When opening day arrived, two of Missouri’s starting five linemen – center Samson Bailey and left tackle Tyler Howell – had never played a snap in a Football Bowl Subdivision game.
One could argue that the loss of some dead weight from that 2015 line was addition but subtraction, but still, this is a line of scrimmage league, if you’re to believe the weekly reminders from coaches. Could a line with such little experience really be markedly better than the 2015 incarnation?
As it turned out, yes, it could be much, much better.
My reaction to Barry Odom hiring Jackie Shipp last offseason: "I like this guy!"
My reaction to Odom hiring Glen Elarbee last offseason: "Who?"
I loved the former hire and had to kind of talk myself into the latter.
Things like this are why I pretty much go out of my way not to have an opinion on coaching hires anymore. Shipp, with a strong résumé at schools like Arizona State and Oklahoma, was basically a bomb -- the Missouri defensive line was a shadow of its former self, and then he got fired for some sort of confrontation with a player. Meanwhile, Elarbee pulled off one of the best assistant coaching jobs of the season ... I think.
Some advanced stats rankings for you:
- Rushing S&P+: 124th in 2015, 71st in 2016
- Adj. Line Yards: 102nd in 2015, 106th in 2016
- Opportunity rate: 119th in 2015, 56th in 2016
- Power success rate: 126th in 2015, 26th in 2016
- Stuff rate: 117th in 2015, 59th in 2016
- Adj. Sack Rate: 85th in 2015, 14th in 2016
- Standard downs sack rate: 109th in 2015, 21st in 2016
- Passing downs sack rate: 64th in 2015, 10th in 2016
Mizzou improved drastically in seven of eight categories above. Now, the one category of non-improvement is interesting -- the opponent-adjusted Adj. Line Yards figure was basically the same. That suggests that a lot of the success we saw was based on a) opponent and b) Damarea Crockett (since line yards are intended to split apart the credit owed to the line and the runner).
Regardless, Mizzou's run game went from one of the country's worst to one of the country's most average, and that doesn't factor in the fact that some of the Tigers' worst performances came early and some of their best came late. This line, which featured starts from two walk-ons and no seniors, improved as the season wore on, and no matter what, when you factor in pass protection, it was far better than the 2015 line that featured a ton of seniors and two draft picks.
Either Elarbee or Boneyard deserves quite a bit of credit. We'll say both.
Lots to be thankful for... pic.twitter.com/SAkjuXdQym— Glen Elarbee (@Gelarbee) November 27, 2016
A pretty accurate summary here:
In the wake of a 4-8 season that saw Missouri’s defense fall apart under new leadership, Barry Odom has some decisions to make this offseason. For one, he’s got to hire a defensive line coach after he fired Jackie Shipp last week. Defensive tackle might be MU’s most important position for the final two months of recruiting. The Tigers return just one healthy scholarship D-tackle with extensive experience with two more recovering from knee surgery. As Ben Frederickson wrote about Monday, Odom has to make a decision on his coordinator position. DeMontie Cross currently holds that title — safeties coach Ryan Walters is co-coordinator — but Odom took over the play-calling duties after the seventh game and re-installed Mizzou’s 2015 defensive scheme. Odom plans to stay heavily involved with the defense next year. Does that mean he’ll resume as the defensive play-caller? Does Cross stick around as a highly paid ($600,000) linebackers coach? For now, it’s too early to know with any certainty.