One recognizable difference at Ozark between the leadership of new Tigers coach Jeremy Cordell and former coach Chad Depee already evident is the sound of music this summer during the team's 7-on-7 sessions and workouts.
On game nights, the most distinctive difference between the two very well could be the number of two-way starters for Ozark.
Depee, like practically every coach, would have preferred to have 22 different starters last season. But he didn’t feel he had the depth to do so and relented to having the majority of his starters playing on both sides of the ball.
Cordell is determined to keep the number of two-starters at a minimum, if any.
“We're one-way as much as possible,” Cordell said. “We believe in trying to master your craft. I always say you don't want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. We want you to be really good at something.”
Cordell’s experience is a two-way starter can only hold up for so long.
“There are so many things going on in football that it's hard to be elite on both sides of the football,” he said. “You can be a really good football player, but eventually that's going to catch up to you over the course of a game and over the course of a season. Just the wear and tear of a game, that's why we try to get kids to hone in on one thing.”
Ozark may have had the same results last season whether the Tigers had multiple two-way starters or not. But there’s no denying they were worn down by many of their opponents.
Republic scored the game’s final 23 points in its 51-13 win against Ozark in Week 2.
Neosho outscored the Tigers 35-14 after the teams were tied 28-all in Week 7. The Wildcats ran 40 offensive plays in the second half of their 63-42 victory.
Ozark held a 7-0 lead on Nixa in the ‘Backyard Brawl’ in Week Nine, before the Eagles scored 51 straight points.
Cordell’s plan is to plug any holes he and his staff see on offense or defense by moving a player from the same side of the ball to that spot. Already, the Tigers have done some shuffling in that regard.
“We feel like we've got homes for kids,” he said. “Our theory is we want the 11 best players on both sides. There might be a kid who we thought was an outside ‘backer and now he's an inside 'backer or maybe he was an outside 'backer and now he's in our secondary. We just want the best 11 on the field in the right spots — get the right people on the bus in the right seats.
“That's our discussions in here,” he added while pointing to the coaches office, “finding out who can fill those roles and who can step up and contribute. Our message to the guys is find a way to contribute, whether that's an offensive spot or a defensive spot. Everybody has a niche, we want guys to find a niche.”
Cordell doesn’t anticipate having to do as much shuffling of players in future seasons as he’s doing now in his first go-around in SWMO.
“We really try to give a kid a home that he can master. We try to find them that home by the time they are a sophomore so they can have three years with the same position coach speaking the same language,” he said.
With all that being said, Cordell isn’t dismissing the notion of having anyone play on both sides of the ball. As different scenarios arise over the season, he will be open-minded about having some of his better players spell a starter on the other side of the ball.
“There are situations in which you might have to dip into both sides a little bit,” he said. “We will do some cross-training at some positions. We will try to be smart on how we cross-train.”