While Missouri’s new assistant football coaches got through their first National Signing Day with the program, another recruiting challenge now takes center stage for them.
Earning the respect of their current players.
New linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves and offensive line coach Brad Davis said because they’ve been on the road recruiting since joining coach Barry Odom’s staff, they’ve been unable to fully bond with their current players, which is the priority for them going into spring practices.
“That’s the biggest piece right now for me,” Davis said Wednesday. “It hasn’t gone as fast as I want it to. What I mean by that is I haven’t had a lot of time just being with those guys. My biggest thing right now is recruiting my room. I met with the guys this week and I told them the biggest piece for me right now is to earn their respect and trust. I don’t expect them to give it to me.”
Davis got hired by Odom after spending the previous season at Florida and has also been at FCS power James Madison and East Carolina during his career.
Missouri’s offensive line is historically one of the program’s most close-knit units, holding weekly Christmas music dance sessions under Gary Pinkel known as “Christmas Thursdays.” Under Odom, the linemen have shared a pet fish named Boneyard and have a weekly in-season restaurant schedule.
Davis said he’s quickly picked up on the vibe his players carry and knows he can’t be successful at his job if he can’t get on the same page with them.
“They’ve accomplished some really good things on the football field and so it’s my job to enhance it,” he said. “And the biggest way I can do that is those guys have got to trust me. Believe in me the way I believe in them.”
Hargreaves, who came to Missouri after spending last season at Arkansas, feels the same way with his linebackers and said he already feels that returning starters Brandon Lee, Terez Hall and Cale Garrett all have very high ceilings.
While National Signing Day is a great day for the program’s future, Hargreaves said, his mind has to return to the current roster before spring football starts.
“The guys that are here are the ones we’re gonna go to war with,” Hargreaves said. “We have to develop some type of relationship with them.”
New wide receivers coach A.J. Ofodile said he’s in a bit of a different situation because he’s been around the program the past few years as the recruiting coordinator. He also has a few former players from Columbia Rock Bridge High School in the program, offensive lineman Jonah Dubinski and defensive end Tre Williams, to vouch for him as an on-the-field coach.
“I had the advantage of being here for a couple of years without the pressure of necessarily coaching them,” he said. “It’s a little different for me. But you still have to recruit those guys. I’ve never coached them before. I have a little bit of a head start.”