Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

BenFred: Firepower of Mizzou's Offense Hinges on Odom's Hiring Power

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

BenFred: Firepower of Mizzou's Offense Hinges on Odom's Hiring Power

Article excerpt

Barry Odom might get a chance to catch his breath, eventually.

He just can't plan on the opportunity arriving soon.

Preparing his Missouri football team for its bowl reunion with old Big 12 nemesis Texas used to be the biggest item on Odom's to-do list.

After that came making up ground on the recruiting trail, ironing out a modest and deserved contract extension, and naming a defensive coordinator who could take some work off Odom's plate.

Then Central Florida called Josh Heupel.

Time to rewrite that to-do list.

Suddenly the Tigers' quest for their first bowl win since 2014 seems like a secondary concern. As of Wednesday, Mizzou could not say with certainty who will call plays in the Texas Bowl. Odom's most pressing priority is determining who calls them next season.

The importance of this hire cannot be overstated.

Hiring has become nearly as important as recruiting and coaching. The continuity that defined former Tigers coach Gary Pinkel's staff was rare during Pinkel's time. It has become only more scarce since. So far, Odom is 1-1 on his coordinator hires.

He whiffed on defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, then held on too long before correcting the mistake.

He made a smart choice with Heupel. The former Heisman finalist's up-tempo spread attack blended staples of Mike Leach's Air Raid with Art Briles' spread. After some growing pains, it clicked. The Tigers finished this season ranked 10th in points per game (39.3) and averaged a whopping 51.3 points a game during a season-defining, six-game winning streak. Heupel's body of work persuaded UCF to pay him $1.7 million a year. That's within a Hail Mary of Odom's $2.35 million salary.

Odom's background probably means he will always be, more or less, Mizzou's defensive coordinator. That's his baby. Athletics director Jim Sterk has said he would like Odom to hire a defensive coordinator to fill the hole Cross' firing created. But when that hire or promotion is announced, there will be no question about who is ultimately in charge of the defense.

The exact opposite is true on offense.

That's what makes this such a crucial call.

It's also part of what should make the opening so intriguing to candidates.

Heupel made $700,000 a year and had close to complete autonomy. Odom made suggestions and signed off on certain decisions, but this was the Heupel show. Just as it will be for the next guy. That sells. So does a stacked roster. Even if All-SEC quarterback Drew Lock declares for the NFL draft, the Tigers should return the bulk of a respectable offensive line, all but one (J'Mon Moore) of their most prolific pass-catchers and tailbacks Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree.

Internal candidates like associate head coach Andy Hill (experience) and tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley (potential) should be considered, but Odom would be wise to use Heupel's departure as an opportunity to strengthen his staff from the outside. …

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