Missouri’s 2015 offense was putrid. There is no other way to describe the team that averaged a mere 13 points per game. Contrarily, defensively, Mizzou will continue its status as one of the best units in the country; in fact, last year, it finished 2nd in the SEC Total Defense. The strength of its defense is on the line of scrimmage. New head coach Barry Odam may have to suffer through another offensively challenged season. Lacking in play makers, new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will be tasked to improve its meager offensive ledger.
Barry Odom Comments
QUESTION: Obviously, offense was a big struggle last year. How do you feel about the offense going into the season and how tough did that make it on the defense last season?
COACH ODOM: I’m excited about the offensive staff that we have. I’m excited — as coaches, you’re teachers. For us, and I always thought this coaching defensive football, you’ve got to make sure you take the skill set of the players that you have that’s on your roster and what you recruit, too, and design their offense and defense around their strengths. Don’t ask them to do something they can’t do.
Offensively, we’ve got to be creative enough schematically to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to give our kids a chance and to put them in position, ask them to go make a play that they can by a formation, by a shift, by a motion. Let’s give ourselves a chance offensively to play within the skill set of guys that we have.
Defensively, it’s the same thing. We’ve got more guys returning on the defensive side than the offensive side. But last year, and I love experience coming back, but it’s our job as coaches, they got to play better than they did last year. And that’s a tremendous responsibility and opportunity for us to be a really good football team.
Interpreting Coach Speak
Barry Odom’s first appearance at SEC Media Days was quite eventful. While other coaches had to deal with off-the-field player issues, Odom had to answer questions about the Missouri athletic director departing Columbia as he accepted the same position at Baylor. A new head coach with a newer athletic director. Not exactly the perfect situation.
As for coach speak, Odom was bland and didn’t really discuss personnel or schematic specifics. One this is certain, his defense will be very, very good.
He did remark about being more offensively creative. Necessary and expected words from a program that averaged a mere 13 points a year ago. Question remains, are its offensive Jimmies and Joes skilled enough to run a high octane offense? That question will be answered this fall.
By the Numbers
Returning Starters Offense: 5
Last fall Missouri was ranked 14th or last in Total Offense by averaging 280.9 yards and 13.6 points per game.
Returning Starters Defense: 8
Definitely its team strength, Mizzou finished last season ranked 2nd in SEC Total Defense by allowing just 302 yards and 16.2 points per game.
2015 Record: 5-7
Last Two Games: 2014: Missouri 20-Kentucky 10. 2015: Kentucky 21-Missouri 13.
Three Best Players
–DE Charles Harris: In 2015, the All-SEC pass rusher totaled 56 tackles, 7 QB sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback hurries. Harris’ 18.5 tackles for loss led the SEC and projected as an NFL 1st round draft selection.
ASKED ABOUT MIZZOU DL TRADITION: “When we have freshman coming in we show them a clinic tape of Michael Sams and Marcus Golden. We show them guys who came before us and sowed the seed of who we are. If you watch the highlights you will get a feel of the tenacity that is required to be at Mizzou and be in the defensive line.”
-Last fall, LB Michael Scherer accumulated 93 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 2 quarterback hurries.
ON DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GARY PINKEL AND BARRY ODOM: I think the main difference you see in Coach Pinkel kind of interacted with the coaches and coached them how to coach us. He was quiet when it came to practice and other things. Coach Odom is a very passionate guy. He’s been coaching on the field for a very long time and he can’t get over not still doing that.
-DT Josh Augusta 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, and 3 quarterback hurries.
How UK Beats Mizzou
The SEC’s 2nd ranked Total Defense returns 8 starters. Its strength lies within the defensive line and is led by All-SEC and potential All-American DE Charles Harris. Joining him are DT Josh Augusta, DT Harold Brantley (if he returns from injuries sustained in vehicle accident), Terry Beckner Jr., and Walter Brady. SEC Network talking heads and I agree, Mizzou’s front four is the best grouping in the Southeastern Conference. In this league, that’s quite the compliment. Strengthening the DL core is veteran linebacker Michael Sherer.
Mizzou’s offense is now directed by former Sooner Josh Huepel. Due to a lack of playmakers, his first season may be a struggle. Quarterback Andrew Lock returns as the Tigers have also added a pair or running backs: Oklahoma grad-transfer Alex Ross and former JUCO star Natereace Strong. To win in Columbia, Kentucky will have to produce defensive turnovers, not surrender big plays, and limit the number of Missouri’s offensive series.
Offensively, facing perhaps the best front four in college football, the Cats may also struggle to score. But, when red zone opportunities occur, it must pounce. QB protection will be paramount. If Barker or whoever is playing gets time to throw, a passing attack presents the most likelihood for points.
October 29 in Columbia could be a make-or-break day for the Wildcats. The winnable road game will be omnipotent for bowl eligibility. In closing, I can’t stress enough just how explosive and disruptive the Mizzou defensive line will be. Tough task.