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Lamar ‘D’ playing own musical chairs

BEAUMONT — Position changes have come aplenty as Lamar’s defensive players adjust to a 4-2-5 scheme.

With the new set, the Cardinals will run one more defensive lineman, two fewer linebackers and one more defensive back than in 2015. But the additions up front and in the secondary aren’t necessarily bad for the linebackers. Many of them have moved to other positions to stay on the field.

So, Mike Hargis, a linebacker the past three years, now considers himself an athlete — in football terms, of course. Even on the defensive line, the Manor High graduate gets to employ his own philosophy of defense.

“I enjoy blowing things up, getting to freelance and actually use my speed,” he said.

And that’s what he sees from players like senior Matt Johnson and sophomore Cameron Hampton, who are looking to make a bigger impact as linebackers.

Lamar is down to one player, Johnson, who was on the linebacker depth chart before last season’s finale against McNeese State. Senior Eddie McGill, sophomore Dedrick Garner and Hargis all moved to the D-line. Senior Zach Johnson is now at safety.

But linebackers coach Ben Beasley — who was secondary coach last year — said the Cards are still deep at his new unit.

Who’s emerging the most at the position? Beasley wouldn’t indicate exactly. He said it may not be until the Sept. 3 season opener against Coastal Carolina in Beaumont when starters are named.

“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “They’ve all come together as a group. Like I told them at the start of camp, it’s going to take all eight of us.”

Beasley marked on the roster from this year’s media guide four players listed as linebacker who moved to safety, including junior Ty Alexander, sophomore Chaston Brooks, freshman Cameron Minger and Zach Johnson. That’s giving first-year defensive coordinator Trey Haverty, who coaches the safeties, a bigger group to lead.

“The work ethic that we put in, our coach came up here with the mindset that we’re going to be good,” senior safety Xavier Bethany said. “We’re going to be great. I’m believing in the program because I’m seeing the changes that we’re doing.

“People that I’ve seen run, they’re running faster. People who are sticking their foot in the ground, they’re bursting from one place to another.”

Senior cornerback Brendan Langley and Bethany are the only returning starters in the secondary. Texas Tech transfer Jalen Barnes of Port Arthur has performed well as a safety.

But true sophomore Rodney Randle Jr. of Beaumont, a preseason All-Southland Conference kick returner, could command the most attention in the secondary as a cornerback. His position coach, Willie Mack Garza, was hired during the offseason as one of three new defensive coaches.

Garza’s goal for Randle and the corners is to become playmakers.

“Play with great tenacity,” he said. “Play with great effort and be aggressive. Don’t give up big plays. Be great tacklers in the open field and play the long ball because we’re going to be in situations where teams throw the deep ball against us. That’s what offenses do.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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