Mizzou chat with Dave Matter

Bring your questions and comments about Tigers football and basketball, and talk to Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Thursday.

  • Greetings, chatters. So much to discuss today. Let's get to it.
  • Before we begin, make sure you've listened to this week's Eye on the Tigers podcast. We talk about Mizzou's loss to Purdue, preview Saturday's Auburn game and Ben Fred chats with MU AD Jim Sterk.

    Eye on the Tigers podcast: Auburn (and Mizzou AD Jim Sterk) come to town

    Post-Dispatch Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter and sports columnist Ben Frederickson break down the mostly-absent offense that has plagued Mizzou in back-to-back losses and preview Saturday night's showdown with Auburn.
  • Good morning! How many more games of a 1/3 full stadium is Sterk going to put up with before something changes? I hoped Odom would work out, but I'm becoming more skeptical with each loss.
  • I think Sterk made it pretty clear during yesterday's podcast that he doesn't believe in midseason coaching changes. That's not his style. That doesn't rule out a change after the season, and obviously the fan support will factor into any decision if the season continues to spiral. Fan support was something Sterk mentioned when he made the move to fire Kim Anderson.
  • How many losses will it take for Mizzou to part ways with Barry Odom. I have attended the last 2 games and it was very disappointing. We seem to be going in the wrong direction. Lots of Talent but lack of direction and planning.
  • I say this all the time, but ADs are more nuanced than making these decisions based on absolutes. Context is always important. What if MU finishes 5-7 with a home win over Florida or Tennessee and an OT loss at Georgia? That's different than 5-7 or 4-8 with 30-point losses to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Auburn. The decision will come down to whether Odom's body of work indicates he's the right person to make Mizzou a winning program again.
  • Who are a couple of mid-major coaches that we should keep an eye on as a potential replacement if things continue to go badly for the football team?
  • I'm not doing a coaching hot board three games into the season. I fully recognize that Odom is under tremendous pressure to get this turned around, and the early returns are really bad, but I'm not speculating on candidates 15 into the guy's time on the job.
  • It seems like Sterk will ride with Odom through the season, regardless of record (unless it just gets so out of hand he is forced to do something). You have covered coaching searches before T Mizzou, most recently the Martin hiring when it was obvious Anderson was not going to work. What work does the Athletic Department do during the season to identify realistic possible candidates if they decide to go in another direction? Will the early signing period have any impact on Sterk and the department in your opinion?
  • ADs do their due diligence, but they're careful not to talk too much so that it gets back their head coach, especially three games into the season.
  • I personally think the players' meeting was a good idea even though I have read and criticism of it being just 'more talk'. I am hoping it translates into better results on the field. My question is about Drew Lock. Could you assess his leadership abilities? I was surprised to not see or hear much from him after last week's game, but maybe that is a good thing? I have to assume he is well aware of the things he needs to improve on for us to have any hope of winning another football game.
  • Lock talked to reporters after the game and was pretty candid about his play and his disappointment with the offense. He didn't talk to reporters after Tuesday's practice for reasons Mizzou's media relations staffers didn't explain. Either way, I don't define player leadership as talking to reporters after bad games. It's nice to see some accountability and hear their thoughts on the performance, but that doesn't really do anything to help or lead their team. Player leadership takes place on the field during games and behind the scenes when nobody's watching. Players praised Lock for the way he carries himself like a professional around the building and his work ethic on the practice fields and the meeting room. Ultimately he'll be measured by how he plays on the field and whether he can lead Mizzou to wins.
  • Dave - How long can Mizzou live with what appears to be an evolving decline in the football program from the Pinkel days without looking for a new coach?
  • That's Jim Sterk's question to answer. He'll need a full body of work this season to make that call. Obviously the way Mizzou has played this season doesn't indicate things are trending up. If they're completely outplayed in every phase week after week, then I'm not sure it's a very hard decision to make.
  • Your thoughts on Coach Odom's comments that the defensive game plans might have been too complicated? We know they changed the scheme for start of last year but then switched back and have been running more of the "old scheme" this year. Is that a sign that the schemes/coverages this year are much different than what he ran as DC under GP? Or more a sign that the defensive players' youth/inexperience/talent levels means need to simplify even more?
