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Barry Odom cites “philosophical differences” in addressing DeMontie Cross firing

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Barry Odom held his weekly teleconference on Monday and addressed the firing of Demontie Cross and the upcoming game against Purdue.

Kentucky v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Opening Statement:

Disappointed that we're coming off of a loss and that we didn't play consistently enough as a football team to go win a game against a really good football opponent. Against South Carolina, I thought we made some steps in the right direction defensively. But also as I mentioned Saturday night after the game, our margin for error is zero. We can't be minus-three in turnover margin at the end of the game and expect to win one. We can't be as bad as we were in the kicking game and expect to win a game.

I haven't lost any hope on where this team can go. The way that they responded yesterday, in meetings and also on the practice field last night, was with great enthusiasm, understanding the mistakes that we made and with a strong willingness to get better, and also anxious to get into preparation for what will be a huge game for us. With Purdue coming here, Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., another home game for us. They're playing really, really well right now and we understand the task at hand.

Obviously, we've had change within our staff in the last 24 hours and people and person every aspect of their organization.

Daily, you're faced with decisions. Some of them are easy decisions, most of them are really tough hard decisions that you have to make on a daily basis. After much thought, we decided to make a move within the staff with a change.

This has absolutely zero to do with on the field performance or non-performance. Philosophical differences would be the biggest deciding factor in making the move.

I feel very strongly about the staff that we have in place to mentor and guide our student athletes in every area of their life, not just on the football field, but absolutely every area academically, socially, and how to treat others with great respect and live and make.our society better.

I feel very confident in our ability to have a positive impact and a positive difference in their life. Defensively, we'll work strongly together to build a game plan that will give our kids an opportunity to go play fast and give us an opportunity to place us in a position to have success when we get back into the competitive arena on Saturday.

Why the timing on letting DeMontie go now as opposed to during the offseason when you could have filled the spot?

“You look at the timing, and the timing is, I don’t know if you ever can say it’s the right time or the wrong time. I know that the staff that we have in place, I’m confident that we can go do what we need to do in order to give ourselves a chance to be successful. They don’t put a watch on when you make a decision when you’re presented with the things you’ve got to do to move your program forward, and that’s where we’re at.”

Have you decided how you’ll reshuffle assignments, who will coach DeMontie’s guys (the inside linebackers)?

“Really, we’ve been busy since Sunday morning getting to work on Purdue. The staff is working really well together. We understand that there will be people that have got to do more, and that’s okay.

The thing that we’ve got with Coach Haley up front with the defensive line, is that he’s got a great handle, he’s been a coordinator before, he’s got a great handle organizationally and working together in the room to work with a lot of different moving parts.

Coach Walters has been with me for a number of years and understands the dynamics of how the thing’s going to go from game planning to practice organization to coaching a position, and then Brian, Coach Odom, has been around this defensive structure long enough, he knows the ins and outs of it.

DeMontie was coaching the two inside linebackers in our system, the Mike and Will. I’m going to take over that coaching, along with help from our staff, and also we’ve got within our organization, in my opinion, two really high-level guys that are helping us out in GA roles.

The other two guys in analyst positions aren’t able to do anything in on-the-field coaching, but the administrative work to give us an opportunity to break down film and some of those things. We’ve got a lot of people in place to make this move the direction it needs to [go].”

How will these additional roles impact your ability to help coach the offense and overseeing that?

“I haven’t had much to do with the offense. I say much to do with it, I mean with Coach Heupel and that side of the ball with the staff, we have daily meetings to go through the game plan on what they’re seeing, what they’re thinking, working together as a team would. But as far as game planning with that side of the ball, I’m not in there making decisions schematically on how we’re attacking the opposing defense. That won’t change that time frame.

Josh and I will still meet nightly throughout the course of a game week like we normally have been. That won’t affect that.”

One of the things you said leading up to this season was that you tried to take on too much last year. Do you have any concerns that coaching a position and calling defensive plays is too much?

“No, I don’t. I can see why that would be a question.

I am in a better spot than I was last year. I’ve got more comfort even after being around Mike McHugh, our director of football operations, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that he’s taken off my plate. I’m thankful for that.

And also with some things that I was doing last year, Jim Sterk’s done such a great job on taking some of those things off as well that were already put in place before Jim got here last year. For me, I’m in a good spot.

I know that I’ve got to do a better job coaching this team. We failed Saturday night. We’ve also got to look at it we’re 1-1, and we’ve got a lot of football to play, and I’ve got to get this team developed and we got to clean up what we can get fixed, which is a lot. I think we’ve got a whole bunch of things out in front of us left to achieve going into game three.”

This might be a little far off in the future, but if you found someone philosophically that fits a little bit better as a defensive coordinator, could you see yourself taking the play-calling off of your plate or is that something you want to continue doing?

“With the way that where we’re at in the season right now, I like the spot of being able to call the defense and working together with our staff. Defensively that’s the direction we’ll move. If we get to the point that we need to make that decision, I will. At this point, I’m trying to do everything we can, this staff to go play our best on Saturday, but I appreciate the question.”

Was Jim Sterk involved in this decision at all or was it solely your call?

“Yeah, Jim’s going to be involved with any decision of this magnitude. Jim’s going to be involved with every decision we make within our program that would have to do with something of this magnitude.”

What was the players’ reaction when you told them the new about DeMontie?

“We were in, every Sunday late afternoon we have unit meetings and position meetings and then a team meeting. It was very direct, give them the information and say let’s focus on getting to work and learning from our mistakes from last night and make corrections and then get on to our next opponent. So, there wasn’t really a lot of time for reaction or anything in that team setting.”

Do you foresee keeping Johnathon Johnson in the role as the punt returner?

“Well, I’ve had plenty of time to evaluate and look at why we played the way that we did on special teams on Saturday night.

Really on kickoff return, we gave ourselves a chance field position-wise there with a couple returns, did a nice job, but really every other area didn’t play winning football.

I think with JJ as a returner, with Richaud Floyd as a returner and then Mason as a returner, we’ve got an opportunity if we block it right up front, to get them the ball in space, get them another touch in a game. We’ve got to do a better job collectively on providing them an opportunity to go field the ball cleanly, and then if it’s not there, if they’re feeling like there’s an opportunity to fair catch or get away from it, then we’ve got to do a great job from the returner’s standpoint on communicating that.

So there were a couple breakdowns in the one that there was a fumble. We’ll work hard to get that fix and trying to get the best 11 out there to make sure that we don’t have that happen again.”