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.

  • Hello, chatters. Already a ton of questions in the inbox, so let's get to them. I'll be here until 1 p.m.
  • After watching the Tigers improved, but still not SEC talented defense on Saturday I can only come away with the takeaway that Mizzou needs to slow things down offensively and limit the defense's time on the field/opponent's TOP. Do you think Odom will be inclined to be flexible in this regard and adapt to the players he has? Particularly if it is not something Heupel agrees with? (after all Heupel's interest and Odom's interest may not be the same if they are going to be at different places next year however this year works out)
  • That's going to be an ongoing debate until (1) They win games while still playing up-tempo or (2) They win games with a slower tempo. I understand why Heupel wants to go fast. He believes that over the course of a game the tempo wears down a defense and gives the offense the advantage. In theory, Odom agrees. But when your drives stall and you're not supplementing that tempo with points, you turn your defense into the one that tires out - especially if your defense doesn't have the kind of game-changing impact players that routinely gets stops and takeaways. I don't anticipate Heupel changing the tempo anytime soon. Odom believes it's the defense's job to get off the field and give the ball back to the offense. We'll see if the plan evolves, but I doubt it.
  • Despite the troubling lack of sacks and takeaways last week, firing Cross seems like grasping at straws, or pushing him out of the lifeboat, especially since the bigger problems were clearly on offense and ST.
  • As I reported several times the last five days, he was not fired because of the Xs and Os or on-field results. Now, granted, if the defense was No. 1 in the country and the Tigers were having great success the last two seasons, he'd still have a job, but there are other factors at play here that led to Cross losing his job. It was not an easy decision for Odom, and he'll admit the timing was not ideal, but there was obvious tension on the staff. Source this week told me, "It had to be done."
  • Can you say if Coach Odom is keeping it together as much as he says? Seems like he should be focusing himself more and let his brother coach ILB and let the co-DC move up, rather than stretching himself thinner at this juncture.
  • Odom is a fixer. He believes working hard and working smart will fix problems. It's admirable, maybe a bit unreasonable, but that's what he believes. If there was tension on the staff, personality conflicts that made it harder for the defensive staff to do its job, then maybe this becomes addition by subtraction. If Odom fires Cross and gives his younger brother more responsibilities, he gets criticized for sacking one coach to favor his family, so I understand why he didn't give Brian added coaching duties. It's not that unusual for a head coach to work closely with one position group. Mike Leach coaches his QBs. Nick Saban coaches the Bama secondary. It's not conventional but not entirely unique. Defensive analyst Brian Hicks will work closely with the inside linebackers, too. Former LBer Mike Scherer, now with the staff as an intern, is working with the group, too. Bottom line, if the defense plays better and helps MU win, no one will care how many jobs Odom is taking on. But there could be other costs if  he's committing too much time to one specific position group.
  • I guess I don't know sideline prototol anymore: I thought that if a player was injured, you took his helmet. Is there any chance something else was going on with Crockett last week?
  • If he he has a concussion symptoms and wants to get back in the game, training staff will take his helmet away, but not with a tailbone injury. He was clearly in pain when he came off the field for good in the third quarter.
  • Will we see changes, even in snap counts, at WR or PR? Johnson can't be explosive if he won't put his hands on the punts, and drops, well . . .
  • I wouldn't be shocked if Mason or Floyd get a chance to return punts. Johnson is electric with the ball in his hands - but he's got to keep the ball in his hands. A few years ago fans/media griped when Pinkel used TJ Moe and Carl Gettis as punt retuners. They caught the ball cleanly but weren't necessarily explosive. Now it's the opposite situation. Johnson is explosive but doesn't secure the ball every time. The key is finding someone who has both qualities.
  • Is curing WR drops on the players or on the coaches? Is it more than just staying late with the JUGS machine?
  • There's only so much the coaches can do. Receivers have to catch the ball. They're on scholarship to catch passes. The best receivers in football have an occasional drop, but it's obviously troubling when it becomes a trend. It's not like Andy Hill is teaching the receivers to drop the ball. I can't imagine he's teaching them different skills than the ones he taught all the sure-handed receivers he coached in the past: Coffman, Rucker, Moe, Saunders, Macline, etc.
  • Do you expect that FR snap counts will continue to rise on defense?
  • Maybe for some players. Thomas Wilson played more free safety than Jordan Ulmer last week and played much better, so I'd expect to see the veteran out there more tomorrow. Joshuah Bledsoe has played safety in the dime package. CB Adam Sparks and LB Jamal Brooks didn't see the field on defense last week. Odom stuck with the starters at linebacker and corner. The freshman D-linemen have played a lot, Whitesides at DT and Turner at end, and I'd expect that to continue.
