By Kyle LoJacono
Mike Lawrence has been named the third football coach in Wiregrass Ranch’s seven-year history.
Bulls athletic director Dave Wilson announced the move Dec. 11.
“The plan that he has in place for the direction of our football program separated him,” Wilson said. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm with him, and just the overall experience that he brings with him over the other candidates. Just overall we thought he was the right person.”
Lawrence joined Wiregrass Ranch’s program last season as the offensive coordinator.
“I’m very excited, very excited,” Lawrence said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity.”
Wilson said they didn’t plan to promote from within when they started the coaching search.
“Originally we said we need to make some changes in the program overall, so that probably wasn’t our first thought,” Wilson said. “With the list of candidates, which included some very good candidates in the group, coach Lawrence with his experience coming from Kansas State University, playing professionally and with the other programs he’s been with stood out. He has knowledge of both sides of the ball, and his overall plan put him to the top of the list.”
Lawrence was a running back at Kansas State University, where he ranks fourth all-time with 2,265 rushing yards. He was also a defensive back during his redshirt freshman year.
Lawrence played professionally from 1999 to 2008 with the Tennessee Thundercats of the Indoor Professional Football League, the Rheinmain Razorbacks of the German Football League and the River City Rage of the National Indoor Football League. He followed his playing days with assistant coaching stops at several high schools, including Dunedin.
Lawrence replaces Jeremy Shobe, who led the program the last four seasons.
Shobe guided the squad to its first and only winning season and district championship in 2010. He resigned Nov. 12 following consecutive 0-10 seasons and 22 straight losses.
“Coach Shobe did a great job,” Lawrence said. “I think we just lacked a belief in ourselves.”
Lawrence pointed out that the Bulls were close in several games this year, including having a fourth-quarter lead in the season finale at Zephyrhills before falling 23-17.
“The lack of discipline in games made it go the other way,” Lawrence said. “We had a lot of mistakes that cost us ball games, not a lack of talent. It’s things we did on offense, defense and special teams. We’ve got to change that around and be fundamentally sound in order to be successful in football games.
“That’s how I played the game,” Lawrence continued. “If I didn’t know my assignment or what I was doing I didn’t play. That’s my biggest thing, and that’s what my players will end up doing. They have to be fundamentally sound. That’s how the best football teams are.”
Lawrence was chosen from 28 candidates, including Bishop McLaughlin offensive coordinator Michael Burns, Steinbrenner offensive line coach Gregg Puskas and Wiregrass Ranch defensive coordinator Adamm Oliver.
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