The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
One step away from the state finals, the Port Arthur Memorial Titans were left wanting just a little bit more last season. With spring practices opening Monday, what are the key points these new Titans will be looking at in the next few weeks?
1) State motivation — Last season, the Titans entered their offseason workouts motivated by a loss to Houston Memorial in the third round of the playoffs. That drove them all the way through workouts, spring practice and into the regular season.
This year? The motivation is still there, but now has the flavor of that state title. Many of the younger players moving into bigger roles this year were on the team, or around last year’s squad that played at Reliant Stadium twice.
Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said his team has been very focused through workouts and that everyone seems to be moving in the right direction.
“We laid the foundation last season,” Harrison said. “These guys see that and are excited about the opportunity to keep building it up.”
2) Injury updates — Four of the Titans projected starters won’t go through workouts with the team this spring for precautionary reasons.
Safety/running back Darius Lemora, who broke his leg during the playoff run, will be held out along with defensive back Devon Cockrell (tore ACL against Central), receiver John Leday (knee injury against La Porte) and defensive end Matthew Romar (hernia surgery) all will miss the spring practices.
That opens things up for the Titans to build some depth and let younger guys compete at those spots, according to Harrison. All four will be cleared to play in May, but are being held back longer just to be on the safe side.
3) Back by committee — Lemora and Cockrell will have to wait a bit to be involved in replacing one of the Division I signees from last year’s team in running back Nathan Holmes.
Both players will be in a group of guys looking to take Holmes spot in the backfield, as the Titans hope to throw numbers at the problem and hope something sticks.
“We’ve got a couple juniors and sophomores that will be in the running,” Harrison said. “They’re all different in their styles, but they’ll compete. We’re going to give them time this spring and see what happens.”
Though teams won’t have to worry about Holmes’ explosiveness, having multiple guys rotate through the position means teams will have to worry about a wider array of plays from the Titans this season.
While Holmes saw the bulk of the time at running back last year, Harrison said he’s considering using more of a rotation between three guys next year. With different style runners in at different times, defenses will have a harder time gameplanning for the Titans.
4) Replacing Mr. Port Arthur — Gone is the first all-state quarterback in school history, but that doesn’t mean the Titans don’t have options at the position going forward.
First option is Terrence Singleton’s backup from last year, Ricky Fisk. The soon-to-be senior has already made strides in the offseason and got solid playing time last year in the second half of games when Memorial had a comfortable lead.
One of the other guys working at the position is Roderic Rucker, who could see time on both sides of the ball and sometimes move in from receiver to the quarterback spot this year.
No matter who wins the competition for the starting spot, the biggest thing Harrison is looking for at the spot is leadership.
“We want to find a guy who can step up and be a leader for us,” Harrison said. “We need someone who can come in and be consistent, day in and day out. We need someone with the maturity to lead us on the field and in practice. That’s the biggest thing we’re looking for there.”
5) Defensive shift — Harrison isn’t afraid to fit his scheme to his players, and that shows on defense. The Titans will be switching from the 4-4 look they showed for much of last season to more of a true 4-2-5 look this year.
That’s partly because the Titans graduated four linebackers now playing in college and partly because Memorial finds itself with a glut of talented defensive backs.
Guys like Cockrell, Jalen Barnes, James Jenkins and Albert Jacobs, who all played last season for the varsity team, will be plugged into that secondary alongside Lemora. The potential two-way starter Lemora is one of the crucial parts of the 4-2-5, as he’ll play up at times as the “rover” or inside the box safety.
That’s not an unfamiliar position for Lemora, since he moved down from his safety spot last year and played linebacker in the 4-4 because of injuries.
Spring Practice Schedule
All practices start at 3:45 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Practice No. 1 - Monday, April 30
Practice No. 2 - Tuesday, May 1
Practice No. 3 - Wednesday, May 2
Practice No. 4 - Thursday, May 3
Practice No. 5 - Friday, May 4
Practice No. 6 - Monday, May 7
Practice No. 7 - Tuesday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m.
Practice No. 8 - Wednesday, May 9
Practice No. 9 - Thursday, May 10
Practice No. 10 - Monday, May 14
Practice No. 11 - Tuesday, May 15
Practice No. 12 - Wednesday, May 16
Practice No. 13 - Thursday, May 17
Practice No. 14 - Monday, May 21
Practice No. 15 - Tuesday, May 22
Practice No. 16 - Wednesday, May 23
Practice No. 17 - Thursday, May 24
Spring Game - Friday, May 25 at 7 p.m.