By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
After a year stalking practice simply as head coach, Stillwater High football coach Tucker Barnard is much more happy this spring working within just one position — instead of roaming between everybody during individual position drills.
“I’m having a lot of fun — I don’t know if my (defensive backs) are, but I am and I hope it rubs off,” Barnard said following Tuesday’s spring practice. “It just feels more natural, honestly.
“Kind of floating around last year and going from one position group to the next and just clap them up a little bit or give a few pointers here and there, about half the time I just felt like I didn’t have anything to do. And that really wasn’t the case, but just not being able to focus in on something and not having that task there ... I’m just having a lot more fun now.”
With the uncertainty of whether or not defensive backs coach Evan Woodson would be able to return this season, Barnard went ahead and made the decision to take the role. Barnard said Woodson will be returning and they will tag-team the defensive backs.
“There was a time I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to come back or not, so I kind of made the decision then,” Barnard said. “Then it turned into where he is able to come back and I think that it’s an important enough position that for the three of us (including safeties coach Paul Grant) to be there is a good thing.”
Barnard is a defensive minded by nature, having worked with the linebackers his first year at Stillwater High before Trent Worley become the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. So being able to get back to work with defensive players — especially the important position of defensive backs, as the team’s last line of defense — was an easy decision for the third-year head coach.
“What I talk about to those guys is that when they make a mistake, there’s nobody behind them to cover for them,” Barnard said. “When a defensive lineman or linebacker makes a mistake, then we’re expecting them to help on the back end make up for that and fill in. We don’t have anybody to do that for us (in the defensive backfield), so it’s really important that we understand the big picture of the defense and how it all works together.”
Strong safety King Williams, a senior-to-be, said having the head coach in the position meetings and running drills is a little different.
“It makes us pay a lot more attention,” Williams said. “But it’s great to have our head coach working with us at the one position.”
But Williams said Barnard is good about stressing the technique needed to succeed in the defensive backfield — where the players spend a majority of the time running backwards.
“He’s really technical. He’ll break it down,” the veteran safety said. “He’s a coach that will show all of us the whole thing and then break it down into little pieces. He’s just giving us key things that will help us in the long run.”
With the Pioneers in their first week of spring practices at Pioneer Stadium, this is the perfect time for Barnard — and the other position coaches — to focus on technique. But Barnard takes a unique approach to his coaching, giving examples of when or why a player made need to know a certain move for a drill as a way to help the players connect the drill to game-time situations.
“We run through a drill, but I try to give them examples of how that drill will relate to them in a football game so that can create a visual image because if I just point and tell them to run this way and turn, they are getting the work but not getting the mental repetition of understanding why that’s important,” Barnard said.