WATSON – When Blane Westmoreland stepped down at Albany as head coach in the summer of 2018 and returned to Live Oak to join Brett Beard’s staff as an assistant, he wasn’t thinking about becoming a head coach again any time soon.
He was content and knew he couldn’t take any job as a head coach. Sometimes things change, and for Westmoreland, that’s exactly what happened.
Beard, the Eagles’ coach for the past five seasons, was named coach at District 4-5A and Livingston Parish rival Live Oak, opening the door for Westmoreland to become a head coach again.
On Dec. 17, a dream came true for Westmoreland, when he was named the head coach at his alma mater.
“For me, it’s the perfect storm,” Westmoreland a 2005 Live Oak graduate said while noting his family lives just five minutes from campus. “With the timing and everything, it’s the right situation. It’s the right time.”
Westmoreland, 32, went 27-25 in five seasons at Albany, helping the Hornets to a pair of playoff berths, but he said working on Beard’s staff the past two seasons gave him another perspective he’s bringing into his new role with the Eagles.
“In my opinion, what makes you a good coach is, one, it’s always being able to learn and be willing to learn,” Westmoreland said, noting Beard is the fifth head coach he’s worked for in 12 years of coaching. “Taking two years off and being able to sit back and learn and do some things differently that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity do if I was a head coach, really helped me become, in my opinion, a better coach sitting back and seeing how someone else did it. It just gives me a different perspective. Coach Beard did an outstanding job. There was a lot of things that he did that I felt work and are going to continue to work. I always feel like you can always learn, and that’s makes you a good coach is being able and willing to listen and learn and see how other people do it.”
Westmoreland praised the work Beard did in his five seasons and said the goal is to build on that while adding his own wrinkles to the things the Eagles are doing schematically.
“Fast, physical football,” said Westmoreland, when asked about the brand of football the Eagles will play with him as coach. “Physicality is one of the things that I preach, and you know that from my time at Albany. It’s physicality and execution. That’s something that (was) a cornerstone from what we had done over there and it’s going to be a cornerstone for what we do here. We want to be physical, and we want to execute, and that’s something that I believe people are going to be able to see on Friday nights, that these kids are going to fight for four quarters. No matter what’s happening, we’re going to fight for four quarters, and we’re going to fight every day in the classroom and on the field. Out in our community, we’re going to be proud of what we do. We’re going to be proud of that product, and we’re proud of that ‘Live Oak’ on our chest.
"There’s one promise I can make, and that’s no one’s going to out-work us,” Westmoreland continued. “I felt like that when I was at Albany, and I feel like that again.”
Getting to that style of football will include a few new wrinkles on offense.
“We’re going to be a multiple offense, but our base is going to be centered around the wing-T,” Westmoreland said. “That’s something that I ran (at Albany) and had a lot of success with, and that’s the offense that Live Oak ran and had a lot of offensive success in the past, so we have the talent to do it and be successful at it. We’re just going to re-install it and see where it goes.”
Westmoreland said Live Oak will also be multiple on defense but wants to keep things as much the same as possible to the system utilized under Beard, with some tweaking.
“Defensively, I really like what we did the last five years and I want to keep as much the same as we can,” Westmoreland said.
As of now, Westmoreland is in the market for a linebackers coach and said there could be more changes to the coaching staff
“We’re going to go out and find the best one we can find,” Westmoreland said of the linebackers coach. “We’re going to sit down and see what we have, what we have coming open, teaching spots and everything, and then we’re going to go from there. It’s not something that I need to get done before school starts back in January. We’re looking for the best fit. We’re looking for the right person not only for our staff, but we’re looking for the right person for our kids.”
Westmoreland said there are several keys to help Live Oak build on what Beard established, starting with maintaining stability in the coaching ranks.
“That’s key for any program is stability,” Westmoreland said, noting he’s worked for six head coaches in his seven seasons as an assistant at Live Oak. “To be on the staff when we had a senior class get four head coaches in four years, you’re not going to be very successful when that happens. For me, providing consistency, not only with myself, but with our coaching staff, is key to the success of Live Oak High School.”
Another focal point is getting players out for football, with Westmoreland noting the Eagles will lose 28 seniors to graduation, including a pair of Division I signees in defensive lineman Jalen Lee (Florida) and running back Kee Hawkins (Army).
“It’s hard to replace that, let alone the talent of each and every one of them, but just the sheer number of them, that’s hard to go and replace, so for us, it’s going to be, go out there and recruit the hallways, get those guys out that need to be playing football, and bring some of those guys that have decided to step away back into the fold,” Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland also noted the cupboard isn’t completely bare for the Eagles.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of kids on that football team,” Westmoreland said. “We’re going to be relatively young, so we may experience a little growing pains, but that’s not an excuse for not being successful, so we’re going to get in, we’re going to work, and we’re going to work and we’re going to put the best product on the field that we possibly can.
“These kids have got to know that we’re ready to go to war with them, and there’s not another group of kids that I want to go to battle with and this coaching staff wants to go battle with than what I have at Live Oak High School. It’s a big undertaking. We know what we’re in for, but we’re going to put the right foot forward, and we’re going to get the job done.”
Westmoreland also said he wants to get the youth football programs on different levels involved in an effort to put together a more complete program not only for the high school, but for the Watson community.
“We’ve got to have a total buy-in from our little league, to our junior high and every kid in that high school,” Westmoreland said. “We have a plan that’s going to have everybody on the same page for the first time, if ever. I’m excited to sit down with Coach (Shane) Wells at our junior high and sit down with our little league coaches and get everybody running the same direction, everybody pulling the rope the same way. I’m excited to work with those guys and see what this place truly can become when we’re all on the same page going the same direction.”
Westmoreland knows there may be some pressure coaching at his alma mater, but he’s not shying away from it.
“No one’s going to put more pressure on me than what I put on myself,” Westmoreland said. “When it’s your home, it means more, and this is my home. I’m excited. I welcome it, but it’s going to be a fun ride. There’s going to be no pressure more than what I put on myself to win.”