WVU FOOTBALL ; Tigers in Transition; Missouri Begins Life after Pinkel, Opens Barry Odom Era against West Virginia

By Casazza, Mike | Charleston Gazette Mail, August 30, 2016 | Go to article overview

WVU FOOTBALL ; Tigers in Transition; Missouri Begins Life after Pinkel, Opens Barry Odom Era against West Virginia


Casazza, Mike, Charleston Gazette Mail


Missouri at West virginia When: Noon, Saturday TV: Fox Sports 1 Latest line: West Virginia by 10

INSIDE: WVU two-deep released 2B

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia and Missouri open the 2016 season at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field, and there's bound to be more going on than a notable cross-conference battle and the eventual meeting of teams that could have played for the 2007 national title. "I think the first games of the year, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Monday, "are always guessing games.

Missouri, the 2013 and 2014 champion of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division, has spent much of the past year in transition. The Tigers had issues at quarterback last season, and longtime coach Gary Pinkel announced in November he would retire at the end of his 15th season at the school.

A 5-7 record matched the mark in 2012, one that was followed by back-to-back appearances in the SEC's championship game, and a 1-7 record in the conference was Pinkel's worst in 25 years as a head coach.

His successor waited until Monday to name a starting quarterback, and though the offense had a long look at Drew Lock last year, WVU could still see two players there.

Pinkel's replacement is the team's former defensive coordinator, so there could be some patterns for the Mountaineers to study, but former Missouri linebacker Barry Odom spent just one season in that role. Odom hired DeMontie Cross from TCU and named him defensive coordinator, but Odom also named a co-defensive coordinator, and Ryan Walters followed Odom from Memphis to Missouri.

The Mountaineers are familiar with TCU's defense and all the 4-2- 5 offers, but Memphis was wildly improved when Odom was the coordinator there. Those Tigers ranked No. 117 in total defense in 2011. Odom arrived in 2012, and in his three seasons Memphis ranked Nos. 50, 39 and 22. He was even more successful at Missouri last season.

Given all those potential influences, the Mountaineers are more worried about who the Tigers have than what they'll do.

"They're really, really, really good, Holgorsen said. "Looking at what they were able to accomplish last year, the numbers speak for themselves. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Barry and what he did last year.

The Tigers finished last season No. 9 in total defense, the first time since the NCAA started tracking defensive stats in 1978 that the school had a top-10 defense. Missouri was also No. 2 in tackles for a loss, No. 7 in scoring defense, No. 7 in pass defense and No. 28 in rush defense.

The top tackler in 2015, Kentrell Brothers, was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, but the next five players on the list are back for 2016.

That includes defensive end Charles Harris (56 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, seven sacks), linebackers Michael Scherer (93 tackles, nine tackles for a loss) and Donavin Newsom (63 tackles, nine tackles for a loss), cornerback Aarion Penton (59 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, one interception, eight pass breakups) and safety Anthony Sherrils (64 tackles, four tackles for a loss.)

Theyve got great players, theyre coached extremely well and theyre extremely competitive, Holgorsen said, and I dont anticipate that being any different this year.

Holgorsen is more familiar with the new Missouri offensive coordinator. Josh Heupel spent last season running Utah States offense, but prior to that he was the co-offensive coordinator and play caller at Oklahoma for the final four seasons of his eight years on the staff. …

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