Back SEC Season Preview: Missouri

Back To SEC

SEC Season Preview: Missouri

By Matt Osborne
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page

Missouri could be in for a difficult transition year under first-year head coach Barry Odom.

Head Coach: Barry Odom – first year at Missouri; first year overall

Offensive Coordinator: Josh Heupel (first season)

Defensive Coordinator: DeMontie Cross (first season)

2015 Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

Returning Starters: 11 (5 offense, 6 defense)

2016 Schedule

Sept. 3 – at West Virginia (Noon ET, Fox Sports 1)
Sept. 10 – EASTERN MICHIGAN (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network Alt.)
Sept. 17 – GEORGIA (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

Oct. 1 – at LSU
Oct. 15 – at Florida
Oct. 29 – KENTUCKY

Nov. 5 – at South Carolina
Nov. 19 – at Tennessee
Nov. 25 – ARKANSAS (2:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

What We Know

- The back seven should be okay. Yes, losing star linebacker Kentrell Brothers and his 152(!) tackles is a big blow, but the Tigers do have two third-year starters at linebacker in Michael Scherer and Donavin Newsom. Despite the head coaching change, the defensive transition should be seamless, as Odom was the defensive coordinator last year for a team that allowed more than 21 points in just two games. Missouri could start upperclassmen at all seven positions.

- The receiving corps should bounce back. Last year’s group was incredibly young, as the Tigers had to replace mainstays Jimmie Hunt, Bud Sasser and Eric Waters. No receiver caught 30 passes, no receiver had 400 yards, and no receiver had five touchdowns. That should change this year with juniors J’Mon Moore and Nate Brown (it was announced last week that Brown will be out until October with an ankle injury) back, along with the addition of Alabama transfer Chris Black. Tight ends should have a bigger role this year in the new offense, which is good news for Sean Culkin and Jason Reese.

- It’s Drew Lock’s team. Maty Mauk’s inability to stay out of the doghouse forced Lock into the starting lineup as a true freshman. He played like a true freshman, failing to complete 50 percent of his passes with a 4-to-8 TD-INT ratio. At 6’4” and 221 pounds, Lock has the physical tools to succeed, but also must learn a new offense after the retirement of Gary Pinkel. Despite the challenges he faces as a sophomore, he’s in little to no danger of losing his job.

What We Don’t Know

- Will Odom suffer from Derek Mason Syndrome? When he took over as head coach at Vanderbilt in 2014, Mason assumed a traditional CEO role and was not in full control of the defense. After a 3-9 disaster, that changed, and the Commodores showed immense improvement in 2015 with Mason serving as his own defensive coordinator. Odom is a great defensive mind, but is learning on the job about what he needs to delegate and what he needs to micro-manage. If his fingerprints aren’t all over this defense, even with Cross having the defensive coordinator title, that’s a bad thing for the Tigers.

- Can a competent offensive line be pieced together? The Tigers allowed multiple sacks in all eight SEC games last season, yet have to replace four starters, including two NFL Draft picks. Odom made a well-regarded hire in the young, energetic Glen Elarbee from Arkansas State, whom Odom coached against last season when the Tigers defeated the Red Wolves. Elarbee walks into a difficult situation, with only left guard Nate Crawford a returning starter from 2015. It’s difficult to see this unit not being a liability this season.

- Are Mizzou’s days as D-Line U. over? Missouri had two of the best defensive end duos in the nation in 2013 and 2014 with Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, followed by Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Last year’s unit was snippy as well, but Odom did not retain position coach Craig Kuligowski, now at Miami (FL). To make matters worse, defensive end Walter Brady was dismissed from the team earlier this month, and tackle Harold Brantley was ruled academically ineligible. Charles Harris is an all-conference caliber player at end, and Josh Augusta is an above-average tackle, but it’s hard to see this group being the dominant force that it has been in recent seasons.


RB Alex Ross – The best chance for the Tigers to have a legitimate offensive playmaker is Ross, who arrives from Oklahoma as a graduate transfer. At 225 pounds, Ross is a big back who should be able to hold up in the grind of an SEC schedule. He was pushed aside last year by freshman Joe Mixon as the complement to Sooners star Samaje Perine, but now gets a fresh start with a team that desperately needs offensive help.

Ranking The Units

1.   Defensive Line

2.   Defensive Backs

3.   Offensive Line

4.   Wide Receivers

5.   Linebackers

6.   Running Backs

7.   Quarterbacks

Season Prediction

There’s no doubting the defensive mind of Odom, but can the Tigers maintain their feistiness with Odom now having many more responsibilities? Some offseason attrition and the transition to a new offense will cause some growing pains, as Missouri will miss a bowl game for the third time in five years, sandwiched around its two SEC East titles. A win over Kentucky will be the team’s lone victory in conference play.

Overall Record: 4-8

SEC Record: 1-7

Final CFP Ranking: NR

Bowl: None

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at