During the lull in Missouri football’s early signing day news cycle, the team announced Ryan Walters will be retained as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to continue to build on what we’ve done defensively this past season,” Walters said in a statement. ”We’ve got a good group of guys coming back and they’re excited to get to work. Columbia has been very good to me and my family and we’re thrilled to be part of the community and Mizzou.”
Since Eli Drinkwitz was named Missouri’s new head coach Dec. 10, rumors swirled concerning which of Barry Odom’s assistant coaches would be retained and which would be let go. Drinkwitz said during his introductory press conference that he would be the offensive coordinator for the time being, all but signaling Derek Dooley’s dismissal from the program. Since then, every position coach on the offense has been let go.
But the defense is where the Tigers shined in 2019, and much of that had to do with Walters’ scheme. Walters was brought in as the safeties coach in 2015 and was promoted to the coordinator spot for the past two seasons, and his work helped transform Missouri into a top 20 defense in several major statistical categories.
The Tigers ranked No. 14 in the country in total defense, No. 8 in passing yards allowed and No. 17 in scoring defense, each of which put them in the upper echelon of Southeastern Conference defenses.
Walters’ background as a secondary coach has also been crucial to the development of the unit, and the secondary allowed just a 50.3 completion percentage in 2019, tied for the lowest in the nation according to ESPN.
“Since connecting with Ryan, I’ve been very impressed with his ability to lead people and connect with the players,” Drinkwitz said. ”I’m impressed with his work on the defensive side of the ball, and I look forward to building on what’s already been established, the foundation that’s been laid. I look forward to Coach Walters leading a championship-style defense here at Mizzou.”
Walters’ job was up in the air in the wake of Odom’s firing on Nov. 30, but Drinkwitz looks to be making it a point to stick with the defensive coaches who helped turn Missouri into a lockdown defensive unit for most of the season.
With his position as defensive coordinator once again secured, Walters — as well as retained defensive line coach Brick Haley and possibly returning defensive backs coach David Gibbs — will have the opportunity to continue the Tigers’ growth on the defensive side of the ball.