Mizzou football: It’s time for the Tigers to give the program a spark with 1 of these 3 flashy coaching hires
Can you hear that? It’s the Lane Train, and though it’s sounding a little weaker than normal down in Boca Raton these days, it could probably still make its way up to Columbia, Missouri, with a little convincing.
Yes, it is time for the Missouri Tigers to make a head coaching change after yet another embarrassing collapse and yet another heart-wrenching loss. Those two things have defined the Barry Odom era, and the Tigers need to do something big to change things up.
Since winning the SEC East in 2013 and 2014, the Tigers have been in a tailspin. After last year’s second-half dominance, 2018 was supposed to be the year that Mizzou took a huge step forward. Instead, the team enters Week 10 with a 4-4 record and an 0-4 mark in SEC play. Odom is 15-18 … and that’s with a future NFL QB in Drew Lock.
Even if the Tigers get to 6-6 (or even 7-5) over the course of their remaining games — at Florida, vs. Vanderbilt, at Tennessee and vs. Arkansas — Odom needs to be held accountable for the embarrassing collapses that follow the team everywhere. It’s time for the school to make a change, and it needs to be one that is out of character for the risk-averse program.
Odom is (allegedly) a defensive coach, so let’s start these changes by replacing him with an offensive-minded head coach (like Gary Pinkel was). That said, here are three coaches who would provide a burst of energy into both the program and the fan base:
1. Lane Kiffin
Kiffin didn’t exactly leave Tennessee with much support, but he did leave town with a 7-6 record (including a 4-4 mark against SEC opponents) in his one year as an SEC head coach.
Then, he eventually went to Alabama and spent a few years learning from Nick Saban, even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. That’s when the Lane Train motored on to Boca Raton, taking over as Florida Atlantic’s head coach. Immediately, he led the Owls to an 11-3 season and a Conference USA title.
Things aren’t going as well for Kiffin in Year 2, as the Owls are 3-5, but he’s still an exciting offensive mind and his personality and brashness would at least keep Mizzou on people’s radars. What the Tigers are doing now clearly isn’t working, so why not try to adopt a “bad boys of the SEC” identity and make some noise that way?
Kiffin is also a much better recruiter than Odom. Here’s how his classes at USC (where he coached from 2010 to 2013) were rated by the 247Sports composite:
- 2010: No. 3 nationally, No. 1 in Pac-12
- 2011: No. 3 nationally, No. 1 in Pac-12
- 2012: No. 8 nationally, No. 2 in Pac-12
- 2013: No. 13 nationally, No. 2 in Pac-12
Yes, USC is a much bigger national brand than Mizzou, but Kiffin should at least be able to put up middle-of-the-SEC types of classes for the Tigers, and that would be a huge step up from Odom.
The best part: FAU is only paying Kiffin $1 million per year right now. Even the frugal Tigers can beat that salary!
2. Hugh Freeze
Speaking of recruiting, Freeze had some impressive classes during his time at Ole Miss, including a top-5 national class in 2016. Just look at how these classes ranked for Freeze:
- 2012: No. 48 nationally, No. 13 in SEC
- 2013: No. 8 nationally, No. 4 in SEC
- 2014: No. 15 nationally, No. 8 in SEC
- 2015: No. 17 nationally, No. 7 in SEC
- 2016: No. 5 nationally, No. 3 in SEC
Now, can he do that within the rules? That remains to be seen, and like Kiffin’s USC classes, it would be hard to get top-5 classes at Mizzou, but even those 2014 and 2015 groups Freeze put together would be major steps up for the Tigers.
Yes, Freeze has some baggage from his time at Ole Miss — the scandal involving calls to escorts and NCAA sanctions — but he is a great offensive mind and he would certainly be open to returning to the college ranks.
He’s the sort of coach who, like Kiffin, would make headlines and could make Mizzou’s offense more competitive against SEC squads. After all, this is the guy who beat Alabama twice during his time in Oxford.
3. Mike Locksley
Usually, it’s the Alabama defensive coordinators who get the most attention as head coaches (Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt being the most recent examples), but Jimbo Fisher went from Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU to a title-winning coach at Florida State.
This year, Alabama’s offense is drawing the most attention, thanks to the stellar play of QB Tua Tagovailoa. However, OC Mike Locksley deserves his fair share of credit for keeping the offense running smoothly week in and week out.
He might not be a hot commodity after the season because of his struggles as a head coach — 2-26 at New Mexico and 1-5 as Maryland’s interim coach in 2015 — but he has strong recruiting ties to both the St. Louis area (from his time as Illinois’ offensive coordinator) and the talent-rich Washington D.C. era.
The Mizzou program could use an infusion of some of the principles Saban tries to instill at Alabama, and Locksley could be just the guy for the job.