Thursday, August 2, 2012
Rankin new head coach of Hawks
By BARRY BURLESON
Chris Rankin got into coaching sort of by accident. When he did, he loved it and knew someday he wanted to be a head football coach.
This season the 36-year-old gets that opportunity. After two years as an assistant at Holly Springs High School, he is stepping up to the top job.
“It’s a dream come true,” Rankin said. “I’m excited.
“We’ve laid the groundwork here the past two years, so it’s not like I’m jumping into a brand new school. I know it’s going to be difficult, but we’ve got a good group of kids who want to succeed.”
Rankin is a native of Hurley in Jackson County.
Interested in aerospace engineering, he went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., before changing his mind and earning a degree in math and computer information systems at Delta State University.
“I went to four different states, changing jobs, and then when I took a job back close to home, I figured out I didn’t have enough education,” Rankin said.
He started working on a second degree, in computer science, at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
That’s when he got a call about an arena football team that was starting up.
“They asked me come try out and I made the team,” Rankin said.
Later, one of his teammates quit and took a high school coaching job in the Baton Rouge area at a private school.
“He told me they had another opening and wanted me to join them,” Rankin said. “I was going to school (at LSU) and playing arena football and decided I needed the full-time work and the money.
“Within two or three weeks of coaching, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to influence young men and give back to the community. And it rekindled that competitive fire that I had as a player.”
His other coaching stops have included Picayune, his hometown high school (East Central), Pearl River Central and Olive Branch. He came to Holly High two years ago when Marcus Autry got the head coaching position. Autry is moving to the assistant principal job when the new school year begins.
“When I came with Coach Autry, our goal was to develop young men and get a good football program going,” Rankin said. “He got the opportunity to move up and affect the entire school, and I got the opportunity to be the head coach. It’s always been my goal since I got into coaching.”
The Hawks made some strides last year – going 4-7 overall and 2-3 in Region 1-3A. They were in the playoff hunt until the final week of the regular season.
He said last year’s team was also hit hard by injuries to key players, like the starting quarterback.
“I don’t think we’ve taken a step back,” Coach Rankin said about the outlook for this year’s Hawks. “We’ve gotten stronger in the weight room and we’ve made some big improvements in the offseason.
“This year I think we will be competitive again – just young. We will have mostly sophomores and juniors.”
Winning seasons have been rare for the Holly Springs football program. The Hawks’ best record in recent years was 6-6 in 2005, a season that included the first playoff win in school history.
“We’re working to change the culture and change the expectations,” Rankin said. “You tend to get what you expect. In the offseason, we’ve focused more on changing expectations.
“I think we will be competitive and surprise a few people this year.”
Assistant coaches Donald Deans, Cameron Elisara and Danny Warren return. Barry South will also join the staff. He is moving from Clarksdale. Also a new teacher at the school, Tim Hill, will serve as a volunteer assistant coach.
Defensively, Coach Rankin said there will be few changes, mainly adjusting some secondary coverages.
“That was one of our weak spots last year,” he said.
Offensively, he said this year’s edition of the Holly High team will feature shorter quarterbacks.
“So we will go away from the ‘straight I formation’ to more of a ‘pistol’ and some ‘shotgun,’” Rankin said. “Hopefully, we can throw it a little better this year.”
Rankin believes the 2012 season will be another step in the right direction for the football Hawks.
“I don’t see why Holly Springs cannot be a top program,” he said. “There’s enough talent here. It’s a mindset – the kids have to believe.”
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