When the La Marque head coaching job opened after Bryan Erwin took his two state titles to Flower Mound Marcus, it was expected the Cougars would fill the staff with a high-profile coach.
When the dust settled, the program chose Chris Jones, an innovative offensive mind who led Class 2A Refugio to an 11-2 mark last season ; his wide-open offense will now be in the hands of a defending state 4A Division II championship team whose returning skill position players are its biggest strength.
On the eve of his first spring practice as La Marque's head coach, Jones sat down with TPI Sr. Writer Brandon C. Williams and discussed the challenges of having the keys to one of the
state's premier programs.
TexasPrepInsider: How is the transition coming along?
Chris Jones: It's been smooth. The kids have been themselves. They've been working hard. We haven't come in and changed anything; their work ethic is strong. They understand what it takes to continue to do the things that have gone on here.
TPI: How does it feel to come to a program with such a tradition as La Marque?
CJ: It's an honor and a privilege to be here in this position. I know there are some people who may not want this kind of challenge, but it's similar to where I was (in Refugio) when it comes to understanding the tradition of the program. I plan on doing what they've been doing; I'm not here to fix things. I want my little things I'm going to do here, but it's not something you're going to try to turn around.
I understand what comes with coaching at La Marque. I'm very impressed with the people right here that talk to me and those that have graduated from here and have gone on to do some great things.
That's what I'm going to be about here. I want to help the kids understand that there's more to it than football. What they learn and continue to learn coming through here will be something they can take down the road to college and do the things that help them become great men. Regardless of outcome (on the field), that's what they're going to know about me.
TPI: What will be your biggest challenge in putting this squad together?
CJ: I've been here a month, and we'll have another month to see what we have based on who has graduated and what we have returning on both sides of the ball. That's priority number one. I wanted to have spring ball for that reason.
I think the seniors are going to play a big key in this transition. I told them that the first day I was here, and I have told them every day since.
TPI: There is a lot of discussion about your offensive system. Tell us more about it.
CJ: The one thing we're going to be concerned with in the spring is throwing the ball because I feel with their background with running the ball out of the spread, we can go out right now and do that. The schemes and the packages will be evolving around our progressions in passing situations.
The offense is going to be similar to a Texas Tech-style of throwing the ball. Baylor has had some success with it; Kentucky ran it under Hal Mumme and Tim Couch (in the mid-1990s). We'll take what we know about it and apply it to these kids.
TPI: It definitely helps to have a returning quarterback (Jarius Kerlegan) who won a state title running an offense similar to this.
CJ: He's done a great job. His experience is already a definite plus. His ability to run the ball is an asset to this offense. He has the tools to be great.
TPI: Based on what you know about District 23-4A, how do you think the Cougars will match up?
CJ: Texas City is traditionally a strong team. Friendswood is going to strong with their QB (Jacob Karam); they traditionally play La Marque close. Angleton has a lot of speed and Dickinson is sitting right there as well. Warren Trahan's background is one of success and he's got some talent there. We're going to have our work cut out for us.
TPI: Certainly there's a part of you that can't wait until Aug. 30 (La Marque's opener against Port Neches-Groves at Reliant Stadium). CJ: It's going to be neat for our new staff and our families. It's exciting to drive by (Reliant) and say to yourself, ‘we're going to be there.' I know most of the kids have already played there….they've played in some big places over the years.