Douglas County football coach wants to build on positives

Eric Rice hopes to turn around program that has struggled in recent years

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Eric Rice figures it takes around four seasons to rebuild a football program.

Rice was Fort Collins’ head coach for 16 seasons before he started his first year as Douglas County High School head coach in 2019.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made his introduction to the Huskies program more difficult, as school ended last March when Rice was still trying to attach his ideas to the program.

“When you come in and are in year one and I didn’t even get to finish year one, I got three quarters of a year,” acknowledged Rice. “That first full year is so important because you are trying to establish your identity and make it your own team compared to what it might have been in the past, not that anything in the past was bad.

“When we left in March at the end of our third quarter of school here, we had our weightlifting class with football players and they did a great job, testing where they were starting to buy into some of the different things I do motivational-wise and team-wise. And all this was ripped out from underneath your feet.”

Rice continued.

“Our players are still learning our language,” he said. “When you bring in a new staff you bring in a new offense, defense, and when all that changes they are still learning how to speak our language. We still have to explain a lot of stuff.”

Douglas County schools are in the first phase of fall sports workouts, which will now continue until July 20.

“It is frustrating. You want to do so much but there is only a limited amount you can do,” said Rice about the phase one restrictions. “The first thing that drives me batty is the not knowing.

“I’m a super-organized and detail-oriented guy and I like having things planned out down to the minute. When you don’t get a lot of information you don’t know what you can do or can’t do. It makes it really hard to be well-planned-out and well-prepared.”

Rice said his players are anxious to get back and he had four training sessions with his players prior to July 13.

“I feel like the mentality was good with our guys,” he said. “You are trying to go from one day to the next trying to figure out what you need to do. It just feels disorganized. I like getting into a routine of things in the summer, and the summer has had absolutely no routine whatsoever like we were commonly used to.”

This summer has been an adjustment for Rice, who inherited a program that had just one winning record in the past six seasons.

“I’m totally out of my element right now where I’m not waking up at 5 a.m., getting to school by 6 and getting the kids on the field by 7 and doing all of our work,” he said. “It’s making me a little nuts. We’ll just adjust.”

Rice also is nuts when thinking about the 2020 season if it is played.

“I saw where the Governor of Texas said it is unlikely they will have football in the fall,” he said. “Do other states follow suit? I just hope that’s not the case. I’m fearful of that for our kids, especially for our seniors.

“In Colorado I don’t think it is a viable option to move football to the spring because too many kids play multiple sports. If it is canceled, then it’s canceled and let kids do the other sports. I have very few kids of my team that just play football.”

Douglas County went 2-8 last season in Rice’s first campaign.

“It’s a big question mark about the season,” said Rice. “I like the progress our kids made last fall and early part of the spring semester. But we are definitely behind in terms of where I would like us to be. I’m optimistic but also cautious of getting too optimistic at this point to establish your identity and full culture as a coach.

“In my past experience at Fort Collins it could take up to four years.

“A lot of things turned around last season. We were in a lot of games, we had a lead at halftime a couple times that we didn’t hold onto, but there were positives. I want to make sure we keep building on the positives.”

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