tampabay.com

Modest gains

With a new coach, the Titans expect gradual improvement, not an immediate turnaround.

By BRYAN BURNS
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - Former Blake coach Clarence Higdon takes over the Tampa Bay Tech program after a three-year absence from the game.

Higdon, who started the football program at Blake and went 13-38 in five seasons, will have his work cut out for him at TBT. The Titans finished 0-10 last season and haven't made the playoffs since 2001.

"Tampa Bay Tech has always had quality athletes," Higdon said. "With the proper guidance, there will be a change in the attitude of the players here.

"This ball club can be a winning ball club, but you have to crawl before you can walk."

Higdon is encouraged about the commitment he has received from players, though he expects some growing pains with a number of freshmen expected to contribute immediately. The coach hopes in a couple years time he can have things completely turned around at TBT.

"The kids have bought into what we're trying to teach them and have been working very hard to turn this program around," he said. "Hopefully, we can go .500 this season. That's the goal I've set. We feel that's attainable with the kids we have now."

THROUGH THE AIR: Higdon wants a balanced offense, a departure from TBT's pass-first mentality under former coach Mike Bradley.

"We're not solely a run-first or pass-first team. We like to mix it up and play wide open offensively," he said.

Mario Tucker, a junior, will get the starting nod at quarterback, though Higdon said there are a couple of freshmen who could compete for the job as well.

When he throws, Tucker will look for Marcus Washington, the Titans' top receiver. The duo hooked up on a 57-yard touchdown in TBT's 16-6 loss to Newsome in the spring game.

"Marcus is a senior and we're looking for big things out of him," Higdon said.

ON THE GROUND: The Titans will hand the ball to senior running back William Tiller to establish the running game.

"He's a football-minded kid and is very knowledgeable of the game," Higdon said. "We'll need him to play smart for us this year."

Tiller will run behind an offensive line led by seniors Malcolm Martinez (6-2, 260 pounds) and Thomas Edmond (6-3, 305), whom Higdon claims is his top lineman.

DEFENSE: Higdon said the bulk of his talent will be placed on the defensive side of the ball.

"We do that hoping that our defense can keep us in games while our offense is coming around," he said.

The Titans will run a 4-3 defense and are led by senior defensive end Antoin Miranda, junior linebacker Delon Thomas and junior defensive back Jermaine Williams.

"With the personnel we have here right now, the 4-3 defense is the best fit for us," Higdon said.