#Mizzou will begin spring practice March 10 with the Black and Gold game slated for 4 p.m. April 18.— Tod Palmer (@todpalmer) February 3, 2015
So ... March 10 is only 13 days away. Somehow this long, arduous offseason, which began on approximately February 5 (the day after Signing Day) is almost over. WE HAVE SURVIVED.
That spring practice is approaching means that spring previews are beginning to pop up from Mizzou's awesome array of beat writers. They all spoke to Barry Odom earlier this week, and here are some of the things he had to say.
"We will base out of a 4-3 defense," he continued. "Recruiting-wise, that’s what Mizzou has done over the last three, four, five years. That kind of fits more traditionally than to come in, overhaul and say, ‘Hey, we’re changing exclusively to a 3-4.’ That doesn’t make sense to me. Along with that, Mizzou has had really good success the last couple years defensively on running this system and that scheme. I’m not coming in to try and reinvent everything. I’m trying to add to what they’ve done, continue to build it. Whether there’s four defensive linemen on the field or three or eight, it’s our job to put our players in the position of what they do best.
"That’s one of the things I enjoy about coaching the most is to find the skill set, number one, recruiting the guy, find the skill set on what each player does and then build the defense and put them in position to go do that, whatever that skill set is."
Whether the base is a 3-4 or 4-3, I'm pretty excited about the flexibility he's going to find in his front-seven personnel. Big ends who can play tackle, quick tackles who can play end, skinnier ends who could play rush end in a 3-4. It wasn't hard to be intrigued by the thought of a Harold Brantley-Josh Augusta-Terry Beckner Jr. defensive front with someone like Charles Harris lining up with both hands off the ground.
Still, from an analysis standpoint, we probably spend more time thinking about how to define a defense than the actual coaches of the defense are. It's called a "base" defense for a reason. You can stray from it. Most coaches do.
Plus, sometimes how we think of a 4-3 vs. 3-4 really does come down to whether a man is lined up with his hand on the ground or which gap he is charged with controlling or attacking. If you read the Rock M comments sections, you've probably seen Damnatio Memoriae talking about this before. Here's a paragraph he shared again this morning in the Watercooler.
We’re a 1-gap team, and I don’t expect Odom to try to change that, and a 1-gap 3-4 is just a 4-3 Under, with the weakside DE potentially standing up, and maybe dropping into coverage once in a blue moon. We did that some last season anyway, but we also played with nickel personnel more often than we played with true 4-3 personnel. Singleton played 594 snaps at NB compared to Newsom’s 204 at SLB. So the more interesting question, to me at least, is what we do when we go to our nickel package. Almost all 4-3 teams generally pull their SLB in favor of the NB, but 3-4 teams can go one of two directions: Most pull their NG, slide their "DEs" down to DT and have their OLBs put their hands down and become the DEs they kind of were already to give a 4-2-5 look, but a few pull an ILB to give a 3-3-5 look, and continue to use one or the other OLB to mix up where the 4th pass rusher comes from.
We saw Steckel do creative things with pressure on 3rd downs, blitzing safeties, corner blitzes, etc, but they played very solid base defense and relied heavily on the defensive line to do what it does and win games that way.
The subtle changes might come in certain situational coverages, tackling in the secondary and perhaps actually playing a 4-3 with linebackers instead of a safety/linebacker hybrid. Perhaps more/less reliance on stunts by the defensive line and a corresponding change in how the linebackers attack the run and how they cover the underneath and wide zones.
Odom is a creative, aggressive guy. I've written this before, but considering the turnover taking place at the defensive end position, if Mizzou had to lose Dave Steckel to another job, now wasn't the worst time to lose him. Odom will bring some creative ideas to the table.
Meanwhile, the other main story line concerning Odom is ... Odom! He's back! And again, if you had to lose Stec, now was probably a pretty good time.
On coming back to Missouri...
"I never would let my mind go there. I knew that I wanted to go make Memphis the best place it could be. If we did that, took care of our business, if it was the right opportunity -- wherever it might be -- it would come up. Even when I learned this job was about to come open, I still wouldn’t really let myself go there, just because -- for me -- I think it wouldn’t be wise. I try to take all the emotion out of it, all the history I have with this place, I try to take all that out of it and make it solely based on the opportunity, who am I going to go work for, is the platform there and the opportunity there to go be successful? If I made emotional decisions on this stuff, I’d be a mess. I can’t do that. I try to keep my head down, roll my sleeves up, go to work. If things happen the way they still happen, that’s what it’s supposed to be."
"About Week 8 or 9 this past season, I had a pretty good idea that I was probably going to be in the position to have the opportunities to make a decision. Missouri was not in that equation at that time. I had been through some initial interviews and had some job offers at that time. Coach Pinkel and kept in touch since I left. I used his knowledge a lot in building the program at Memphis. It wasn’t like it was out of left field that he called me, but it was out of left field to me that Stec was actually maybe going to go take a job. When that call happened, he just said, ‘Gauging your interest. Would you be interested in the job?’ I said, ‘Yes I am," because of the respect I have for him, the program and this place. Then we got together, visited, had a couple other things that were going as well, but I just wanted to make sure it was the right fit, wherever I ended up."
Odom left to prove himself as a defensive coordinator, and now he comes back to Columbia proven. It nearly cost Mizzou Craig Kuligowski, and it probably will at some point, but Gary Pinkel probably weighed that at the time and determined that this was the best option. That should tell you what he thinks about Odom. Can't wait to see what he does with this group.
Oh, and David Morrison's spring position previews have already begun. College football has the longest, shortest offseason.