Barry Odom is a tremendous defensive football coach.
That’s what we were told. That’s what we believed. Now it’s time for Odom to reinforce those beliefs we all once held.
It wasn’t that long ago Odom was the coach who transformed Memphis from a bottom 15 defensive unit to a top 15 defense in the country. He did so in just three years of work. Talk about an impressive feat. So impressive that it was seen as a coup when Gary Pinkel convinced Odom to come back to Missouri as the defensive coordinator in 2015.
Odom did it again. He posted a top five defensive finish at Missouri in his first year calling the defense, finishing 3rd in S&P+ behind Alabama and Georgia.
That’s when everything changed.
Odom handed the reigns to the defense over to Demontie Cross. To say it was a disaster would be an understatement. The defense allowed 31 points per game and tumbled all the way down to 85th in S&P+ in 2016. You watched those games. I’m still seeing flashbacks of teams converting on every 3rd & 6.
Over and over and over again.
2017 wasn’t much different. Change was inevitable. Odom fired Cross midway through the year. The staff turned over, the scheme evolved and players started to cycle through. Things started to get better again. Slowly but surely, it got better, with the Tigers climbing to 61st that year.
Last year, the defense finally flashed some teeth again. It was stout against the run. The corners showed some growth. The secondary as a whole started to mature. The third down stops started to happen with more regularity, and the climb continued with a finish at 24th in S&P+.
That’s a trend that must continue. For the first time since Odom took over as head coach at Missouri, the defense officially belongs to him. For the first time since Odom took over as head coach, every defensive player listed on Missouri’s depth chart was recruited to Missouri by Odom. The entire defensive staff has been put together by Odom. The scheme has either been designed or approved by Odom.
Win, lose or draw, this is Odom’s defense through and through. And that means the expectations need to be clearly defined.
Odom got this job based on his defensive prowess. His offense kept the team afloat in 2017. The defense started to do its part in 2018. But if Odom is going to have the success at Missouri that I believe he can – and that Missouri fans should be rooting for him to have – it will require another step from his defensive unit.
Think about the best programs across the country. Almost unanimously the head coach is synonymous with one side of the football: Nick Saban & Kirby Smart’s defenses, Dabo Swinney & Lincoln Riley’s offenses.
Odom has that kind of potential. He knows the X’s and O’s as well as anyone in the country. He’s shown the ability to turn a defense around in short order. He’s built a culture at Missouri that resulted in just two players transferring from a program with a bowl ban.
All the ingredients are there. Now it’s time to put it all together.
Odom has his scheme. His players. His coaches. This is his defense. He has complete ownership over that side of the ball for the first time since he arrived at Missouri.
He was once thought of as a defensive mastermind. I believe he still has it in him.
Now it’s time for Odom to remind us of why he was hired. It’s time to make Odom’s name synonymous with defensive dominance once again.