Barry Odom’s first 14 games as head coach of the Missouri Tigers have been turbulent. His team went 4-8 in 2016 and he’s off to a 1-1 start in 2017. When a team goes 5-9, I could create a hypothesis for any number of reasons for the abysmal results. I’m choosing to focus on two.
Leadership and quarterback play.
Odom’s leadership ability should be questioned based on how he has handled the defensive deficiencies of this team. Few people took issue with the Odom’s hiring of Demontie Cross as defensive coordinator. Cross is the dreaded True Son, but he was a highly qualified True Son. The glaring defensive issues of the past two years were due in large part to a change in scheme. Odom allowed Cross to change the style of play from the attacking style that had been recruited for to a read-and-react style. It didn’t work during the first half of the 2016 season and Odom mandated a midseason change. Not only that, but Odom assumed defensive play-calling responsibilities.
These changes gave us all reason for hope in 2017. Missouri fans thought we had seen the last of the failed read-and-react scheme, but rumor has it that it was on full display during the first half of the game against Missouri State. You remember that game. It’s the one where the Tigers game up 43 points, and 492 yards. The silver lining in that game was that the second half looked significantly better than the first half. Word on the street is that the defense went back to its attacking style in the second half.
Defensively the team looked better against South Carolina. There were still issues in the back-seven, but the lineman were creating pressure. The reason Missouri lost to South Carolina was not the fault of the defense. But that didn’t seem to matter to Odom as he fired Cross on Sunday afternoon.
This was a firing of convenience. Cross hasn’t been solely responsible for the defense since the beginning of the 2016 season. Odom forced a scheme change and, more importantly, took control of the in-game play calling responsibilities. Why Odom would have agreed to a scheme change when he was promoted to head coach is a real head scratcher since Missouri had won two SEC East titles on the back of attacking defenses. But it was a decision that was made. The wrong coach was fired when Cross was let go but Odom wasn’t going to fire himself. Cross became the sacrificial lamb being offered to the fans.
Now that you’ve read all of that, I’ll tell you what the real issue is. The quarterback play of Drew Lock.
Like Odom and Cross, Lock is also a True Son. He’s the son of former Tiger linebacker Andy Lock and coming out of high school, he was considered to be the kid with the golden arm. The problem being that he doesn’t have much going for him once you get past all of that arm talent.
There are times that the hype surrounding Lock is believable. The problem is that he looks Heisman caliber when he’s playing the likes of Delaware State and Missouri State. Against Power 5 opponents, Lock has averaged 188 yards per game, completed 49% of his passes, and has thrown 13 touchdowns to go along with 18 interceptions.
Not. Good. Enough.
Just look at how he played against South Carolina. He went 14-32 for 245 yards. Lock also threw one touchdown and two interceptions. A 43% completion percentage is atrocious. Even if we give him credit for the four blatant drops by the receivers, he still only completed 56% of his passes. And don’t forget that Missouri was up 10-0. Then the special teams kicked off to Deebo Samuel. Bad move. That momentum swing was capped off with a Lock interception.
Not. Good. Enough.
I considered Lock to be the real question mark going into this season. Was he going to be more Landry Jones in Josh Heupel’s offense? Or was he going to be more Blake Bell? If he was more Jones, his completion percentage would be in the 60s. If he was more Bell, it would be in the 50s. Completing 60% of his passes is where he needs to be in this offense. But Lock is a 50% passer who dips into the 40% range.
Again…Not. Good. Enough.
Both the defensive and quarterback issues are on Odom. He took responsibility for the defense but fired Cross anyway. Making that change two games into the season means that it should have been done in the off-season.
As for Lock? Odom seems to be content with the True Son as I’ve yet to hear about the backup quarterback warming up. What’s that going to take? A 30% completion percentage?
The defense is now squarely on Odom’s shoulders as he no longer has Cross around to take the criticism from the fans. He gets more leniency from the fans when it comes to Lock since many of the fans love the kid-with-the-golden-arm-who-can’t-hit-the-broadside-of-a-barn. The problem for Odom is that Jim Sterk isn’t afraid to fire a True Son.
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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
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