Through his first 22 games at the helm, two words have defined coach Trey Barrow's time on the Fulton Hornets sideline: roster flexibility.
Barrow has had to slot young players into the lineup before he might have liked, made in-game shifts that — again — he might not have expected to make, and even moved skill position Hornets to behind center in a pinch.
So, Fulton's recent spat of holes in the lineup is nothing new to Barrow's bunch — but it's something he'd like to put in the Hornets' rearview mirror soon enough.
"This season has already been unlike any other. The adjustments needed to be made by the staff and the players at the last minute, sometimes the day of the game, has been unbelievable," Barrow said. "I am proud of the guys who stepped in and did their best playing with short notice, sometimes in different positions than they normally play."
The latest iteration of the Fulton 22 will look to notch the Hornets' first win of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday in Richmond against the Spartans. The contest was pushed back a day to coincide with the conclusion of the Spartans' mandated COVID-19 quarantine.
Richmond (1-0) opened the season with a 44-6 win against Lathrop before sitting out last week.
The schedule change gives Fulton (0-2) an extra day to plug whatever holes live in its roster.
Fresh off a 49-0 shutout loss to California in its home opener last week, the Hornets will try to reverse some troubling trends that have tripped them up through their first two showings.
Chief among those struggles is a second-half run defense that's allowed games to go from within reach to out of it in a matter of minutes. Of the 10 touchdowns allowed after halftime, eight have come on the ground.
The wire-to-wire run defense has also struggled for Fulton. The Hornets allowed 294 yards against the Pintos and are yielding 345 yards rushing per game.
"Second-half run defense is something that we have to work on. We are not very deep, so conditioning comes into factor in the second half," Barrow said. "I do not doubt their effort, just our inability to roll fresh players into those positions makes it tough."
Many of those tired players are pulling double duty from a Fulton offense that's spent much of the season playing catch-up.
The Hornets erupted for 28 second-quarter points against School of the Osage, but the offense hasn't put a dent in the scoreboard since early in the third quarter of the season opener.
Fulton accumulated just 106 yards of total offense against California, 71 of which came on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Courtland Simmons has helped key the offense with his arm and legs, but his effectiveness was held in check, for the most part, by the Pintos' defensive front seven keying on him and making other elements of the Hornets' offense pick up the slack.
The Fulton backfield started the Osage game with a trio of sophomore running backs in Tyreion Logan, Quinton McCray and Josh Reams. With Logan hindered by a foot injury, those carries fell to Reams and McCray, but Barrow thinks all three backs have time to figure out their role in the rotation.
"I think all of our running backs have the ability to be great — we have done our best to try to put the freshest running back in the game who has taken the least amount of hits/reps offensively and defensively," Barrow said. "They are very similar in their running styles, but with Tyreion coming off the foot injury from the week before, we were trying to limit his reps last week."
As Fulton attempts to right its offensive woes and establish some defensive consistency, Barrow is hoping two issues that exacerbate roster holes will help correct themselves and guide the Hornets to their first victory.
"I want to eliminate the mental errors and substitution problems we had last week. To me, those two things are inexcusable and will be fixed," Barrow said. "Richmond looks to be a very good football team, so we have a challenge ahead of ourselves.
"We just have to make sure to do our jobs and execute to the best of our ability."