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Ozark counting on running back by committee to help Tigers two-fold


It may turn out the best route for Ozark coach Chad Depee to offer some of his two-way players a rest will be to rotate them at running back.

The combination of the Tigers lacking enough depth overall to restrict players to one side of the ball, but having a slew of capable running backs will likely lead to a running back by committee.

Rather than call upon a feature back in last week's jamboree, Ozark featured Gage Depee, Brock Dodd, Jacob Kronebusch, Parker Elliott, Ethan Sutherland and Kadin Powers at running back. They're also among the Tigers' top defenders.

"There is a committee going on," Chad Depee said, while looking ahead to Friday's season-opener at home versus Carl Junction. "We've got guys we need on the field and they need to play both ways at times. We've got several of our linebacker guys especially who will go back and forth. They will contribute on defense and turn around and provide depth on offense. They'll hammer down by committee."

With an eye on competing against the COC's elite Depee adds it would be asking too much for any of his starting defenders to also handle the burden of 20-plus carries a game.

"We've got to do the best we can to keep those kids fresh," he said. "This is a jam-packed league of talent. Every week it's critical you have fresh guys in the fourth quarter."

When Ozark drove into the red zone against Kickapoo last week, Dodd's number was called. He certainly appeared to have fresh legs as he charged into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown run.

"I like it a lot and I know coach Depee likes it a lot," Dodd said of the Tigers' having a slew of running backs. "Having third-string and fourth-string (backs) who are strong is going to help us. We will hopefully get some rest and be able to play 100 percent."

Dodd ran the ball just three times last season, but has enough experience at running back that he feels comfortable there.

"I used to carry the ball a lot in my mighty mite days and in junior high," he said. "I still love carrying the ball."

Chad Depee has been pleased with his players' response toward helping piece the team's puzzle together. Players are willingly sharing the ball, doing double duty and/or expanding their roles.

"That's the beauty of this group," Depee said. "We have some interchangeable guys and everyone is willing to pull their weight. Having the depth we do and having guys-in-waiting who at any point can have their number called is a blessing. We've got a bunch of guys who have said, 'What can I do to help the team?' When their number is called, they're ready to get in there and play whichever side of the ball they are called upon."

Ozark's backfield will also see Brady Dodd and Gage Depee get their share of carries at quarterback and Jack Bowers will also be a part of the running back by committee.

In fact, Bowers and Brady Dodd are the Tigers' leading returning rushers. Bowers ran 77 times for 451 yards as a sophomore last season and Dodd kept the ball 110 times for 402 yards rushing.

Bowers did not suit up for the jamboree due to a fractured wrist he suffered earlier this summer. Chad Depee is optimistic Bowers can wear a cast and debut Friday alongside his teammates.

"Hopefully, we get good reports and he's good to go," Depee said.

Elliott and fellow sophomores Peyton Bulinger and Bryson Horner also could add to Ozark's depth in its backfield.

"Obviously we want to have a whole stable of seniors and juniors," Chad Depee said. "But we have sophomores who are ready to go, too."