He was Mainland’s fourth option at receiver last year. Getting most of his playing time in the Buccaneers’ blowout wins, Randy Baker waited patiently behind Kaylo Hannah, Wilfred Taylor and Will Collins to display his skills. Now that those guys have graduated, it’s his turn.
“Last season I was good, but I just had some great talent in front of me,” Baker said. “This year, I knew I had to step up and be that guy and lead the receivers, so I worked extra hard during the summer on the little things like routes, getting off jams and communicating better with Denzel (Houston) on the field. During 7-on-7s, I made sure my hands were legit because I knew it was going to prepare me for the season.”
With one game down, Baker’s work has already reaped fruit. He caught 31- and 20-yard touchdown receptions, matching his total from last season, and ended the night with five catches for 82 yards.
But, Baker wasn’t surprised, nor is he satisfied. He knows big things are expected from him this year. As the leader of a new receiver corps and the first receiver to battle Mainland’s highly confident defenders in one-on-one practice drills, his first responsibility is to motivate and inform the others that they should be just as certain in their abilities as the guys lining up on the other side of the line of scrimmage in front of them.
“It’s fun because I’ve gotten so much better, seeing them try to catch me,” Baker said, “but they also make me work. With Cyrus (Fagan) being the top safety in the country, he’s usually my main target because I know we’re going to go at it.”
“It seems like his speed came out of nowhere,” said Ronnie Stokes, one of Mainland’s starting quarterbacks.
Just 206 yards shy of his total from last year (288), Baker believes he is the top receiver in the county, and he will play an intricate part in Mainland’s quest for a ring. I agree with him, and I believe he will quadruple his last-season totals, depending on how often the starters play in games.