school. According to The Advocate, Nkemdiche said, “The family aspect was big – it had to be, because that’s my parents.”

Whether or not Coach Miles had Nkemdiche in mind during his statement at the news conference is uncertain, but we do know how he feels about Tashawn Bower. “I wouldn’t feel as good about this class if Tashawn weren’t in it,” he said.

Also joining Bower as a new defensive end is five-star prospect Frank Herron. Herron, from Memphis, Tenn., was one of the earliest players to commit to LSU who Coach Miles describes as a real leader in the class. Some of LSU’s younger returning players are also expected to step in to starting defensive spots like Jermauria Rasco and defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson who were all able to perform when needed as backups last season.

It seems Coach Miles and the Tigers are poised to again have a solid defense this season despite Nkemdiche’s absence, but of course the true indicator will be what happens when the defensive line steps on the field.