Barry Odom’s debut last season at SEC Media Days as Missouri’s coach, a self-described dream job, was blindsided by the unexpected news that athletic director Mack Rhoades was leaving for Baylor.
Odom was perhaps the only person in the building who knew it was coming, but the timing — a half-hour before he debuted in the main ballroom in front of newspaper scribes from throughout the country — couldn’t have been worse.
“I remember having a meeting the day before with our director of athletics,” Odom said. “After that meeting, I’d gone home and he called me back and said, ‘Hey, we need to talk.’ ”
A confused Odom returned for a second meeting with Rhoades, who told him he was leaving for Baylor.
“I thought we might be able to get through the day last year without that breaking, then I think it broke three minutes before I took the main podium,” Odom said. “It’s crazy how that stuff works.”
Odom enjoyed a far less stressful day during his second appearance Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency-Wynfrey Hotel.
Odom eager to build Battle Line Rivalry
When Arkansas coach Bret Bielema spoke Monday at SEC Media Days, he floated the idea of a high school all-star game pitting players from Missouri against his in-state kids.
Odom is on board, but the idea isn’t a new one.
“Nobody wants to hear it, but Bret and I talked quite a bit,” Odom said. “ … If we could get into a position where there was an all-star game between both states, it would be awesome. But the timing of that, you’d have to look at a different time than normally is out there for the traditional high school all-star games. There’s a lot of different states that do it, but you have to do it early on, in my opinion, like January or February.”
If it would help give legs to the Battle Line Rivalry, which is entering its fourth season with Arkansas and Mizzou as permanent cross-division foes in football, Odom’s all for it.
“There will be some flame-stoking today, so get ready,” Odom said. “That’s why I brought (senior linebacker Eric) Beisel. … Everything that we can do to draw attention to that game, we’ll do our part.”
Before last year’s regular-season finale at Memorial Stadium last season, Beisel suggested it would be a mistake for the Razorbacks to get on the bus and come to Columbia.
The Tigers erased a 24-7 halftime deficit en route to a momentum-giving 28-24 comeback win.
For the fourth straight season, the game will be played on the Friday after Thanksgiving — and Beisel should probably brace for a rather rude reception in Fayetteville, Ark.
Blanton bulks up
If you’re looking for a breakout star for Missouri football this fall, don’t sleep on 6-foot-6 junior tight end and Blue Springs South graduate Kendall Blanton.
Blanton, who made 16 catches for 161 yards with three touchdowns last season, missed a lot of spring practice after ankle surgery.
“But watching him work out the other day, he looks better than he’s ever looked,” Odom said. “He’s almost 270 pounds and running really well.”
Blanton is a physical freak with uncommon athleticism — particularly speed and leaping ability — for his size.
With another year to build rapport with junior quarterback Drew Lock, and now that Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has had a year to study Blanton’s strengths and game plan around them, a monster season could be in store.
Howard remains suspended
There has been no change in junior defensive end Nate Howard’s status with the team after his June 14 arrest and subsequent suspension for drug possession.
“He’s still indefinitely suspended,” Odom said Wednesday when asked about Howard’s status. “We’ll kind of see what is best for Nate on what he can do, but still internally handling it. Indefinitely suspended. We’ll get to it (resolution) sooner rather than later.”
Howard was cited by University of Missouri police for possession of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.
He was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance except 35 grams or less of marijuana/synthetic cannabinoid, a class D felony, and was due Wednesday afternoon in Boone County Court.
Howard issued an apology on Twitter after the incident.
Odom said junior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. is “doing well.”
Beckner, who tore his ACL last season, and the other players returning from surgery are on schedule with their rehab.
“This will be another great story when Terry gets back,” Odom said. “He’s cleared 100 percent and things look to be going really well for him.”
Right now, Missouri expects to enter camp fully healthy.
“It’s been a pretty quiet summer,” Odom said, rapping his knuckles on the table, “and I hate to even say that out loud, because I know what usually happens after I say something like that.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Markell Utsey, who also suffered a late-season torn ACL and was limited during spring practice along with Beckner, also has been cleared by team doctors, according to Odom.
Fatony makes watch list
Junior punter Corey Fatony was among 29 players selected for the Ray Guy Award’s preseason watch list as the nation’s best punter.
Fatony, a Freshman All-American in 2015, averaged 43.8 yards last season, which ranked fifth in the SEC and 20th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with 25 of 66 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.