It was Alabama day in Hoover as Nick Saban and his players kicked off the third day of SEC Media Days. Following the hype and excitement associated with the Tide, though, Barry Odom and Missouri took to the stage.
“I was sitting in the back, and there was a loud buzz," said Odom. "You could feel it. And I thought it was for me in the room, but I was quickly reminded that Nick was before me."
A calm and collected Odom addressed the media, discussing the atmosphere within the SEC, his experiences as a first-year head coach, and the disappointment of a 2016 campaign that resulted in a 4-8 finish for the Tigers.
"When you win four games, guys, believe me, it hurts your soul. And that's where I was at,” Odom admitted.
Odom presented a confident outlook for the Tigers, saying, “I’m excited where Mizzou is right now."
The second-year head coach added that the possibility of greatness is on the horizon. “My vision hasn't changed since I got the job. We got an opportunity to do great things.”
While Odom adequately addressed the failures and shortcomings from last season during his time at the podium, he made sure to present his team in a positive light. “We've got an opportunity when I drive into work every day to make Mizzou football better than it was before. And if I can continue do that consistently, then the wins are going to happen.”
Of course, Odom did not travel alone, bringing along with him senior linebacker Eric Beisel, junior quarterback Drew Lock, and senior wide receiver J’Mon Moore.
Lock will return this fall as the SEC’s second leading passer with nearly 3,400 yards in 2016.
Odom has lofty expectations for Lock: “He's become a student of the game, and I have really, really high expectations for him.”
Also in attendance was Moore, the SEC’s leading returning wide receiver. “He's grown up a tremendous amount. He's going to be a guy that we lean on a lot offensively. I'm excited he's here,” Odom said.
Last, but certainly not least, the outspoken and fiery Beisel joined Odom in Hoover. When speaking of Beisel, Odom made sure to add, "For the Arkansas beat writers, I brought Beisel for that, too, because I understand we're supposed to flame that rivalry a little bit up. You're welcome in advance.”
Lock enters his junior year with a tremendous amount of pressure sitting on his shoulders, but that’s not stopping him from being confident.
"This year I know [the job] inside and out to where I can be calm every time I go out there. We have ten guys coming back, that’s where the confidence comes.”
Speaking on the two keys to being a successful quarterback in the SEC, Lock harped on the importance of being “calm and confident.”
Lock also addressed what he referred to as the struggles of last season: “Everyone’s been through the lumps that you’ve been through.”
Lock didn’t shy away from putting high expectations on himself. “That just drives me even more to give this university and give this state a great season and that’s what we’re going to do next year.”
Drew Lock on what it takes to be an elite QB in the SEC: pic.twitter.com/VqQY2UULne— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
Drew Lock on his Missouri roots and the impact of last season: pic.twitter.com/kz3Rh0XOJ1— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
Moore had high praise for the receiving corps confidently stating: “I see our receiving corps doing some big things, seriously.”
Moore credits spending time together as the key to his relationship with Lock: “We’ve just been doing things together just to help us build our relationship and to help us have a better understanding of each other.”
The Lock-Moore connection will play a vital role in the success of Missouri’s offense as the Tigers enter their second year under the offensive control of Josh Heupel.
Moore did address the Tigers’ shortcomings and inconsistencies against teams of a higher echelon: “I felt like it was a lack of focus and a lack of production,” he said, adding that the Florida game served as a “slap to the face” due to the potential of the Tigers’ offense.
“This year we know if we face big games like that, where people are going to bring it and people are going to attack us, we need to prepare better, we need to have a better mindset, we need to focus," he concluded.
J'Mon Moore on the importance of his relationship with Drew Lock: pic.twitter.com/owDOjmyauO— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
J'Mon Moore on the inconsistency of the offense, particularly regarding the Florida game: pic.twitter.com/1EeHgF1AoR— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
“It’s our job to give the fans a show,” Beisel declared. Arguably the most outspoken on the defense, Beisel had choice words for Arkansas last fall. Today, when asked why he holds these feelings towards the Hogs, the linebacker said, “I’ve always been like that,” adding, “I like to make things a little bit more personal. But that’s football, especially that’s SEC football.”
Regardless of Arkansas — or as Beisel prefers “that team down south” —the senior linebacker will be tasked with being a leader on a primarily stagnant defense from a year ago. the Tiger ranked a disturbing 118th out of 128 FBS teams in total defense last year, and DeMontie Cross and Barry Odom will look for Beisel’s leadership and experience to help right the ship next season.
If there is anything to give Missouri fans hope, it should be Beisel’s optimism and enthusiasm: “I don’t really look at the names in the scouting report, I just see someone that I want to destroy.”
Eric Beisel on his feelings towards Arkansas: pic.twitter.com/1WcmY56KF1— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
Eric Beisel on particular offensive players he is looking forward to facing: pic.twitter.com/uWtHDDB0o3— Ethan Triebsch (@etriebsch) July 12, 2017
Missouri will likely be predicted to finish close to last in the SEC East. If you are looking for national respect, you will not find much.
Yet, Missouri is one of the only teams in the country, and the only in the SEC, to return a 1,000 yard rusher, a 1,000 yard receiver, and a 3,000 yard passer.
According to PFF College Football, Lock had the highest passer rating on non-play action passes, the highest number of deep passing yards (20+ yards), the most yards on play action passes, and the highest percentage of throws of 20+ yards among returning SEC quarterbacks.
Plus, Damarea Crockett had the second highest breakaway percentage versus Power 5 teams in the country. Paul Adams had the highest pass blocking efficiency among returning SEC offensive tackles, and Moore had the third highest number of deep passing yards (20+ yards) among returning SEC wide receivers.
Missouri has the pieces on offense, and offensive optimism is not unwarranted, but the question remains with the defense. If Odom truly proves himself the defensive-minded coach many believe him to be, there is no reason to doubt the potential of success next season.