“I put last year squarely on my shoulders,” he said. “I think when you win, the players are the ones that win because they have to make plays. As a coach, you have to put them in position to make plays. I truly believe when you lose, it really is on the coach in terms of maybe you didn’t put the right guys in the right spot or maybe you should have eliminated a couple of guys from the team before things got a certain way.
“I really believe when you have a rough season, you need to find a mirror because it usually has something to do with the way that you handled a situation or two. Maybe that wasn’t the right way to do it and then it just went down hill from there.
“You have to find guys that believe in what you do and sometimes if those aren’t your best players, you can’t keep running those best players out there. You have to say ‘Hey, let’s cut bait here,’ and go with some other guys and that might actually make your team better with the guys that believe in it.”
Fortunately for Hare and the Cougar faithful, he believes he has found the right players this season.
“I think we kind of went through a cycle there where there was a little bit tougher buy-in and I think that’s really what we’re back to,” Hare said. “Buy-in had been really high when I first got here and year in and year out for about four or five years in a row, they really believed in what we were doing and the whole system. Two years ago I think really had a lot more to do with injuries, but last year I think it really had to do with buy-in. Some guys were doing their own thing and believing that each individual doing their own thing was better than the team philosophy. Obviously that didn’t work out really well for us. I think this team is really back to that buy-in that the team comes first and they really are acting that way.”
With the right mentality in place for the Cougars, Hare is excited to see what his team is capable of, starting with its new-look offense.
“We’re definitely going to spread it out. I think we have some guys that we haven’t had a lot of in the past. We have a guy at quarterback I think can really spread the ball around. He’s a really good quarterback and he knows the game and wants to get better, but more importantly, he’s got guys that he can throw to,” Hare said.
Some of the targets junior quarterback Hunter Fralick will have this year include First-Team All-Region returner Vance Lively, as well as senior Ryder Lowry. Also adding to the receiving corps will be senior Blake Nauman and junior Shamir Geisinger. With an abundance of talent lining up at at wide receiver, Hare expects things to open up for the Spanish Springs aerial attack.
“We kind of had one receiver on each team I’ve coached and then we had a couple other bodies out there that might have gotten a few balls a game, but we focused on one guy,” Hare said. “When everybody knows you have one really good guy, it’s not that hard to take them out of the game. We have more than one guy this year. You’re not going to be able to take away one guy and take away our passing game. If we stay healthy, you’re going to have to stay balanced on defense or we have more than one guy we can go to. In my opinion, that’s what has made Reed so successful. They haven’t had one wide receiver. They’ve had four, five, six guys that they put out there. It makes you more successful when you can spread out with a number of good players.”
While the offense will look to air it out, the foundation of the team will revolve around the defense.
“I think we need to get back to defense being the backbone. We need the linebackers and D-lineman and DBs to know they’re the backbone of our team,” Hare said. “If you play well on defense and guys believe in what you’re doing and you bring physicality to each game, it makes all facets of your game better. The sideline is more enthused and everybody is more involved in the game when you really have a good, solid defense. If you have a defense that is flying around and making plays, it’s going to give you better field position and the whole tempo feels better when they’re playing well. We have high expectations for what we’re doing on defense.”
With the framework of a successful program reestablished and the team buying in, Hare is eager to kick off the season Friday.
“I’m excited just to be back coaching football,” Hare said. “It’s one of those things that makes for a really rough off-season when you put so much time and energy into the whole system including the sport, the school, the team, the coaching staff. There’s so much time put in and then to have it go the way it did last year, you just want to get back there and start over and go into that next game. So I’m just excited to be back on the sidelines coaching again with a group that seems like they really want to play some football.”