Fountain-Fort Carson's football team recently welcomed a new offensive coordinator and implemented a comprehensive weight training program.
These are the kind of moves coach Jake Novotny might have made before his first year on the job, but the constraints of an abbreviated timeline rendered that impossible.
Novotny came aboard last spring after Mitch Johnson's surprise retirement. Johnson and all other Trojans coaches were asked to reapply for their jobs, and the 29-year veteran opted to walk away.
Hired in May, when most coaches have already signed contracts for the upcoming year, Novotny was given 10 pay stipends for assistants but was able to find just six coaches for the program's 150 players.
"That was a difficult part, I mean, I called both offense and defense last year, you know," Novotny said. "You try and find guys that you know are going to work hard, that are going to be good for the kids and also, that you can trust to do the right way and it was difficult."
The onfield results reflected the disarray. The Trojans started 2-2, but stumbled to a 3-8 record.
But Novotny and his team have a new sense of optimism heading into the 2017 season. The new weight program includes a class on strength and conditioning during the school day.
The offense will be called by Jeremy Mercer, who was hired as offensive coordinator.
To Novotny, though, the biggest change for Fountain-Fort Carson is something intangible.
"Now the kids trust the coaches," Novotny said. "They know that we're there for them. I think that was the biggest challenge for us last year, was trying to develop that trust, not only with the coaching staff and getting a staff, but also between players and coaches and coaches and coaches. You know, if you don't have trust with the guys you work with and the guys you're coaching, then it's difficult to be highly successful."
With all that's changing for the Trojans, many of the faces on the field will be the same. Along with leading offensive producers like running backs Eric Donnell and Gavin Green, every starting linebacker and defensive back will be returning for Fountain-Fort Carson.
And that has given the players some confidence heading into the year.
"Knowing that we're all returners, we've already seen the teams that we play on the schedule, and it's our second year seeing them," said senior linebacker Iosua Maika.
"We roughly know how all these teams are going to play, so it's going to help us prepare more together and be more alert for the things that come with them."
Added Donnell: "We're just getting familiar with the new system that we put in. Our senior group of leaders now are leading us well. We're just getting everything quicker."
For some, the shadow of Mitch Johnson will forever be associated with the Trojans. He's a Fountain-Fort Carson grad and his 207 wins rank 18th in state history.
Perhaps the only way for his replacement to be embraced is to win, and win often.
At the very least, Novotny has a start. He's earned the trust and confidence of his players. Now all they have to do is deliver on the field.