Though Barry Odom appointed longtime assistant Andy Hill to be Missouri’s first dedicated special teams coordinator in more than a decade, the Tigers’ coach said his staff is still collectively strategizing how to approach one of college football’s recent rule changes.
In mid-April, the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved new rules for kickoffs that should increase the number of touchbacks. The rule change, aimed at player safety, allows a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard line — rather than just the end zone — that will start a team’s drive at their own 25.
“It’s going to change our game,” Odom said after an athletic department promotional stop in Memphis, a northeast Missouri town near the Iowa border. “Where do you place the ball? Do you kick it off and try to kick it out everytime? You’re probably going to get a touchback anyway, even if you don’t.
“On the kickoff return side, do you want to bring it out thinking you get past the 25 no matter where it is? There’s been a lot of staff discussion on how we’re going to approach that.”
Odom said he is in favor of the rule, as well as any other rule that makes the game safer. Before the 2012 season, the NCAA moved kickoffs up from the 30-yard line to the 35 to induce more kicks sailing out of the endzone for touchbacks. The Playing Rules Oversight Panel also changed the starting field position for a touchback, moving from the 20-yard line to the 25.
Asked if there were any obvious rule changes for the NCAA to make in order to improve player safety, Odom mentioned offensive linemen being too far downfield when quarterbacks decide to throw out of run-pass option plays. A 2015 rule proposal attempted to reduce the distance downfield linemen could be on pass plays from three yards to one, but that received pushback from some prominent coaches whose offenses heavily rely on RPOs, and the Playing Rules Oversight Panel tabled the proposal.
“The No. 1 thing on any level of football is it’s a physical game,” Odom said. “There’s no question about that. But we also need to make the precautions and do the things to make it as safe as we can.”
A 'great situation' for Moore
Odom made sure to text J’Mon Moore after the Green Bay Packers selected the former Missouri receiver with a fourth-round pick. He told Moore he was “proud of him, happy for him, and anything we can do to help, we want to do it.”
Moore, the Tigers’ only draftee this year, is joining a Packers receiving corps that must make up for the loss of veteran receiver Jordy Nelson, who the franchise cut this offseason. Odom thinks Moore is stepping into a “great situation.”
“I hope that he has really, really great success,” Odom said.
During spring practices, Odom said he wanted to play more “multiple” defensively by using a greater variety of defensive fronts. If that effort results in some Tigers showing the ability to play more than one position, that could help their draft stock, Odom said.
“But also, the fundamentals of playing really good defense — that’s what I really want to do,” he said. “If you’re a good enough player, it doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are, they’re going to find you.”
Two Tigers, wide receiver Emanuel Hall and defensive lineman Tre Williams, were injured late in the spring practice period, and Odom said both players’ recoveries are “well ahead of schedule.”
Hall injured his left shoulder after colliding with quarterback Drew Lock and a team spokesman originally said the wide receiver would not be fully recovered until July. Odom said he now expects Hall to have recovered from his injury and “ready to go in June.” Same goes for Williams, who the team has always expected to be healthy by next month.