Tag Archives: Demontie Cross

Barry Odom And The Missouri Tigers Shouldn’t Be Locked Into Drew Lock

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.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Barry Odom is Driving the Woody Wagon

As a middle-schooler living in a suburb of Baltimore, Md., I was all about Maryland Terrapins basketball and Len Bias, the Orioles and Cal Ripken, Jr., and the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas. College football was the furthest thing from my mind. So when my family and I moved to Columbia, Mo. in 1988, I had no idea that I would become a huge Missouri Tiger football fan.

There wasn’t much to cheer about in 1988 as a Tiger fan. Woody Widenhofer was starting what would become his last year as head coach of his alma mater. To say the Woody Wagon was a rough ride would be an understatement.

I lived close enough to Memorial Stadium that the sounds of Marching Mizzou starting its early morning pre-game rehearsals would help wake me up on game days. As an impressionable 8th grader, I was still too young to realize that the team really had no chance to beat their competition, but I always had hope. 28 years later, i’m thinking that hope should have come with a complimentary bottle of scotch to ease the pain.

Widenhofer finished his Tiger coaching career with a record of 12-31-1. When he was hired, it seemed like a good idea. He had played at Missouri and was instrumental in the Steel Curtain defense that made the Pittsburgh Steelers so dominant. He just wasn’t a good head coach.

Missouri now has another True Son, defensive guru coaching the team and it’s not going well. Vahe Gregorian compared the ineptitude of Barry Odom’s 2016 team to Widenhofer’s first year at Missouri. I don’t know about any other Tiger fans, but yes Vahe, I too am having flashbacks to the bumpy ride on the Woody Wagon.

Odom’s tenure at Missouri could very well turn out better than Widenhofer’s. It’s only Odom’s first year as a head coach, so he should be given a reasonable chance to prove himself. Still, it’s next to impossible to find the silver lining in what Tiger fans are having to witness.

Much was made of the new defensive scheme that was implemented at the start of the 2016 season. The new scheme has been a complete disaster and has left fans calling for defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross to be fired. Sure, Cross is in charge of the defense, but this was a scheme that Odom wanted to install last season, so much of the blame should fall on Odom’s shoulders. Thank goodness Gary Pinkel said no to that move.

To Odom’s credit, he isn’t a “we do what we do” type of coach and he did acknowledge that this new read-and-react style of defense wasn’t working. Going into the Kentucky game, he changed the scheme back to what had worked so well in the past. Even with a group of defensive players that knew this style, it didn’t matter against Kentucky. The defense once again gave up over 500 yards of offense. That was an accomplishment that not even Widenhofer’s teams had accomplished.

Some may say that i’m being too critical of Odom. I would say that i’m not. Yes, there have been a number of season ending injuries to defensive starters, but these problems existed even when those star defenders were healthy. Youth can be used as an excuse for losing if you’re an apologist. Quality coaching can offset the negative impact that goes along with being considered a young team. That is if you believe that quality coaching not only includes Xs and Os, but also recruiting. Missouri football is suffering from an inexperienced coach and a lack of talent.

When former athletics director Mack Rhoades hired Odom, he went cheap. He went so cheap that Odom is the lowest paid head football coach in the SEC. There were a number of issues surrounding the Missouri program at the time, so it was going to be a tough hire. But as they say, you get what you pay for and Missouri seems to be getting what it paid for. A cheap, bargain basement True Son who is pulling the Woody Wagon out of the garage, dusting it off and taking it for another romp around Columbia.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Flickr

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The Missouri Tigers Will Restore Their Roar in 2016

The sound we heard coming out of Columbia, Missouri last year was of a whimpering Missouri Tigers football team, but now, in 2016, everyone should be prepared for Missouri to restore some of its roar.

Now don’t misunderstand what I mean when I say “roar.” I don’t expect the Tigers to challenge for the SEC East crown in 2016 but I also don’t believe some of the national so-called experts to be correct when they picked Missouri to finish dead last in the East.

Let me say it again to anyone who thinks this Missouri team is going to finish last in the East… Not gonna happen!

The reasons that Missouri will restore its SEC East roar in 2016 is for two reasons. The first being what has become the cornerstone of the Tiger program and that’s the defense. You know what they say; death, taxes and a strong Missouri defense. The second reason being that their offense can’t possibly be as statistically bad as it was in 2015.

Sure, Missouri’s defensive line coach, Craig Kuligowski, left to join Mark Richt at Miami, but there is enough talent left on defense that new defensive line coach Jackie Shipp should still have guys like Charles Harris meeting at the quarterback.

As for the defensive coordinator, well, former TCU defensive coordinator Demontie Cross (and former Tiger player) was brought in once Barry Odom was promoted to head coach. Cross’ defensive units played well at TCU and we should expect nothing less from his Missouri defenses.

Now about that offense…

Offensive line coach AJ Ricker and offensive coordinator Josh Henson are each no longer with the team. They were basically public enemy 1 and 2 with the Missouri fans last season, so nobody lost sleep when they were replaced with Glen Elarbee and Josh Heupel.

On the offensive line, Elarbee won’t have guys who have much starting experience, but he will have guys who have been in the program. Rumor around town is that he is instilling more of a mean streak in how the big boys up front play. I’m of the mindset that it starts in trenches, so I hope that this rumor is actually reality.

Heupel comes in with, well, a lot of hype. Yea, I see what I did there and you see what I did there. But back to business…

His offenses at Oklahoma were prolific. Sure, he had Heisman caliber skill position players in the Sooner Schooner, but he was also responsible for putting those players in position to maximize their talents. His offense at Utah State was also effective even when tasked with working around injured quarterbacks.

Heupel will have an experienced quarterback in Drew Lock and a starting running back in Alex Ross who, after transferring from Oklahoma, should know exactly what is expected in a Heupel offense. If the offensive line gives Lock and Ross time to operate, Heupel’s offense could really hum.

As I’ve said before, Odom does have an uphill battle at Missouri, but the Oklahoma influence that he has embedded at Mizzou should pay dividends. I say this because Oklahoma has been all about winning, so this Sooner influence will always be one that starts with a simple question – Can we win at an elite level?

What does all of this mean as far as wins and losses in 2016? Glad you asked…

I expect this team to win 7 or 8 games and this should be good enough for a 3rd or 4th place finish in the SEC East. You’re probably thinking that to win this many games a few upsets would need to occur and you would be correct. Look for Missouri to beat Georgia, particularly if Jacob Eason is the starting quarterback, and look for Missouri to go to The Swamp and beat Florida.
Oh, and because I can never put my animosity towards Tennessee aside, expect one helluva ball game in Knoxville this year.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

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