Barry Odom is preparing for a critical third season as Missouri’s football coach, and his boss, athletic director Jim Sterk, is ready to see the Tigers put up a strong showing against a difficult schedule, which includes defending national champion Alabama.
“I don’t see anybody on the schedule that we can’t compete with, or that we can’t score with,” Sterk said earlier this week at a fundraiser in St. Louis. “It’ll be fun to see the SEC touchdown leader return and have a lot of his linemen up front return.”
That touchdown leader would be MU quarterback Drew Lock, who likes the same Columbia Italian joint as Sterk. During a meeting with a couple of reporters at the fundraiser, the athletic director shared his go-to pasta order, his thoughts on the hiring of offensive coordinator Derek Dooley and his inspiration behind one of the under-construction south end zone complex’s coolest features.
Here’s the question and answer session, edited for brevity and clarity:
What are realistic expectations for next season’s football team? You look at the offense and it’s got a lot. There’s an unknown element with Dooley. But then you’ve got Barry’s defense, which is set up under him now and pretty consistent there.
You saw the shifting and the transformation of the team last year. I think the culture of the team developed. Yeah, they went through some losses early, but the coaches didn’t lose them. They had confidence. They played together. They played for each other. Those are all good things that are good indicators of how healthy the program is. I think that they can build on that.
Obviously, offensively, they have a lot of people coming back. Defensively, they know what’s expected of them, and so I’m excited about it. I don’t see anybody on the schedule that we can’t compete with, or that we can’t score.
It’ll be fun to see the SEC touchdown leader return and have a lot of his linemen up front return. I’ve seen him feeding his linemen at certain restaurants in town, so I know he’s taking good care of those big guys who protect him up front.
Where do you see Drew Lock with his linemen? Where have you spotted them?
Babbo’s, that Italian place. Of course, they’re eating pasta. He’s feeding them. It was during the season.
They were probably putting down a serious amount of pasta.
Oh, yeah. That’s why I go there, too. The spaghetti and meatballs, I highly recommend. They’re the biggest meatballs you’ve ever had.
What’s it like for you as an athletic director to watch a guy like Drew Lock? Rarely do you have a guy who has the potential to be one of the faces of college football playing at your school.
I’ve been blessed to be at some places with some good people basketball-wise and football-wise. It was fun to see Rashaad Penny picked in the first round of the most recent NFL Draft — a running back I saw as a freshman at San Diego State. You see them develop.
Drew was thrown into the fire early, but they needed him. Every year he’s gotten better. I’m really excited, like the fans should be. Really excited to see great football this fall. And we won’t have to rely on his passing game. We have some great runners and the line to block for him. We’ve got great receivers coming back. It’ll be fun.
When Barry tells you, ‘I want to go hire Derek Dooley,’ is there any pause on your end to say, ‘Hey, this guy hasn’t called plays in the past?’ What’s your level of conversation? And where did you sit on the hire?
Anyone who has been a head coach has made decisions on plays and situations. I think that’s the biggest thing he brings to the table. I think that experience is second to none — being a head coach in the SEC. When I was athletic director at Washington State, Mike Price was the head coach. His offensive coordinator was on the headsets, but Price called the plays. The head coach makes the ultimate decision. So it didn’t concern me too much that Dooley has never been an offensive coordinator, because head coaches are in every key decision that’s made.
In your experience, what benefit can it be for a head coach to have a former head coach on his staff?
Barry welcomed it. I think that shows maturity, that you’re not intimidated by bringing somebody in that’s been a head coach before, and he felt hiring Derek Dooley could really help. They really connected in a positive way, and Barry kept me informed about it. I’m excited it worked out.
Barry has said he has a better team now than he did at any point last season. Do you sense that confidence in him?
I think he’s excited about the upcoming season. I think that’s probably a good indicator of how things sit. They’re probably further along because of some of those changes he made in the program last season. They had some unknowns maybe going into this past season. I think he has less unknowns on the personnel side than he had a year ago. I think that’s why he feels confident where he is now.
You all recently released a video that revealed more of the plans for the south end zone complex. One cool thing is players walking past fans in a special club/suite section on their way to the field. What was the inspiration behind that? I know some pro stadiums do that.
I think it probably started with the soccer and how close fans are to the players. When I was at San Diego State, we were studying how to make stadiums more intimate.
That opportunity to have the backside of the house be our operations, so that players could go through the premium seating area on the way to the field is really neat. It gives a closeness that you don’t get otherwise. That’s what we were trying to do with this building. The premium seating opportunities are things that fans don’t get normally, or currently in the stadium. I think it’ll be fun. It really looks pretty neat.