Missouri football coach Barry Odom didn’t hold back Friday when introducing Derek Dooley, his new offensive coordinator.
Odom, who despite a six-game win streak and bowl berth still has doubters, hired Dooley to run the offense despite the former Tennessee coach never serving as a coordinator or quarterbacks coach.
“He’s got something to prove,” Odom said. “So do I.”
During his 22-year career, Dooley said there were multiple times when he was hired to a new position for the first time. He said he welcomes the challenge ahead replacing Josh Heupel, who was hired as Central Florida’s head coach in December.
Dooley inherits an offense that will return 10 starters, including quarterback Drew Lock, who led the nation in touchdown passes last season with 44, which also set program and SEC records. Lock, from Lee’s Summit, announced Tuesday that he will return for his senior season instead of declaring for the NFL Draft. Dooley said he’s watched some film from last season but hasn’t been able to fully learn about Missouri’s returning players.
Under Heupel, Missouri ran a air raid-spread hybrid system that ranked No. 8 in total offense and No. 14 in scoring and passing offense last season. At Tennessee, Dooley said he ran a pro-style offense but added tempo to pro formations when he thought the offense needed to be tweaked in his third season.
He expects Missouri’s offense next season to be a hybrid.
“Pro-style basically means you run everything, I guess,” he said. “I don’t even know what pro-style means anymore. We incorporated tempo into a pro-style system. I think there will be elements of the pro-style and elements of the college tempo and spread it.”
A lot of Missouri’s offensive starters were recruited to play in Gary Pinkel’s spread offense, which shouldn’t make a transition to Dooley’s system too much of an adjustment.
In Heupel’s offense, Lock had sequences in which he only had to read half the field before making a throw. Multiple receivers didn’t run routes on some play calls. The system made it easier for Lock to have success but also wasn’t realistic for what he’ll see in the NFL.
Dooley said the challenge for next season is to develop Lock for the pros while staying within the offensive system he and Odom want to run.
“Obviously what we’re going to do systematically is probably going to be a little bit more oriented to what he’ll get in the NFL,” Dooley said. “What pace any quarterback can go is how much you give him. He plays with a lot of freedom. We don’t want to take that away. But he’ll probably a little more on him mentally than what he’s used to.”
Odom and Dooley were Missouri’s only two coaches in town on Friday as the rest of the staff was on the road recruiting. Dooley said he plans to join them in the near future even though Missouri only has a handful of offensive players currently on the program’s radar, with most of them being running backs.
With Lock returning, Missouri could still add a quarterback to its class as the Tigers have an offer out to East Mississippi Community College’s Lindsey Scott Jr., a former LSU commit.
Aside from Lock, Missouri will return running backs Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III, tight ends Kendall Blanton and Albert Okwuegbunam and wide receiver Emanuel Hall, which gives Dooley a full cupboard for his first year on the job.
Dooley is well aware of the comments about his tenure at Tennessee, which ended with only one bowl game, and his lack of experience at the position but said he hasn’t been the same person since Odom told him he got the job. In short, he’s ready to get started.
“It’s a huge job,” he said. “It’s a giant responsibility. There’s a lot of people depending on me to do a good job, starting with Coach Odom. I haven’t slept the same since I took the job. Most people probably wouldn’t like that. It stimulates me. It kind of brings me back a little bit.”