To say that the last year has been tumultuous for the University of Missouri would be a severe understatement. The 2015 Missouri Tigers struggled both on and off the field which seemed to begin a peristaltic chain reaction of negativity that included Gary Pinkel, the school’s winningest head football coach of time, retiring due to a battle with Non Hodgkins lymphoma.
On September 3rd, the Barry Odom era will officially commence at Mizzou and the rookie head coach will be carrying the weight of the hopes of Mizzou fans everywhere, many of whom are in search of anything positive to turn the year of misfortune around. Odom was hired back in December and many believe that he is a rising star in the coaching industry based off the success his defenses had at Memphis from 2012-2014 and back at Mizzou in 2015.
Unfortunately, as good as the Tiger defense was a season ago, the offense was equally as bad finishing 127th in total offense of out 128. Quarterback Drew Lock should be in a much better position to success this year despite huge question marks on the offensive line. He was given a true baptism by fire last year as a true freshman and understandably struggled in SEC play. New offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was a tremendous addition to Odom’s staff and should add a lot of creativity to an offense that was so void of it a year ago. Mizzou also got a huge boost with the additions of wide receiver Chris Black, a transfer from Alabama and running back Alex Ross from Oklahoma, both figure to be integral cogs in offense this season.
The offensive newcomers should help tremendously, but the Tigers will still need to see others step up at the receiver and running back positions. Juniors Nate Brown and J’Mon Moore have yet to live up to the hype, although should improve with a steady quarterback at the helm. The team desperately needs someone like an Emmanuel Hall, Justin Smith, Richaud Floyd or Raymond Wingo to develop and become a viable weapon in a hurry.
An improved staff. No one can deny the wonderful things that Gary Pinkel did for Missouri football. He was able to attain unprecedented success at a school that had very little history before he arrived. That said, the current staff at Mizzou appears very hungry for success and the additions of offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, it is clear that Barry Odom is surrounding himself with with talented coaches which should pay dividends immediately.
A talented returning quarterback. Drew Lock was one of the nation’s most coveted quarterback recruits back in 2014 and despite a shaky true-freshman campaign, Lock certainly possesses all the necessary tools to become a wildly successful QB at the division 1 level.
Defense wins championships. Should Missouri improve even marginally on offense, it is very likely that the star-studded defense will put the team in a position to win more games that not this season.
Causes For Concern
Inexperienced head coach. It may seem like a cop-out to list coaching staff as a reason for hope and Barry Odom as a cause for concern, however it is worth noting that he is a first time head coach in the greatest football conference in America. It will be interested to see how Odom and his staff develop during their first season together and how they fair as recruiters as well. Early returns have been positive.
Schedule. The season opens September 3rd with a very tough trip to West Virginia, a game the Tigers have already found themselves double-digit underdogs in. Find a way to win that game and the entire course of the season could change and this could be a 7-8 win team. A loss puts them behind the 8-ball so to speak and with a tough slate of SEC games including trips to LSU, Florida and Tennessee, it is going to be important to win some of the toss-up games that exist on the schedule (like Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South Carolina).
Offensive question marks. It would be nearly impossible for this offense to get any worse than it was a year ago, but getting it back to respectable could be a challenge with questions at offensive line and receiver. It will be interested to see if coach Heupel is able to find an identity for this offense early on, and with several viable running backs in the stable, don’t be surprised to see a run-heavy attack complete with some creative wrinkles to the passing game.
Record- (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
4th place SEC East
Bowl Game- Birmingham Bowl
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