The Missouri Tigers finished 8-4 during the 2018 regular season, winning their final four games of the year. However, the year was a roller-coaster, with some dizzying highs and some depressing lows.
At only $2.35 million per year, Barry Odom is the lowest-paid head coach in the SEC. Louisville offered a $5 million per year deal to alum Jeff Brohm, but Brohm opted to remain at Purdue. The Cardinals just gave new coach Scott Satterfield a contract worth $3.25 million per year, so it’s tough to tell how much Odom could make on the open market.
So, how should Mizzou AD Jim Sterk play this situation? Should he pony up some more dough and sign Odom to an extension? Or, should he dare Odom to leave, challenging him to find a better job?
The Missouri board of curators announced Tuesday that a special meeting would be held on Wednesday, possibly to discuss and extension and raise for Odom, who just landed Drew Lock’s replacement when Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant picked the Tigers.
Here’s an in-depth look at the case for and the case against signing Odom to an extension after yet another strong finish to an up-and-down regular season:
The case against Odom
1. Late-game collapses
The second-half collapse against Kentucky will go down as one of the most-painful losses in Mizzou history. I’ve taken to calling it “The Untimed Down,” a name that fits in nicely with “The Fifth Down” and “The Flea-Kicker” in Mizzou lore.
Leading 14-3 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers couldn’t manage to do anything offensively (failing to record a single first down after halftime) and watched as the stagnant Wildcats offense marched down the field for the game-clinching score. Yes, there was a questionable (actually, horrible) pass-interference call that led to the untimed down, but it never should have gotten to that point.
Poor coaching led to that loss, as well as a loss at South Carolina earlier in the year, when the Tigers completely collapsed in a rain storm. As soon as the rain started falling in Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks went on a 17-0 run to retake the lead in a game they won on a last-second field goal.
Yes, the Tigers had to replace OC Josh Heupel this season, and chose to do so with Derek Dooley, who had never called plays. That guaranteed that there would be some growing pains this year, but losses like those two are unacceptable for any coach in any situation.
2. Mediocre-to-bad recruiting classes
Many of the key players on this team — QB Drew Lock, DL Terry Beckner Jr., LB Terez Hall, WR Emanuel Hall and others — were part of Gary Pinkel’s final recruiting class.
Yes, Odom has added some very important players to the mix — TE Albert Okwuegbunam, RB Larry Rountree III, RB Damarea Crockett and LB Cale Garrett among them — but only one of them was a top-100 recruit like Beckner and Lock were. That would be OL Darvis Holmes, who left the team without playing a single snap.
Odom’s recruiting classes have been toward the bottom of the SEC every year (yet somehow remarkably consistent), and his 2019 class is right on track so far:
- 2016: No. 13 SEC, No. 43 nationally
- 2017: No. 13 SEC, No. 43 nationally
- 2018: No. 13 SEC, No. 43 nationally
- 2019: No. 13 SEC, No. 39 nationally
That is almost impossible to do four years in a row, but yet, here we are with Odom. Last year, the Tigers went 7-5 in the regular season, but haven’t been able to translate that into more success on the recruiting trails.
That’s going to be a problem after this year. If Mizzou wins a bowl game to finish with 9 victories, the Tigers need to parlay that into better recruiting classes.
3. Failing against top teams
The Tigers seem to have Florida’s number, but outside of that, there aren’t a lot of good wins to go around. They’ve played Georgia tight in recent years, but have nothing to show for it.
They got blown out by Alabama this year, Auburn last season and LSU in 2016, but the more concerning trend is that they’ve dropped three consecutive games to South Carolina and four consecutive against Kentucky. If they can’t even beat those SEC East teams, they’re never going to get back to the highs they experienced in 2013 and 2014.
Beating one or both next year would go a long way to instilling confidence in Odom, but based on the way he lost to those teams this season, that won’t be easy.
The case for Odom
1. He rebounded after Kentucky loss
As hard as I’ve been on Odom this year, you have to give credit where credit is due, and that dominant performance in The Swamp only a week after the Kentucky loss was incredible.
Rebounding from a soul-crushing loss like that isn’t easy, but Odom managed to rally his troops and not only win on the road against the Gators, but absolutely embarrass them. Considering the Gators are the No. 9 team in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, that’s a huge win for Odom and the Tigers.
He then guided the squad to a narrow win over Vanderbilt and then two more blowouts over Tennessee and Arkansas to close out the regular season and improve on last year’s 7-5 record by one game. Progress is progress, and Odom certainly deserves credit for that accomplishment.
2. Potential for 9-win season
The Tigers are heading to a bowl game, and since it doesn’t look like they’ll be losing any assistants before the game this year (looking at you, Josh Heupel), there’s a good chance they can keep their hot streak rolling.
They have a tough matchup against Mike Gundy’s high-octane Oklahoma State squad in the Liberty Bowl, but a loss would be a disappointing end the this season, especially after last year’s loss to Texas in the Texas Bowl.
3. Recruiting better in St. Louis area
In 2019, the Tigers already have 5 commitments from St. Louis-area players. All are among the top 15 in the state, led by 4-star S Jalani Williams — the No. 4 player in Missouri.
Naturally, this year’s class has no players from the Kansas City area, so that’s something Odom will need to fix before the signing period starts Dec. 19. To be fair, most of the talent in Missouri this year is from St. Louis, but DE Charles Harris was a 2-star recruit out of K.C. before becoming a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2017.
4. Seems to be liked by players
Missouri players seemed to respond to last year’s fiery “I’m gonna win here” speech by Odom. Sure, they lost their next two games after the rant, but then they rattled off 6 consecutive victories to end the regular season.
This year, they bounced back nicely after the Kentucky loss, and continue to defend their coach. There’s something to be said about how the players react to Odom, but we’ll see what happens when this year’s senior class leaves.
5. He landed Kelly Bryant
On Tuesday night, Clemson transfer QB Kelly Bryant announced he was heading to Mizzou next season:
— Kelo ⚜️ (@KellyB125) December 5, 2018
The Tigers lose Lock, Hall and a couple of key offensive linemen, but they have a ridiculous amount of offensive talent returning in 2019. Adding the former Clemson quarterback to that mix will be a huge boost for Mizzou next season and makes another 8- or 9-win (or more) season a distinct possibility.
This was huge for the Tigers, and now it’ll be up to Dooley to tweak his offensive system to best make use of the talented dual-threat quarterback.
Biggest item on to-do list
1. Land more top in-state players
The Tigers are doing well in St. Louis, which is much-needed after landing an utterly embarrassing zero players from the area last year (as mentioned above).
The top uncommitted player in the state at the moment is 4-star LB Shammond Cooper, who is a St. Louis native. Most predictions have him going to Illinois. Maybe there is an underlying reason the Tigers haven’t offered him a scholarship, but there’s still a chance for Odom to get in there late.
Unless there’s a behind-the-scenes reason that he doesn’t have a Mizzou offer, that needs to be changed as soon as possible to try to add another big piece to the 2019 class.
The recruiting classes and one or two collapses per season are red flags when it comes to Odom and whether the Tigers should invest in him long-term. Mizzou has already extended Odom through the 2022 season, so there should be no rush to add more years to that contract.
However, having Odom as the lowest-paid coach in the SEC should be an embarrassment to the Tigers. If Mizzou is going to compete in this conference, it is going to have to pay coaches and coordinators fair wages.
Yes, $2.3 million per year is a lot of money, but not when it’s compared to other SEC salaries. Sterk should wait to extend Odom’s contract any further, but bumping his salary would be a good reward for a solid 2018 regular season.