All’s quiet on the Titans’ front
For all the relative quiet on the Memorial High practice fields Monday afternoon, it was hard to believe the season’s first football drills were taking place.
The screaming and hollering, as well as the whistles, sounds that just say “football,” were missing.
For most of Monday’s two hours outdoors, the mood seemed better suited for the school library.
Instead of saying “football,” the scene suggested, “Quiet, men at work.”
Coaches, including new head football coach Ronnie Thompson, were working with groups of players scattered around the field and quietly and patiently – for the most part – explaining what the new coach wants to see this fall and how to get there.
“He kind of reminds me of coach Richard Marler,” veteran running backs coach Joseph Smith said of Thompson, invoking the memory of the late Stephen F. Austin and Thomas Jefferson coach. “I worked for coach Marler for 18 years and I loved working for him.
“It seems like we’ve got him back again. He (Thompson) treats us like we’re somebody. Practice is real low-key. Kids will work for you.
“I think Coach is one of those coaches who realize we’ve got a chance to win, and if you don’t kill them (the players) before Friday night, we’ll be all right.”
For his part, Thompson was pleased with his players’ performances in the first of four weeks of practice leading up to the Titans’ Sept. 8 season opener against Beaumont Ozen.
“I saw them do a number of things well they didn’t do before,” he said, speaking of spring training. “They retained a lot. The tempo was faster and the hollering is lower.
“Tempo is extremely important. You play like you practice. They say practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.”
As for the laid back approach, Thompson explained, “In a power running game like they had here, you have to be real aggressive and take an aggressive approach to practice.
“But we’ve got more of a wide-open offense. It’s more of a fun thing for the kids.”
Starting quarterback Davon Lewis looked sharp with his passing and joined Thompson and offensive coordinator Kenny Harrison in offering pointers to members of the Titan receiving corps.
“Everybody was working, doing what they’ve got to do,” Lewis said.
“Everybody’s basically got the scheme of the offense now. We’re just trying to polish it up. It’s business-like, because football is always business.”
Lewis had a free moment to chat because he’s about the only player on the field not expected to practice both offense and defense under Thompson’s plan.
And that’s more because of the knee injury that knocked him out all last season than his position as signal-caller.
“You want to put your best players on the field at all times,” Thompson explained.
The coach said he’d have players continue to practice both ways all season to give the team depth.
The two-way philosophy has already made for a noticeable improvement, offensive line coach Phillip Mattingly says.
He has two returning starters in center Ronald DeJohn and tackle Jonathan Vernon. Anthony Dunbar, a former defense-only player, is playing at one guard spot now, while Kevin Thomas is at the other and Reginald Broussard at left tackle.
Defensive line starters Charles Jacobs, Marcus Abbott and Roman Leviege are those pressing for starting O-line jobs.
“The way we’ve got it now, there’s more competition,” Mattingly says. “The guys who are first team know the guy behind them is good enough to start if they slack off, so everybody works harder.”
The Titans currently have only two returning starters on offense, unless you count Patterson Clay, a part-time starter last year who along with Brent Newcost is a leader at the running back spot this year.
Top receivers, according to Harrison, are Byron Martin, Freddie King, Glenn Windon, Rashard Brown and Ronald Ward, all key members of Memorial’s 7-on-7 squad that reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament in July.
Defensive coordinator T.K. Harrison has returning starters in cornerback Barry Valcin, safety Todd Gardner and linemen Jacobs and Leviege.
“My linebacking corps will be all new, but dependable,” T.K. Harrison said. “We’ve made some changes scheme-wise, but our terminology is the same, which helps. It’s not something the kids have to learn all over.”
TITAN TIDBITS – Only about 75 players suited out for Memorial’s first varsity and junior varsity workout Monday. Coaches said several dozen more —most of them sophomores — had passed up two or three prior opportunities to get their physicals done before school started and they were scrambling Monday to take care of that prerequisite. “When you work with young kids, you’ve got to understand it might take a while,” Thompson said. “Don’t panic.” … The Titans had only two football coaching staff changes from last year and one of the new faces really isn’t. It’s Dwight Scypion, who coached at Memorial from 2002-2004 before being sidelined last year by a lack of a teacher certification. Scypion earned his phys ed certification and is back working with defensive ends. Other new arrival is Brian Morgan, who is working with kickers and will coach the boys’ soccer team. Morgan was a standout at Thomas Jefferson who went on to star for Grambling State. Holdover coaches (and their responsibilities) are: offensive coordinator Kenny Harrison (receivers), defensive coordinator T.K. Harrison (linebackers), Jarrett Thibodaux (defensive line), Phillip Mattingly (offensive line), Wayne McKeller (linebackers), Joseph Smith (running backs), Curtis Viola (defensive backs) … Viola missed Monday’s practice to be with his wife, Nikki, who gave birth to the couple’s second child, a boy, Saturday … Thompson was sad to lose up-and-coming lineman Patrick Arnett, whose family had relocated to Houston over the summer … Also over the summer, Kenny Harrison wrapped up his teacher certification in phys ed.