Odom, a 1999 graduate who still ranks seventh on the Tigers’ all-time list for tackles, has devoted most of professional life to his alma mater’s football program.
He worked 10 seasons on former coach Gary Pinkel’s staff, and Odom considered it a dream come true when he was tapped as Pinkel’s successor.
There were nightmarish moments for Odom during his inaugural season as Mizzou’s coach, including Georgia snatching away a victory in the conference-opener and a defensive meltdown at Tennessee.
Nonetheless, Odom was upbeat about the program’s future Monday in his first meeting with reporters since wrapping up a 4-8 season with a comeback win against Arkansas on Nov. 25.
He remains disappointed the Tigers missed out on a bowl game for the second straight season, a first for the program since 2001-02, but is determined to restore Memorial Stadium’s roar.
“Believe me, I know how many are in the seats and out of the seats,” Odom said. “I see it, and I understand that’s part of my job. Everybody wants a winner, and if we do our part on and off the field, I know the people of Missouri will follow us with great support.”
Odom doesn’t plan to make any staff changes, other than hiring his third defensive line coach in 11 months after Jackie Shipp was fired a few days before Thanksgiving.
“I’m hopeful that the eight (assistant coaches) that we have right now will all be back next season,” Odom said. “ … It hasn’t always been perfect this year, but I do like the makeup of our staff. They’re all competitive guys that want Mizzou to be great. They’re good leaders and mentors for kids.”
Still, Odom acknowledged there’s room for his staff to grow.
Odom was hired primarily for his defensive acumen after three successful seasons at Memphis (2012-14) and a dominant season with Mizzou during Pinkel’s final season in 2015.
That made the Tigers’ inability to stop the run — Odom’s defense finished 112th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing 232.8 yards per game — especially troubling.
Odom stripped defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross of play-calling duties at midseason and basically junked the read-and-react scheme Mizzou installed during the offseason, reverting to principles and terminology from the previous season.
Expect the Tigers to continue in that vein.
“We’ve got to build both sides of the ball on what our kids can do best,” Odom said. “ … We’ll be more of a mix of odd and even fronts — like we were the last couple of weeks of the season, more trying to get up the field.”
Some principles from the read-and-react system might persist, but it will be closer to the defense Odom succeeded with in 2015 based on those comments.
“We had success at some points during the season (with read-and-react), but we weren’t able to do it consistently enough,” Odom said. “ … It wasn’t always 11 guys doing it together … (but) I’m excited about having the chance to mold that defense into what we think it can be.”
Odom said he will continue to call the defense next season, but input from Cross, safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Walters and cornerbacks coach Greg Brown will remain crucial.
“Throughout the course of the week, we build the defense together, and, throughout the course of the game, I’m not making every call,” Odom said. “There’s constant communication going on with Ryan and DeMontie and Greg. … We ended up working pretty well together, so I’m excited about that moving into the offseason and the spring and into fall camp in the season.”
Odom hopes to hire Shipp’s replacement soon, but his priority at the moment is recruiting.
Odom also addressed the dismissal of sophomore wide receiver Keyon Dilosa, who was dismissed last week after he was arrested for punching his girlfriend in the face outside a Columbia bar.
“There’s a few things in our program that there’s no gray area, and that’s one of them,” Odom said. “ … Our guys know. We’ve had speakers come in and talk about all societal issues, and that was one of them. As a program, we’ve got to stand for certain things.”