  • Hard to say. I asked him point blank Monday if this defense has an identity. Are there things this defense does well that he can lean on for now. His answer: "We’re getting there. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but we are getting there. there are things I feel better about. We’re far from where we want to be, but I’m getting more of an understanding on some of our calls and what our guys do better than I thought they were and then things I thought we’d be further ahead at this point that we’re not. We’ve go to find a  way to get it fixed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice. … To a fault I’ve probably done a little too much defensively with the volume of calls. I don’t know if that’s the greatest thing for this current team. (Maybe we should) simplify it a little bit and do what we’ve shown and can do and hang our hat on that."
    That tells me he's trying some things in terms of blitzes and coverages and packages that aren't clicking with the players. Maybe that's just some natural second-guessing. I asked secondary coach Ryan Walters is the defensive calls are too much for this defense to absorb. He somewhat agreed: "There’s merit to simplifying things, but you also want to have answers. If game time comes and your simple stuff ain’t working, you need answers. I just think we’ve got to be smart as a staff in what they can handle and what they can’t from week to week. At the same time you have to do a good job of teaching so they can be prepared so as players they take ownership as well. I think they have. They’ve owned up and accepting and looked in the mirror and moved forward."
  • Dave, do you think that the reduction of full contact drills and focus on avoiding injuries in the preseason camps has had a negative effect on the defense? I am trying to figure out how such gifted athletes are struggling with fundamentals.
  • Nobody really tackles in camp anymore outside of scrimmages - and not everybody is playing terrible defenses on Saturdays. I'd quibble with the word "gifted." I'm not sure there's a sure-fire NFL player on this defense, outside of Terry Beckner Jr., and I'm not convinced he's a high-round prospect in 2018 or 2019. The strong Mizzou defenses in the last five years have had NFL players. Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Kentrell Brothers. Charles Harris. I'm not sure I can even name the three best players on this defense.
  • I was high on the MU football team before the season. they seem to have improved the size of the players on the roster on paper. The problem is the larger players don't play with the "want" that the former players had. I also don't feel like Lock has the "it" factor. A competitive QB of a power 5 should be able to improvise or scramble occasionally for drive saving 1st downs. "Arm talent" makes for good talk but he needs more than that to have a winning record. Do you think Drew will be the QB with the most loses in a career? Right or wrong the qb position seems to get the W like pitchers in baseball.
  • I agree on Lock. If the pocket breaks down, he can get out of trouble well enough to throw the ball out of bounds, but he can't freelance and make something out of nothing. It's just not part of his game yet. Maybe it never will be. I haven't looked up the record for career losses, but he's 7-16 as a starter in his career. Not good.
  • Dave - With Locke, Moore, Crockett and a solid offensive line, shouldn't this team be scoring more points?
  • Do you think last week's debacle was a hangover of or in any way related to the DC firing? Loss of focus because of? Seems like odd timing.
  • No. Cross didn't coach the offense and the offense was horrible. One field goal in 13 possessions. No drives over six yards. Only two possessions with multiple first downs. The defense gave up three long scoring drives to begin the game, and I thought the players would have had more fire considering I don't think any of them were upset to see Cross go. They insisted they had a strong week of practice after he was fired. For reasons no one can explain, it doesn't translate to Saturdays.
  • What are the prospects of Missouri getting a DC like Brent Venables, Jeremy Pruitt, or Bud Foster?
  • Why would they leave their current jobs to be the DC at Missouri?
  • Do you think Locke with be the starter the remainder of the season?
  • There's no indication they're considering someone else. They don't even have a clear No. 2.
  • Did the issues the offense is experiencing now lead to Heupel being run out of town at Oklahoma? Although the statistics looked gaudy last year in some games, I haven't seen anything from Heupel at Mizzou that calls for him to be head-coaching material. Also if Lock continues on this path, it looks like he'll be back for his senior year. He'll have to show more than a strong arm to get drafted.
  • Oklahoma fans grew tired of Heupel's offense because it was good enough to win Big 12 championships but not a national championship. (Must be a nice problem to have.) But he was fired because his last name wasn't Stoops. Oklahoma's defense dropped off considerably in 2014, but Bob Stoops wasn't going to fire Mike Stoops. Heupel's offense fell flat in their bowl game loss to Clemson and he became the fall guy. At least that's one perspective. Heupel's offense has put up a lot of empty yards at Mizzou and proven to struggle against elite defenses, though I'm surprised how bad they've looked this year considering how well the offense began to play late last season. People want to write off those wins over Vandy and Arkansas, but those were bowl teams that had better seasons than Mizzou by most measures. The offense was more than effective in those games. Not so much the last two weeks.
  • Dave,

