By Nate Smith
Despite mixed results in his first three seasons at the helm of the Tigers, Missouri Head Coach Barry Odom has earned the full support of the program and his players alike. Odom has shown that a 2-6 start to his coaching tenure was merely a rough patch. Since then, Odom has led Mizzou to a 17-13 record, highlighted by late season success against SEC rivals such as Tennessee and Florida. A trademark of Odom’s Missouri teams has been their tendency to improve as the season progresses; the Tigers have gone a combined 10-2 in the month of November under Coach O.
Missouri will look to start the 2019 season off on a strong note, with three non-conference games scheduled prior to opening up SEC play against South Carolina on September 21st. Following last year’s heartbreaking 37-35 defeat in Columbia, South Carolina, the Tigers will look to extract revenge—this time at home in the friendly confines of Columbia, Missouri. Once again the Tigers record will largely depend on their late season success, as the Gators, Volunteers, and Rebels of Ole Miss are all set to make visits to Faurot Field this year.Now entering his fourth season, Odom is backed by arguably his strongest coaching staff to date. Perhaps the most impactful addition is new Defensive Backs Coach David Gibbs. The former Texas Tech Defensive Coordinator joined the Missouri coaching staff in January, much to the delight of Odom. Gibbs’ presence instantly improves Missouri’s defensive outlook, especially in the turnover department. As The Kansas City Star pointed out, defenses’ ability to force turnovers have spiked under Gibbs’ watch at each of his two previous coaching stops. This is perfect for the Tigers, who have seen their interceptions decrease in three consecutive seasons.
Part of Gibbs’ mystique is actually how straight forward he can be when it comes to talking turnovers. He is very quick to say that he does not in fact have a secret recipe guaranteed to produce turnovers. While we can certainly take Gibbs at his word, the numbers beg to differ. Like many successful coordinators and coaches, Gibbs seems to prefer that his players receive the credit for a job well done, rather than himself. The players however, are often quick to dish the credit right back to Gibbs, who was likened to a “human cheat code” by starting cornerback Christian Holmes.
Gibbs and Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters will aim to send out one of the SEC’s most improved defensive units in 2019. Gibbs and Walters already knew each other fairly well prior to joining forces; Walters father was teammates with Gibbs at the University of Colorado.
For the Tigers’ secondary, experience has gone from being a weakness to a strength, as starting cornerback Christian Holmes told The Star’s Alex Schiffer. Seven of Mizzou’s top eight defensive backs are now upperclassmen, including Holmes and fellow returning starter DeMarkus Acy. The Tigers’ talent and experience—both from their players and coaches—should combine to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks this fall.