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Question No. 1 for Missouri's offseason: What does Barry Odom want his defense to be?

Barry Odom has already proven he can make tough decisions. But he also has to make the right one. Here are today's Mizzou Links.

Odom’s top priority this offseason needs to be restoring the defense to a level of respectability.

That starts with deciding what scheme he wants this program to run. If he wants to run read-and-react, that’s fine, but commit to it and start getting the personnel in this program to fit that approach. [...] Odom said before the season’s final game that he hadn’t decided what scheme he wants to run next season. It would seem a little counterproductive to revert to a 2015-esque scheme for the final five games if he was going to change back to the read-and-react scheme in the offseason, but we’ll see. [...]

Odom also has the option of reverting to the way things were at the start of the season by reinstating Cross as the boss and play-caller of the defense, but that seems unlikely. Odom said last week that he plans to remain active in coaching the defense in the future.

-- The Trib (Blake Toppmeyer): 2016 takeaways: Odom needs to decide on a defensive scheme and who he wants to call it

Odom is restoring order during his first year on the job. He addresses problems directly, with comments made in public and actions taken behind closed doors. He is not one to weasel around or make excuses.

He can make the tough calls, such as giving his defense a midseason makeover, stripping defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross of his play-calling duties and firing defensive line coach Jackie Shipp for conduct unbecoming his staff.

Odom doesn’t hesitate to discipline or dismiss players, even those high on the depth chart. Expect him to handle any fallout from this academic fraud with the same firmness.

-- Post-Dispatch (Jeff Gordon): Right people in place to deal with the Mizzou mess

It's pretty clear what the primary theme of the offseason is going to be. Missouri's offense showed life late in the year, going from 5.6 yards per play to 6.1, then 6.5, then 6.7, then 7.1 in the last five games. Barring transfer, only Sean Culkin departs from the starting lineup. There's a trajectory there, and it's a good one.

The defense, on the other hand, has plenty of questions to answer. Granted, Mizzou allowed more than 6 yards per play just once in the final four games after doing so in all four games in October, but the Tigers still ranked 89th in Def. S&P+ for the season and 103rd against the run. And now they must replace leading tackler Donavin Newsom, starting corners Aarion Penton and John Gibson, and probably Charles Harris.

End Marcell Frazier certainly ended the season well, and the safety position will certainly be stocked with experience, but there are quite obviously tons of questions, beginning with "Will Mizzou have any healthy DTs in spring ball?" (Terry Beckner Jr. and Markell Utsey both tore their ACLs in the second half of the season, and Rickey Hatley and Josh Augusta are gone) and "Who can tackle?"

As Blake Toppmeyer mentioned, though, the first question to address is "What does Odom want his defense to be?"

If his heart's with the read-and-react thing, he needs to go with that. But after the last half of the season, I'm not sure it is. It appears he's not sure either.

Mizzou Tigers pennant Not a bad way to end the year, Marcell @MizzouFootball's Frazier Tabbed SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week

Mizzou Tigers pennant We'll talk about this later in the day.

If we have to. Apparently I'm an NCCU good luck charm. @MizzouHoops Falls to NC Central, 62-52

The Trib: Missouri's offense craters as Tigers fall to North Carolina Central

Post-Dispatch: Mizzou goes cold in home loss to North Carolina Central

KC Star: Mizzou comes up cold in 62-52 upset loss to North Carolina Central

The Missourian: Missouri men's basketball shocked by North Carolina Central

PowerMizzou: Game at a Glance: NC Central

B&G Illustrated: Mizzou Hoops Loses to North Carolina Central

Mizzou Tigers pennant Elsewhere...

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