Odom urges Tigers to “stay tight as a team”

September 19, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, MO. • Missouri has played only a quarter of its season, but Barry Odom’s been around long enough to sense when the outside noise starts to reach his players’ ears. The Tigers are 1-2 and, more tellingly, 0-2 against FBS competition, with an 18-point loss to South Carolina and Saturday’s 32-point mauling by Purdue, both at home.

As the Tigers prepare for Saturday’s visit from 15th-ranked and 19-point favorite Auburn (2-1), Odom warned his players Sunday about what they’re hearing.

“Even though we’re three games in there’s plenty of negativity,” Odom said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “We haven’t played well enough to win the games we’ve wanted to. … You look at things they’re probably hearing outside of our walls here. I told them last night it’d be the same thing if we were 3-0 we’d be hearing how great we were. Really, we’re not. We’re 1-2 and probably hearing how terrible we are. There’s always a little life in between there: You’re never as good, never as bad as it seems. We’ve got to focus on what we control, go prepare and stay tight as a team. And enjoy the opportunity to go compete.

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“You worry about a lot of things, but the only thing we can do about that is stay close together as a team. I like the way we’ve responded the last couple weeks in practice, the way it feels around the climate in the locker room. We’re in pretty good shape. We also realize it’s game three of a 12-week season. A lot of opportunities are still left out there.”

On the injury front, defensive tackle Walter Palmore (sprained knee) is still out after missing Saturday’s Purdue game. Wide receiver Emaneul Hall left Saturday’s game with a sprained shoulder but has been cleared to practice Tuesday. Running back Damarea Crockett didn’t start Saturday because the previous week’s tailbone injury limited his workload in practice, Odom said.

“Damarea, we expect to play at a high level,” Odom said. “If a guy doesn’t run out there for the first snap that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Is he a starter or not a starter? Damarea’s a starter and is going to play a whole bunch. The number of reps will lean in his favor, I would suggest.”

Other topics discussed Monday …

Will the staff change anything with this week’s practice routine?

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“We feel really confident on the plan on how we structure the week. We’ve got to be really, really mature competitors once we arrive at the stadium and be ready to play. We have to understand we’re going to have adversity. We’re gong to have things that really test your mental conditioning and the mental aspect of the game. Some good things are going to happen and you’ve got to withstand that and not get too high in the moment. You’ve got to also withstand the things that don’t go in your favor, lock arms and keep playing. The opportunity for us to go execute and prove that, it’s time and past time to go do that.”

What concerns Odom most about the offensive struggles the last two weeks?

“We’ve understood that (there’s) a little comparison to things we struggled with early last year. We were still trying to figure out identity-wise who we were. We’re beyond that. It’s about the execution of it. We’ve got to be able to win our 1-on-1 blocking situations. When we don’t schematically, we have to make sure we’re doing a good enough job to counteract. Then we’ve got to make the right read and deliver the ball.

“We’ve got to be able to run the football. We were not able to do that the other day. That’s a whole level of frustration because if we can’t run the ball that’s going to make it very difficult.”

On working with the inside linebackers after firing DeMontie Cross last week:

“I really like the position and working together (with the linebackers),” he said. “We had a great week of preparation. We had really good meetings that were productive. All that stuff is great but then we go out and don’t play very well. We’ve obviously got to get that part figured out.

“Our team’s really in good shape in terms of mental aspect, togetherness and leadership. I don’t question any of that at all. I want nothing more than for these guys to keep working the way they’re working and to get some results for the things they’re putting in. That’s what I’m trying to get ironed out and figured out for this team.”