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Missouri's moving back toward its "natural defense." Are stopgap measures worth it?

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Here are today's Mizzou Links.

For a guy who’s essentially been demoted and stripped of play-calling, DeMontie Cross discussed the situation with savvy diplomacy. Barry Odom took over the defensive play-calling last week and will stay in that role the rest of the season. Odom also scrapped elements of Cross’ defensive scheme and went back to the system the Tigers played last year when Odom was Gary Pinkel’s coordinator.

"That’s helped us for sure as far as guys getting off (the line) and being able to play faster," Cross said. "There are things technically that we like a little bit better than what we were doing. There’s still a good mix. There are some things we’ve done that they did last year that’s helped because of the injuries. … Up front, some of the calls have allowed some of those guys to feel a little bit more relaxed and play faster without analyzing and overthinking. It’s helped the front four for sure."

-- Post-Dispatch: Cross believes Odom's changes could spark Mizzou defense

The old, now-restored scheme is a more simplified approach and allows Missouri’s front four to be aggressive and try to get upfield and disrupt plays. In the read-and-react scheme, the defensive line had to make more presnap reads and were charged with reading movements from offensive players and reacting to what they saw and plugging gaps. [...]

Added junior defensive end Charles Harris: "It’s our natural defense. I’m not going to say natural defense, but it’s something we’ve been doing forever. It wasn’t too foreign" switching back.

-- The Trib: Odom revives old defensive scheme

I'm not going to lie: These changes make me a little bit uncomfortable.

For all we know, these changes, however deep they are, will spark something incredible, and Missouri will roll to four straight wins and finish 6-6. That'd be great.

But if the more reactionary two-gap system Mizzou's been employing is what Barry Odom was envisioning from the start (and what he envisions working with in the future), then at this stage in Year 1 (or Year 0), I don't really enjoy the thought of backtracking. Part of emerging from Year 0 is arranging the pieces how you will want them in the future and working toward that. Changing paths in the middle of the year could be seen as a stopgap with no long-term gains.

And besides whether it's smart long-term ...is a midseason philosophy change going to even slightly pay off? It certainly didn't last week.

If Charles Harris has four TFLs on Saturday and Mizzou's defensive front plays awesome, hair-on-fire football for the first time all year, great. But color me skeptical of this change.

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