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Notebook: Tigers look to stay strong on defense

Following the loss of Missouri’s leading tackler, the Tigers aim to prove they’re still dominant

NCAA Football: Troy at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cale Garrett’s latest SEC Defensive Player of the Week award — his second this season —stings knowing it very well could be the final accolade of his Missouri football career.

As fans deal with the fallout and speculation of what the senior linebacker’s loss might mean for the Tigers, the season chugs along. Barry Odom has made it abundantly clear that no other teams feel sorry for Missouri when injuries arise. Pretty much every team in the SEC East has had them. It’s a “next-man-up” mentality for the Tigers, and homecoming provides the perfect stage to prove that there is life after Garrett. Odom believes that his team is more than ready for the matchup.

“They’re hungry for more,” he said during his media availability. “They’re hungry to go be as good as we could be in every area.”

Cale Garrett Update

News of a season-ending injury to senior linebacker Cale Garrett’s pectoral tendon dampened an already rainy weekend in Columbia. When Garrett was pulled to begin play in the second half against Troy like many of the starters, there wasn’t much reason to suspect that he had suffered an injury.

“He didn’t think it was obviously as severe as it was,” Odom said. “He was pretty quiet; (but) Cale is normally pretty quiet. He just goes and does his job.” When asked to elaborate upon Garrett’s impact, Odom said, “He’s built our program in the things he’s done.”

Odom was please to learn that Garrett’s surgery went “perfectly,” though he did not have an exact time frame for his rehabilitation.

“He’ll recover,” he mused. “If the time frame, whatever weeks and months it is— he’ll beat (it). It’s just the kind of person he is. I think he’s gonna play ball for a long time.”

Odom also noted that he’d sit down with Garrett and discuss a medical red shirt if that was a route the senior wanted to pursue. “I’m guessing it would be difficult to come by,” he said, “but it’s worth a shot.”

Kelly Bryant Update

When asked if he thought quarterback Kelly Bryant would be able to play Saturday, Odom responded with a smile. “I do,” he said, “He looked really good today.”

In regards to the hit that Bryant took in last Saturday’s Troy game, Odom didn’t think the tackle was malicious. “It looked awful,” he said, “but I don’t think there was any intent there to try to injure our player.”

Scouting Report & Other Notes

  • Odom sees the Rebels running similar offensive game plans, whether they decide to play redshirt freshman Matt Corral or true freshman John Rhys Plumlee at quarterback. He noted the speed in which both quarterbacks play.
  • With the absence of Garrett, Odom expects the Rebels to try and test the linebacker position.
  • Ole Miss has faced conference opponents Arkansas, Alabama and Vanderbilt thus far. Through those games, the Rebels are putting up nearly 500 yards of offense per game.
  • Odom says that schematically, the defense will not change much in Garrett’s absence.
  • Maurice Massey didn’t play last Saturday. Odom said there will be opportunities for him and all players to get game time in the future; they just need to earn it.
  • Richaud Floyd is healing day-to-day from his hamstring injury.
  • Odom is unsure, and lacks the information to say, whether or not Trajan Jeffcoat could ever return to the program.

Coach Odom is aware of the dual nature of the impressive numbers his defense has posted thus far. On one hand, he admits that they’re playing at a very high level. “I think we’ve been good and our pass defense has, maybe as we’ve been in a long, long time.” On the other hand, Odom understands the risk of getting caught up in the numbers. “We’re three and a half hours from being fools,” he said.

Saturday, Missouri fans will get to see how both the Tiger defense and Kelly Bryant’s knee hold up. While Cale Garrett’s leadership is irreplaceable, Mississippi’s offense should test the Tigers’ depth at linebacker. A strong homecoming performance could continue to make the case for Missouri as not only a legitimate defense in the SEC, but in the entire nation.