Odom names defensive coordinator; ‘indifferent’ on loss of O-line coach

December 9, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, MO. • It was one step forward, one step back Friday for Barry Odom’s Missouri coaching staff.

As the Tigers resumed practice for the Dec. 27 Texas Bowl contest, against Texas, Odom announced that he has promoted secondary coach Ryan Walters to defensive coordinator.

It is a move months in the making, since Odom fired coordinator DeMontie Cross after the second game of the season. Odom gradually had shifted more on Walters’ plate during the year and now must hire a linebackers coach to replace Cross’ on-field duties.

“He’s going to do an outstanding job,” Odom said of Walters, who coached with Odom at Memphis then followed him to Mizzou in 2015. “This year, really toward the last half of the season he had that role anyway and did an outstanding job. ... I’m excited for him.We think a lot alike in our thoughts defensively. He’ll do a heck of a job.”

Things are less settled on the offensive side of the staff. On Tuesday, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel was announced as the head coach at Central Florida. On Friday, Odom learned that offensive line coach Glen Elarbee had decided to leave for a spot on Heupel’s staff.

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Odom still was steamed about that development after Friday’s practice. Odom said he first learned of Elarbee’s decision at 5:30 a.m. Friday, then met him at 1:30 p.m. Odom broke the news to Mizzou’s offensive linemen at 2:30, then the entire offense five minutes later — shortly before practice began.

“In the world of the coaching moves, you’re going to lose guys, you’re going to gain guys,” Odom said. “I’m happy for Coach Heupel getting the job that he did. He’ll do a great job there.

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“Glen Elarbee, I found out this morning, he made the decision to go with him. I’m a little indifferent about that one. I know this: I met with the offensive line. I met with the offense. They’re determined to go finish this the right way. We’ve got a lot of really good coaches around here that care about their kids and their word means something. That means something to me.”

Odom didn’t say what position Elarbee will take at Central Florida. That school didn’t announce any additions to Heupel’s staff Friday.

Odom clearly was surprised by his line coach’s decision.

“There’s ways to handle things in this business and ways not,” Odom said. “I was surprised (the players) learned the way they did.”

• EYE ON THE TIGERS: Dave Matter’s Mizzou blog

Elarbee came to Mizzou from Arkansas State after the 2015 season and was largely credited for MU’s offensive surge last season after inheriting a line with no returning starters. Before the 2017 season, Odom raised Elarbee’s salary from $320,000 to $360,000.

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Heupel and Elarbee will not coach the Tigers in the Texas Bowl, Odom confirmed Friday.

Where does that leave the staff? Jon Cooper, an offensive analyst on the staff, will take over coaching duties for the offensive line through the bowl game, Odom said.

The rest of the offensive staff will work collectively when it comes to game-planning and calling plays.

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In Friday’s practice, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley wore the headset and appeared to be calling the offensive plays off a script. Odom said he’ll give internal candidates consideration for the vacant jobs, including his offensive coaches for the coordinator position.

“You bet,” Odom said. “I’ve got to find the right fit for what we’re doing offensively. If it’s in-house, it’s in-house. If it’s not, it’s not.”

Finley indicated he’s staying on staff under Odom.

“We’re basically going to continue to do our jobs,” Finley added. “Most of these practices are scripted anyways. We have different coaches scripting those. We just read it off the script. Whenever Coach Odom wants to make a decision on what he’s doing, we’ll all move forward all together — team, coaches, together — and put together a good game plan and go execute.”

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With Heupel gone, Odom said junior quarterback Drew Lock coached his position group on Friday. Even if Odom should promote an offensive assistant to coordinator, he’ll have to hire a quarterbacks coach.

“We’ll find a damn good one,” he said. “I’m excited about the guys who are interested in the spot.”

Odom will prefer coaches who have worked in a system similar to Missouri’s version of the spread offense.

“We’ve recruited towards that (system),” he said. “I like what we’ve done offensively. Our kids know it. If you look at what we’ve got coming back it would be really wise to continue down that road.”

• PODCAST: Dave Matter in ‘Eye On The Tigers’

Odom said he’s talked to a number of potential candidates for the job, though he didn’t share any names.

“I want guys who want to be at the University of Missouri,” he said. “I want guys who want to compete at the highest level and be in a position to mentor and lead our kids for the rest of their life. There’s a lot of people that are interested in coming to work here, not only because of what we’ve got going but what they think we can be moving forward.”