, Port Arthur, Texas


April 29, 2013

SPRING FOOTBALL: Port Arthur Memorial gets new defensive coordinator

PORT ARTHUR — Spring football opens Monday, as Port Arthur Memorial begins its drills as the only team in Mid and South County participating in spring practices.

There are a number of great storylines surrounding head coach Kenny Harrison’s team this spring. Here are five of the most compelling ones:

1) A new Titans defensive chief

Memorial made some coaching changes in the offseason. The biggest of those is adding a new defensive coordinator. Cody Haug comes to the Titans from Conroe Oak Ridge and brings with him a new defensive scheme.

The Titans will be transitioning into a 3-4 scheme under Haug, who brings a lot of energy to the coaching staff, according to Harrison. Haug replaces Nelson Barnes, who remains on staff as defensive line coach. In addition to being the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Oak Ridge, Haug also has experience at Klein and Katy Mayde Creek.

“We were looking for a guy with experience in a 3-4,” Harrison said. “(Haug) just brings another quality coach to that side of the ball. We can’t have enough quality coaches on that side of the ball. He’s a high energy coach and that stood out to me when talking to him.”

The Titans also had one departure on the defensive side, as David Hill is no longer on the varsity staff. Memorial is still looking to fill his spot with an outside linebackers coach and hopes to have that hired soon.

2) A Nederland transfer

Another new face showed up on defense that’s familiar to area football fans. Sophomore defensive end Jaron Johnson transferred from Nederland to Memorial when his parents moved just down the street from the high school in the offseason.

Johnson will be a big part of the Titans’ new scheme, as he can play a five-technique defensive tackle position with enough strength and quickness to still rush the passer. His addition also allows the Titans to bump last year’s starting defensive ends, twins Meldric and Melbroderick Matthews to outside linebacker.

“He’s a very hard-working kid,” Harrison said. “You can tell he came from a quality program. He’s got a high upside. He’s done a tremendous job for us so far. He’s embraced everything we’ve done here. He’s gotten a lot stronger. We’re looking for big things from him.”

3) Who replaces Fisk?

The biggest question on offense this spring will be who starts at quarterback. Three main candidates will compete for the top job, including Taylor Labrie, Torian Lott and C.J. Levine. Harrison hopes to decide upon a starter by the end of this spring.

Lott and Labrie both served as outgoing starter Ricky Fisk’s backups last season at various times, and Lott also saw some time as the starter for the JV team in the past two seasons.

It’s not an all or nothing proposition for any of the players in the competition, though. All three should see starting time at another position if they don’t nab the top QB spot. Lott is currently working with the first-team cornerbacks while Levine started at safety last season and should be back there again. Labrie, meanwhile, could slide out to receiver.

If there’s a slight favorite heading into the spring, it’s probably Labrie. The soon-to-be senior has a big arm and is also athletic enough to run the Titans’ spread offense.

4) Offensive line depth vital

Two offensive starters will be watching spring practice from the sideline. Starting left tackle Vernon Samuels and starting left guard Dekovin Antoine both had minor knee procedures that will keep them out this spring.

However, the Titans have a ton of depth on their offensive line right now. Harrison said Memorial could be 10 deep at that spot this year, which will be important, as the Titans may lost as many as three starters off last year’s line.

Two-year starting center Toan Nguyen and starting right tackle Brendan Vaughn both were lost to graduation. Right guard Selah Fontenot was a junior last season, but should be flipping back to defense to man the other defensive end spot opposite Johnson.

5) Running backs return

Kameron Martin became the first freshman to start at running back for Memorial in school history last season, but he’s not the only back who could make an impact next season.

Corey Dauphine, a junior, will be back from a leg injury he suffered in non-district play and competing with Martin and senior Ransom Howard for carries. Martin was the team’s third-leading rusher last season with 308 yards and four touchdowns. Howard had four carries for 25 yards while Dauphine had two carries for 13 yards.

This will be Martin’s first chance to go through spring drills as the coaching staff evaluates how his development is progressing.

“We’ll be looking at his endurance and if he can carry the load,” Harrison said. “Dauphine and  Ransom Howard will also be in the mix. We want to see how his body holds up with the amount of carries this spring.”

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From the Fieldhouse blog