In the 15 days between now and National Signing Day, we will likely have between six and 10 commitments to discuss (plus, hopefully, the affirmation of existing commitments) and a signing class to react to here and there. But while we wait for that dam to start leaking, I wanted to walk through Barry Odom's offensive coach hires and look at what coaches' previous influences might tell us about Missouri's intentions moving forward.
We'll start at the top. For each coach, we'll look at their places of recent employment and the style that they were perhaps exposed to while they were there.
Josh Heupel, offensive coordinator
- Primary traits: Tempo, balance on standard downs, passing on passing downs. Heupel inherited OU's offense from Kevin Wilson, and for the first couple of seasons, his style matched that of Wilson's. OU moved at mach speed after first downs, attempted about a 50-50 split of rushing and passing on standard downs, and put the game on Landry Jones' shoulders on passing downs. The Sooners threw more than just about anybody in the country on second- and third-and-long, and when Jones' supporting cast was actually supporting him, that worked quite well.
- With turnover up front and at quarterback, OU's style changed over his last couple of years in charge of the offense. Trevor Knight, who's more comfortable in a dual-threat role, took over the starting job in 2013, and Blake "Belldozer" Bell retained a role in short yardage. The passing game struggled, in part because of a lack of consistency at WR, and Knight struggled with both injury and his own inconsistency.
- When asked about lessons he's learned through the years, Heupel has one more than one occasion suggested that he has learned to be true to himself and the style of ball he wants to call. I could be wrong, but I take that to mean some of the changes in 2013-14 were not necessarily of his doing and that, given his preferences, he'd have a Landry Jones type at QB, winging the ball from side to side, perhaps with special short-yardage formations when necessary.
- Drew Lock is very, very much a "Landry Jones type."
Utah State (2015)
- Primary traits: Adaptability. No matter what his preferences may be, he inherited a Utah State offense with dual-threat quarterbacks (Chuckie Keaton and Kent Myers), decent run pieces (JUCO transfer Devante Mays, sophomore LaJuan Hunt, four returning starters on the line), and almost no proven weapons at wide receiver (beyond senior Hunter Sharp).
- In attempt to protect his quarterbacks a bit more, he threw pretty frequently on standard downs and called quite a few runs on passing downs. Despite another Keaton injury, USU's offense improved a bit over its 2014 output, though it was certainly still rather handcuffed compared to what we saw in 2011-12 in Norman.
- In 2016, Heupel will inherit two quarterbacks with starting experience (Maty Mauk and Drew Lock), last year's leading rusher (Ish Witter), and a whole bunch of receivers and tight ends who got reps this fall. He's also inheriting almost no proven entities up front. In theory, "adaptability" in this case could mean quite a bit of quick passing on standard downs. That will put more pressure on receivers to make key blocks while taking pressure off of the guys up front.
Cornell Ford and Andy Hill, running backs and receivers
- Primary traits: Efficiency and adaptability. When Missouri had Danario Alexander and Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers' offense revolved around quick passes to play-makers on the perimeter. When the Tigers were led by T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, they were zone killers, finding holes in coverage over the middle. When they were young or thin at receiver, they attempted to lean more heavily on the run. Attempted efficiency was a hallmark of the Pinkel era, and while they are both changing roles, Ford and Hill have spent the last decade and a half working under the Pinkel umbrella. From an adaptability perspective, they should both find decent common ground with Heupel.
Glen Elarbee, offensive line
Middle Tennessee (2003-05, 2012)
- Primary traits: Tempo, spread, experimentation. In Elarbee's first season as a graduate assistant at alma mater MTSU, the Blue Raiders came to Columbia and nearly upset Mizzou, in part because they had the Tiger defense on a string. They unleashed hell with the kind of "hurry to the line, then look to the sideline for the call" approach that a) kept Mizzou defenders on the field and allowed for continued mismatches and b) became incredibly commonplace in college football in the years that followed.
- Under head coach Rick Stockstill, MTSU has always experimented quite a bit, willing to go pretty far in a given stylistic direction to find matchup advantages. It hasn't always worked, but MTSU has carved out a niche as a decent, competitive squad, going 10-3 in 2009, then winning between six and eight games in five of six seasons since.
- MTSU's offensive coordinator in 2003 was Blake Anderson, now Arkansas State's head coach. He evidently found a kindred spirit in Elarbee.
- Primary traits: Spread influences, adaptability, big play capability. In 2013, Elarbee moved to Houston, as did spread maestro Doug Meacham. (Meacham would move on to TCU in 2014, which led to a major surge by the Horned Frogs and an offensive slump from the Cougars.) The Cougars lost starting quarterback David Piland to early injury and ended up going 8-5 with freshman John O'Korn at the helm. Even with O'Korn behind center, Houston was extremely pass-happy, occasionally struggling with efficiency but making up for it with dam-busting big plays. Each of the top three receives that year had catch rates under 62 percent but averaged more than 14 yards per reception.
- Meachem maintained a lot of this at TCU, only with a more efficient cast of characters.
Arkansas State (2014-15)
- Primary traits: Spread influences, adaptability, tempo. Back under Anderson, Elarbee was named offensive co-coordinator for a run-happy spread offense built around dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten, running back Michael Gordon, and receiver J.D. McKissic. (Missouri fans got to know Gordon and McKissic pretty well in 2013 and 2015.) McKissic was dynamic on screens and short passes, so he saw a ton of them, while Gordon averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2015. Knighten wasn't much of a passer, though he was able to create a rapport with Tres Houston and Dijon Paschal, who took advantage of distracted defenses to the tune of a combined 64 catches for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns. (Houston had two acrobatic touchdowns against Mizzou.)
- The ASU offense under Elarbee was pretty different from that of Houston with O'Korn, but again, it's pretty clear that adapting to your personnel is key for this staff.
Joe Jon Finley, tight ends
- Primary traits: See: Heupel. Finley was a tight end during Kevin Wilson's time at OU, and after spending parts of six years playing in the NFL (plus a year as a high school offensive line coach), he ended up as a graduate assistant for Heupel. He has spread in his blood at this point.
- Primary traits: Adaptability, sppppprrreeeeeeeead. What defines Baylor's attack from others' is the way the Bears truly use the entire field. They spread you from sideline to sideline to best gauge what you are focused on defending and what is available. This is great for quick passes to the perimeter, and it takes pressure off of the line in run-blocking, since there won't be quite as many defenders to push around in a small space. It is the most spread-out of spreads, and if we assume that there is a lot of quick passing in Missouri's near future, any Baylor influence will be a good one, even if it's just one year from the tight ends coach.