Coming off a Texas Class 4A state championship, the La Marque Cougars enter this spring with a lot of question marks.
Who will step up to fill the shoes of five Division I prospects? How will the departure of coach Bryan Irwin and arrival of Refurgio's Chris Jones change the complexion of the historic program? La Marque loses the likes of Aundre McGaskey (Texas), Joseph Florence (Houston), Michael Ray (Houston), Raphael Guidry (Kansas State) and James Thomas (Oklahoma State) to graduation, but the Cougars always seem to reload.
"I haven't seen these kids on the football field yet, but I know there are some prospects here," Jones said. "These kids have lived up to the expectations I had coming in as it relates to working hard in the off-season."
Receiver Desmond Haynes (6-1, 170 pounds) is this year's headliner. Haynes had a tremendous playoff run and should flourish in Jones' wide-open offense. Receiver Ian Jackson (6-2, 190 pounds) could also emerge with a good senior year.
Quarterback Jairus Kerlegan stepped up in playoff time last year and combines a tremendous football IQ, with the ability to run and pass.
"I think he could be recruited as a quarterback," Jones said. "If not, he has a future as an athlete."
La Marque's biggest prospect is Brandon Garrett, a 6-foot-6 offensive lineman, who is battling age-related eligibility issues that could keep him off the field in 2007. He is appealing his situation with the UIL.
Alvin Taylor could be moving backfields. Taylor (5-10, 175 pounds) may be Jones' answer at running back, moving from cornerback.
"We are going to try him at running back in the spring," Jones said. "He's a great athlete with very good speed."
Staying on defense is Gaston Benson (5-11, 170 pounds). Benson starred at defensive back last season and could become La Marque's most coveted recruit if his academic status improves.
Other 2008 prospects include offensive lineman Quindarole King (6-5, 290-pounds) and kicker Denroy Van Horne.
While finding prospects to replace Division I athletes is an important component this spring, La Marque's coaching change has been the hottest topic in the coastal town.
"The hardest thing with any job is when you get the job," Jones said. "I was hired early enough to get prepared to have a spring practice and game. I could have gotten here in late April or May and the spring would have been lost.
"The hardest part right now is getting things going without a full staff. We are working on filling out our defensive staff."
Jones' Refugio teams have been in the playoffs four consecutive years and takes over a program that has won five state championships since 1995.
"The first day I came in I just observed," he said. "I went to athletic period and let the assistants run it. I didn't say anything. The got in their roll call lines, looked up and just started working. Their level of intensity is what sets this program apart. The competition is also tremendous. Everyone knows that someone can take you spot if you aren't matching their intensity."