    What did I watch Saturday? Can't tackle, can't lineup correctly on offense(4 PENALTIES ?!), can't catch, can't run routes, can't get open, can't cover anyone, can't stay in their gaps, can't even get enough testicular fortitude to hold on to the football! This is the worst coached team I have ever witnessed. If you don't have the right personnel for your system Barry, ADAPT! Heupel made no adjustments in the game either. I feel like I'm watching coaches in training in the SEC. I guess I have to put a question in here so here it is. The most emotion and care this team ever showed was the beginning of that USC game after they missed the FG, Odom nearly jumped onto the field out of excitement, what has happened to that? One loss and they folded like a cheap tent? Can Barry just not motivate his players?
  • It's a fair question. I believe players genuinely like playing for Odom, but there's a disconnect somewhere between wanting to play hard for him and not playing well for him.
  • Will J'Mon avoid signature drops this week?
  • I don't think he dropped a pass last week, technically. He just let the DB literally wrestle the ball out of his hands. But that was worse than a drop. Lock didn't deserve for that to be considered an INT, but that's how it works.
  • What are your thoughts on why some of the backup OLmen picked up more snaps last week? Blip in radar due to how that game went or possibly related to play consistency or injury? Durant played more than Howell, which seemed surprising given Howell's play last season. Pendleton now listed as -OR- with Ploudre. Castillo and Simms getting lots of snaps, which is hopefully a good signal about how they're playing.
  • Pendleton is hurt, or at least in some pain. I know Odom said he's fine, but he's been limping badly on one ankle for two weeks. Watch him after a play. He could barely get up during the South Carolina game. I don't know about Howell. I know the staff really likes Durant. If he's grading out close to Howell, I don't see the harm in splitting snaps. OL coach Glen Elarbee said during camp - and I'm paraphrasing - "The teams we play will rotate their defensive linemen the entire game. There's no rule that says we can't do the same to keep our guys fresh."
  • Also Dave, is it true Aubrey Miller broke his leg today?
  • Yes, I haven't gotten it up on the website yet, but Miller, a freshman linebacker who plays on special teams, broke his left fibula yesterday in practice. He'll be out 4 to 6 weeks.
  • What are the NCAA rules regarding number of assistant coaches? With Cross out, can Mizzou hire a replacement in-season? I know we can't get a full-time assistant at this late time, but I thought, maybe, we could add a graduate assistant or something to help out. Is that possible?
  • Yes, you can have nine full-time on-field assistant coaches who can recruit on the road. But when you're already paying Cross $600K not to coach, that doesn't leave much wiggle room to go out and hire someone new in the middle of the season - or at least anyone who's worth paying. There's not enough time in the middle of September to teach someone new all the verbiage and calls and schemes. Coaching staffs are so big now that they can add some responsibilities to a grad assistant. Mizzou has eight position coaches but there are another nine grad assistants and analysts who help with offense, defense and special teams.
  • Dave - the lost to Purdue has taken the wind out of my sail for this year, which leads me to not have any constructive questions for you about how they can get better on all aspects of the game - coaching, offense, defense and special teams. However, a even bigger problem is that there is just no leadership on the field on both sides of the ball. No matter what BO or JH says, Lock is not a quarterback who can make plays and move the ball when it's needed. We have all waited for him to grow into the role but he is now in his third season as a starter and still cannot make plays when they are needed. Will we ever see him run the ball more?
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