A funny thing happens in June. During this time of year, college football coaches and players all say they are pleased with the work ethic their teams are showing. So it was to be expected that multiple Missouri Tigers referenced some version of accountability and cohesion on Wednesday, after a workout session.
Coach Barry Odom is happy with his staff harmony as he enters Year Three. Senior linebacker Terez Hall, one of Mizzou’s most outspoken players, believes he is able to stand down and let others be leaders, too. And quarterback Drew Lock says players-only passing sessions this season are far more “crisp” than they were three years ago.
Maybe this will all prove insignificant in the fall. But the Tigers might have real reasons to feel that their offseason preparation is better this summer than it has been in the past under Odom, because this summer many of MU’s best players are also senior leaders, including Lock, Hall, and defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr.
“You’re never comfortable. You never sit back and think you got it,” Odom said. “But those guys, you listen to them talk, you’re around them, the message is very clear, very direct. We’re moving in the right direction.”
NCAA rules permit coaches to work directly with players for eight hours per week during the summer. Odom has opted to devote about six of those hours to strength and conditioning work. The Tigers normally spend their remaining available time in meetings.
After that, Odom trusts that he has the right seniors in place to lead players-only workouts. Coaches can’t be around when players are using a ball.
“We can lean on that a little with this group because we’ve got so many experienced guys,” Odom said. “They know the expectation.”
Lock said starters pair with young players during players-only workouts, so the newcomers can learn quickly. And before offensive meetings, the quarterback has started to make receivers tell everyone else what their jobs are, so that they can "verbalize what they need to do on every single play."
"It’s just smooth out there,” Lock said. “It’s been awesome.”
Transfer standing out
One of Lock’s new receivers has made an early impression on him. The rising senior quarterback called Alex Ofodile, a grad transfer from Oregon, “a freak.”
Ofodile — who is originally from Columbia and whose father, A.J., is Mizzou’s wide receivers coach — has not officially joined team workouts yet, so Odom said he had not seen him. But the 6-foot-2 wideout is already participating in players-only sessions.
“He’s really long, has a lot of ability when the ball’s not in his frame to reach out and get it, which is huge,” Lock said. “I think he’s a deer when he runs. He’s got really long strides. He doesn’t look freaky fast, but he’s gaining ground on defenders. I think he’ll help us out a lot.”
Ofodile is one of two grad transfers from Oregon who will play for Mizzou in the fall. Safety Khalil Oliver is the other, and he will join the team in July.
Two key Tigers still recovering
Rising senior wideout Emanuel Hall, who was not available to speak to reporters on Wednesday, is still recovering from a left shoulder injury he suffered during spring practices. He has begun catching passes but is not participating in 7-on-7 sessions, according to Lock.
Defensive end Tre Williams, who also suffered a shoulder injury in the spring, said he has begun lifting weights again but has not received clearance for all activities yet.
“I’m feeling fine,” said Williams, who made four tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman this past season. “Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I have to do a little bit of yoga before I go. Give myself a little bit of love.”
There’s no timeline for when Williams will receive clearance for all activities.
“Whenever my shoulder starts talking to me and is like, ‘Hey, I’m good,’” Williams said.
Heisman campaign starting soon
Lock, who opted to return to MU for his senior season rather than jump to the NFL, is one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, and Mizzou plans to tout him as such. A team spokesperson said the athletic department plans to begin promoting Lock as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy soon.
The quarterback didn't indulge in any self-promotion on Wednesday, though.
“I just go about my business the same way that I have,” Lock said. “... We have a lot of stuff to get done this summer for that to be something we even worry about.”