  • Harry Ballard is tearing it up in JUCO. I also heard he is done with his commitment Mizzou and looking at USC. Is this true, what is your camp hearing? That sure would suck as Mizzou stuck by his side when no one else would. We need that big awesome talented target!
  • Harry tweeted last night that he's not talking about his recruitment situation anymore. This is straight out of the junior college recruit playbook. Commit to Power 5 school in high school. Insist you'll qualify academically without any problems. Fail to quality. Enroll at junior college with help from Power 5 staff. Profess your loyalty to Power 5 school because they stood by you from the start. A year or so passes and other schools start showing interest. Recruit goes radio silent, stops talking publicly about Power 5 school. Panic ensues. Should he be on track to get his AA degree he could sign in late December. Until then, hard to say how things will unfold. Missouri's staff has been through this drama before with other jucos who put themselves back on the market. Maybe they'll have less patience this time around.
  • Surely McCann didn't think that he was supposed to kick it to Deebo, did he?
  • I wouldn't think so. He sent his first kickoff out of the back of the end zone and Odom said that's what he expected McCann to do every time. Either a poor decision or poor execution.
  • it was indeed good to see Lock throw balls away that he would have forced in last year, but (drops notwithstanding) he still made too many bad decisions last week, didn't he?
  • I wouldn't say he made a lot of bad decisions. He made the wrong read on the first INT when South Carolina played the route differently than it showed on film. He had four intentional throwaways when plays didn't unfold like he wanted. The second INT was a scramble drill and was tipped at the line. Lock actually distributed the ball evenly to different parts of the field: 8 throws to his left receiver, 8 to his right receiver, 10 to slot receivers and tight ends and 2 to his running backs. He had four or five drops and a few overthrows, but I don't recall watching him throw thinking he was making bad decisions.
  • We all knew and discussed since the schedule came out that last week's game was pivotal. Isn't it harder now - even with a win vs. Purdue - to see us stealing a game (e.g., Tennessee or Arkansas) that we thought in August we might win?
  • Margin for error is slim to none. If Missouri sweeps the three noncon games - no guarantee at all - they'll have to win two SEC games to get to six wins. No telling who Florida will have available, but either way, the Gators don't have a a great offense. Kentucky has looked pretty ordinary so far. I'm stil not sold on Tennessee being a great team, but they've been far more impressive than Mizzou so far. Arkansas doesn't appear to have an offense. Mizzou's season isn't over by any means, but a loss Saturday obviously jacks up the pressure.
  • I think Barry Odom will be a successful head coach at a high level college. What I do not think is that it is going to be Mizzou. I just think he has too many things working against him right now. 1. He is not Sterks guy; 2. Its the SEC for a first time gig (no room for error); 3. His defensive coordinator situation is a mess; 4. Huepel will get a HC gig soon; 5. No player leadership; 6. Other factors. Am I being too negative, or do you see the same thing?
  • Heupel's not getting a HC job if his offense keeps playing the way it has against SEC opponents. I don't think team leadership is a major problem. For one, that's something fans can't really measure. I'm around the team on a limited basis and there are ways to sense good and bad leadership. I'd say it's a better cast of seniors and veterans this year compared to last, when you had some older players who pouted and didn't buy into the plan. That said, the old cliche is true: adversity doesn't build character/leadership, it reveals it. We'll see how the leadership stands up if things really go south here soon.
  • Why is this football team seem so lackadaisical? So unfocused? Are those just the football players that we have? Or is this from coaching?
  • Sort of a general statement. The offense looked pretty dialed in two weeks ago. I wouldn't say the O-line looks unfocused at all. The tight ends and running backs have played well to date. I thought the front four on defense played well against South Carolina - not dominant by any means - but I didn't watch that group and think they were sluggish or disinterested. Same for the secondary. They were rarely caught out of position and tackled much better. Now, as for special teams, that's all coaching. You have to sell the importance of special teams and players have to stick with their assignments. You can't just half-azz your role in the kicking game, otherwise you'll have lose big chunks of hidden yardage and momentum. Mizzou did not look well coached on special teams last week.
  • Dave, hi
    Thank you for doing this!

