When Barry Odom became the head football coach of the Missouri Tigers in 2016, he had a tall task ahead of him. Odom had to replace Gary Pinkel who in his 15 years at the school won 118 games which was the most in program history as that included a pair of trips to the Big 12 Championship Game, along with two berths in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
But Odom took over at Missouri knowing a thing or two about the program. Odom played linebacker for the Tigers from 1996-1999, while he spent some time as an assistant coach with the school. However even with that Odom wasn’t the guy that some people associated with the program wanted as he appeared to be more of a “stop gap guy”. And after Odom’s first season at Missouri where the Tigers finished 4-8, those critics wanted him gone, but since then he has shut them up.
2017 would see the Tigers go 7-6 which helped to get some of the critics off of Odom’s back, but this season Mizzou is 8-4 and they are preparing to meet the Oklahoma State Cowboys of the Big 12 Conference in the Liberty Bowl. The Tigers went 4-4 within the Southeastern Conference which does not sound like much, but this is arguably to toughest college football conference in the nation.
Included in Missouri’s Southeastern Conference slate was a dominating 38-17 road win over the Florida Gators which got them rolling to finish out the regular season. The Tigers finished fifth in the SEC East which included winning their last four games, but things could have been so much better for them as a two-point loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks and a one-point loss to the Kentucky Wildcats are all that prevented Missouri from participating in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.
Odom has the luxury of having one of the best quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference playing for him in senior Drew Lock. Lock has been a four-year starter for the Tigers who after setting a SEC single-season passing mark last year with 44 touchdown throws, returned to school and was a second-team All-SEC performer here in 2018 which included him throwing 25 touchdowns. Lock has one of the better arms in college as he definitely has a future ahead of him in the National Football League.
Aside from Lock, Missouri had four other players who were named to either the first or second teams in the Southeastern Conference this year. And included on that list was junior linebacker Cale Garrett who led the team in tackles with 104. Missouri has developed a reputation in the SEC of producing some of the best defenders in the conference which is something that Garrett is adding to as he’ll look to cap off his strong season with a solid performance in the Liberty Bowl.
And for those out there who didn’t immediately warm up to Odom, please remember that Missouri Football is not a traditional powerhouse on the college football scene. The Tigers have not won an outright conference title since 1960 when they were in the now defunct Big 8 Conference. As good as Pinkel was, he didn’t start off strong at Missouri either as the Tigers finished with losing records in each of his first two seasons there, but the rest is history.
It takes some coaches more time than others to establish themselves, but Odom is doing that as Columbia is not a popular destination for the nation’s top high-school football recruits which means that he has to work with, and develop players that the bigger programs overlooked. And with that Missouri must still find a way to compete with powerhouses in the Southeastern Conference such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, and Florida who have better football facilities as well as bigger football budgets.
But as Mizzou has shown that they can hang in the SEC, Odom is the right guy to lead them as the future is bright for both he and the Tigers.