On Tuesday, Missouri had its first practice after enjoying 10 days off during Mizzou’s spring break. First-year Tiger offensive coordinator Derek Dooley wasn’t much of a fan of the layoff.
“I’ve always said: vacation, all that does is make you tired,” Dooley said. “Everybody thinks you rest and you recover, I think it’s the opposite. The more you work, the more energy you get, the more rhythm you have, so it’s kind of Day 1 again.”
When asked if he thought the hiatus allowed his players to mentally soak in the new offensive schemes and plays, Dooley didn’t bother giving the prototypical coachspeak answer: “The only thing they soak in on the break is stuff we probably don’t want them to soak in.”
“I mean, come on. These guys are 18, 20, alright? The best thing they need is the routine, practice, school,” he added. “I think back when I was 18. When I had a week off, I didn’t ‘reflect.’ We gotta be honest.”
Missouri got back to work in the early morning, putting Dooley’s misery to an end. Outside of the announcement of Tre Williams’ labrum surgery, there were a few other takeaways from practice.
Dooley and the rest of the staff continued to implement his system in what he described as a “healthy install.”
The process has consisted of constantly introducing the offense to new things and gauging how they adjust.
“Hopefully after spring we’ll have a lot on film,” Dooley said. “We can figure out what we’re gonna major in, what we’re gonna minor in, and what we’re gonna throw out.”
Head coach Barry Odom said he’s been pleased with the progress the offense has made while making it a point to applaud the returning players and staff. They’ve adjusted well, and there’s even been some player-coaching to help retain concepts from last year.
“There’s a lot of familiarity across the board because we’ve had so many guys that are coming back on that side of the ball,” Odom said. “And then it helps that our quarterback’s pretty good.”
The return of Damarea Crockett from injury, the emerging talent of Larry Rountree III, and the lack of depth at wide receiver have all led to a lot of talk about Missouri being a more run-oriented squad in 2018.
While optimistic about the duo of Crockett and Rountree, Dooley noted that the former still doesn’t seem to be fully recovered from his injury. Crockett’s expected to be the lead back come fall, but that could change depending on his health or a dip in production.
“The best runners know how to make yards, with or without good blocking, period,” Dooley said when asked what he looks for in a starting back. “We need to have a good running game. If you don’t have a good running game, you can’t win in this league.”
The offensive line will find itself run blocking much more than last season, but Dooley isn’t too concerned.
“I think they’ve all, at some point in their career, probably done most of what we do,” Dooley said. “These guys all played high school too, and they played in middle school, most of em... Some of em, I wonder if they did.”
When asked if he meant high school or middle school, he quickly answered, “Either.”
With the losses the likes of Anthony Sherrils, Marcell Frazier, Jordan Harold and A.J. Logan, Missouri had some vacancies open up for leaders on defense.
When it came to the linebacking corps specifically, however, that had been the case for a couple years.
“Maybe we had it a couple years ago in Kentrell (Brothers),” Odom said. “He was able to diagnose things that he saw that possibly could put us in a bad situation and really getting us into the right situation.“ He feels that void the current Minnesota Vikings linebacker left has finally been filled.
“Cale (Garrett) and Terez (Hall) both have the ability right now to do that,” Odom said. “The way (Cale) has taken over, he and Terez inside, on communicating and getting guys lined up and playing smart together, understanding where he’s got help and doesn’t have help, the term is overused, but he’s like a coach on the field.”
Their guidance will be crucial as Missouri begins the transition into having a more multiple defense. Odom believes that with the help of the incoming recruiting class, the unit is ready to start branching out.
Odom plans on continuing to recruit versatile players in the future and emphasized the importance of placing players in the right position to succeed, “whether it’s (putting) a standing defensive end into the boundary in an odd-front look, or can they move around and play some linebacker at different spots.”
Overall, Odom is happy with both ends of the football, but he’s retaining a sense of urgency throughout spring camp. “Our margin of error is slim to zero,” he said. “We’ve got to have everything right (and) in our favor. You do that consistently and then you become the team that you want to be.”
“Before you know it, spring ball is going to be over,” Odom added. “We’ve got to get it ramped up a little bit.”