    How much do you think that an AD should know about specific team’s situations, what I mean by that: should they have general understanding of what is happening or more than that? For example, I heard last year that Sterk said that the reason the Football team was having difficulties is due to implementing new defensive system, but should he have known more; for example that the new offensive system that played faster might have overexposed a new defensive system playing more time on the field. Does an AD need to know the X and O’s or is it enough for them to look at the wins and loses column and make hiring decisions? How much do you think Sterk knows about X and O’s (in any sport) and how much do you think Alden knew?
  • Alden and Sterk both played college football. They understand the game. But Sterk isn't going to micromanage his head coach and call the shots on Xs and Os. Alden never told Pinkel how he needed to run his team or how to form his staff, but he wanted a healthy dialogue about Pinkel's thinking on those decisions. He pressed Pinkel for information without telling him what to do.
  • Mizzou does not appear to be Barry Odoms team. It appears to be Drew Lock and Coach Josh Heupels. I just don't see an identity with this team. When I think of Mizzou during HCGP's reign, I think of Gary P's team, not defense, not Steck, not Kul, Gary P's. Is this coach Barry's team?
  • I'm not really sure how to answer that. The defense hasn't been good through Odom's 14-game body of work. The staff has been in flux before he ever coached a game as the HC. I think that's contributed to some of the issues. The lack of SEC-caliber playmakers is another one.
  • Dave, hi
    Thank you for the chat
    It seems according to the roster of the WBB Bri Porter is back form injury and going to play this year, is that correct?
  • She's on the roster and appears in some of the preseason promos, so it sure looks like she'll attempt to play this season. Good for her. What a resilient woman she is. A real inspiration for her teammates. I'm not sure they'll count on heavy minutes or production, but if she's able to stay healthy per presence and personality will be good for that team.
  • Was the Cross dismissal something that was brewing or was there a recent "situation" between the two that lead to the firing? The timing just seems strange and no matter the circumstances it's a bad look!
  • I don't think there was one major incident, but I could sense things were not going well between Cross and Odom. I was told last week, before the South Carolina game, that the two weren't talking to each other outside of football matters. That's not healthy. This is what I would call informed speculation, but if you gave Odom truth serum, I bet he didn't expect Cross back this season after he stripped his play-calling duties in the middle of last season. On the other hand, if you're getting paid $600K with fewer responsibilities, you might be inclined to keep working until they fire you.
  • How much blame (if any) for the current state of the team should be assigned to the lackluster recruiting during the final year or two of the Pinkel era?
  • The 2014 class looks disappointing in hindsight. That's when Mizzou went all in to recruit the traditional SEC states. From that class, they added six current starters or key players: Adams, Pendleton, Wilson, Blanton, Cheadle and Witter. That's just not enough quality to come out of one class, especially coming off a 12-win season. That class was full of recruits from the southeast who never fit in for one reason or another. The 2015 class produced twice as many starters/regulars, so I wouldn't mark that class as lackluster. Sure, some guys didn't pan out, but that goes for every class for every team in America. From 2015, MU signed Lock, Beckner, both Halls, Johnson, Perkins, Howell, Frazier and more. The 2016 class was half Pinkel's, half Odom's. It's hard to really measure that class because the circumstances on campus and with the staff were so volatile that fall. Prior to Pinkel's retirement and the campus protests, Mizzou secured commitments from current contributors Acy, Okwuegbunam, McCann, Castillo and Holmes, who would be playing but is injured.
  • Is there a coach in charge of the special teams or is it a by committee approach?
  • Jonathan Rutledge is the staff's special teams analyst. Two assistant coaches are assigned to the four major units: punt coverage, punt return, kickoff coverage, kickoff return. Rutledge and special teams volunteer Dave Ungerer, a longtime FBS ST coordinator, work with the specialists. Roughly half the teams in the country split the ST duties this way, while another half hire a coordinator. But even when a staff has a ST coordinator, that guy is almost always the coach of another position group, usually tight ends or running backs, and the other staffers are assigned to lead a particular unit. If and when the 10th assistant coach rule is passed, I would suspect Odom hires a ST coordinator.
  • Is it safe to say Odom is a control freak? I realize the job of the HC, but delegating is also crucial. He seems to have his hands in too many piles to make him effective overall.
  • Control freak might be harsh. He's a coach who believes he has the answers and can fix problems with hard work. He's unproven as a head coach and wants to prove he can solve the issues. Will he spread himself too thin? Perhaps, but he clearly believes the team is better off under this arrangement than with Cross on the staff.
  • Hi Dave, Have there been any names floated to replace Cross at DC? Would there be anybody available this time of year?
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