Barry Odom has brought on former Mizzou teammate DeMontie Cross to become his defensive coordinator. Jamie Plunkett of our sister blog Frogs O' War was kind enough to answer some questions about Mizzou's new coach.
Oscar Gambler: DeMontie Cross has been TCU's linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator but we know that Gary Patterson has a heavy influence on running TCU's brand of 4-2-5 defense. What did Cross bring to the table for the Horned Frog's coaching staff?
Jamie Plunkett: There's no doubt that it's Patterson's defense, and he takes particular interest in working with the linebackers. That being said, Cross had a big impact in getting guys like Paul Dawson (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Jonathan Anderson (now with the Chicago Bears) to where they were to finish their collegiate careers. He also worked diligently to get the linebackers this season ready on the fly, after both starting LBs were lost for the season after the first game.
OG: I've read that Cross's responsibilities was actually to make the defensive line calls in-game since Patterson made the linebacker and coverage calls, can you tell me if that's true?
JP: It's possible. Prior to this season, the coach making the d-line calls in-game was defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, who also coached the defensive line. He retired last spring, resulting in the promotion of Cross and Chad Glasgow (safeties coach) to co-defensive coordinators. So it's safe to assume that either Cross or Glasgow would be making those calls, and it makes sense that it would be Cross rather than Glasgow, because Cross was involved with the front six.
OG: Since TCU runs a 4-2-5 and Mizzou will likely be transitioning to a flexible 3-4 defense there are obviously going to be some adjustments. What kind of defensive philosophy does Cross have? Does he have any hallmarks or a "style" he seems to instill into his players?
JP: Well, I'm not sure that I can identify a specific style that's attributable to Cross, simply because of how hands-on Patterson is with the defense, and specifically the linebackers. It does seem like Cross and Patterson were on the same page, though, because of how quickly linebackers have stepped into expanded roles and succeeded over the past few seasons. For the 4-2-5, it's absolutely critical that a linebacker have several things: 1) enough speed to cover almost half the field (especially the flats), 2) enough size to be an major player stopping the run, and 3) the instinctual ability to make a read almost immediately and get to the right spot. I know what you're thinking: every linebacker needs those skills. Yes, but it's especially important in the 4-2-5, because there are, well, only two of them on the field.
At the beginning of this season, TCU had to convert several safeties to linebacker due to injuries, and Cross/Patterson got those guys up to speed very quickly. The progress was noticeable from week to week, and Cross definitely had a big impact on their readiness.
OG: TCU has turned out some excellent linebackers like Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet while also "coaching up" some guys this year due to injuries. How, and to what extent, was Cross involved in their development, to your knowledge?
JP: I'd say it was about 50/50 Cross and Patterson. Do note though that Patterson wasn't heavily involved with the linebackers due to a lack of trust in Cross, he's always been the most involved with the LBs. However, a head coach can only focus so much on one position group, and there's no doubt that Cross was critical to their quick development.
OG: Cross has strong ties to Texas recruiting, which has been a focus for Barry Odom's new staff. What areas were his focus and what were some of his recruiting successes? Do you anticipate any current TCU targets following Cross to Mizzou?
JP: Cross is also a phenomenal recruiter. He'll definitely be able to recruit quality talent to Missouri, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
He recruits mainly on the defensive side of the ball, and does so very well. That being said, I don't anticipate anyone currently committed to TCU following Cross to Mizzou. He was responsible for several big names, including JuCo signee Tyree Horton (No. 1 JuCo OLB according to 247) and Innis Gaines (3-star safety) in TCU's 2016 class, along with several others.
I'd like to thank Jamie Plunkett for taking the time to answer my questions. He's responsible for churning out loads of great stuff about the TCU Horned Frogs as well as contributing to SBN's Dallas Mavericks blog, Mavs Moneyball.
In looking around, I also found this interview with Gary Patterson discussing DeMontie's departure:
Here's a video from earlier this season in which Cross discusses TCU's 2015 defense and in his own words, "how to get myself prepared for my next opportunity"