COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri football coach Barry Odom said Monday he was in a meeting working on preparing to face LSU on Sunday when he learned that his team’s next opponent had fired its coach, Les Miles.
Odom’s reaction to the news?
“No. 1 I hate it for Les,” Odom, Missouri’s first-year head coach, said at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon. “He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to for a number of years. He’s had such great success. You look at the body of work that he has done. He’s changed and affected so many lives of young men, thousands of them, over his career in such a positive way and then he’s had great success.
“I was surprised but this business is crazy. He’s going to be in a good spot. He’s a really good coach. He made college football better, in my opinion, and he’s such a respected member of the Southeastern Conference. I’ve followed his career for a long, long time and he’s one of the great ones.”
Miles was fired on Sunday, four games into his 12th season at LSU, along with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, just one day after LSU lost to Auburn to fall to 2-2 on the season. Miles had a 114-34 record with the Tigers and led them to the national championship in 2007.
LSU made Ed Orgeron the team’s interim head coach. Orgeron was the head coach at Mississippi previously but was fired after three seasons. He also served as the interim coach at USC in 2013 after Lane Kiffin was fired.
“I obviously know of him,” Odom said of Orgeron. “More through recruiting than anything. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s really good at what he does and I’m sure he’ll have his team ready to go play.”
Asked how he and his coaching staff would prepare this week to face an LSU team with a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, Odom said they would study LSU’s first four games, dissect everything the Tigers did and prepare for that and then be ready to adjust.
“You’re always making in-game adjustments,” Odom said. “I think that’s part of being a teacher and a coach. You have the ability to take the game plan that you have in place that you think is what’s going to match up and give your kids a schematic advantage and then it’s a chess game back and forth. You have to make adjustments and you have to make changes within drives and within series and that will be as important for us to get in tune to what’s going on this week if it matches up to what they’ve shown or if they’re doing something different.”
With whatever changes LSU may make going into Saturday’s game, Odom anticipates seeing plenty of LSU junior running back Leonard Fournette.
“He’s really good. That’s an understatement,” Odom said. “I think he’s listed at 235 (pounds). I don’t know really how big he is, but if you said it was 260 I’d say, yeah, he kind of looks it. He’s got tremendous speed. You see them run outside zone and if they get the edge blocked he’s out the gates and he’s an impressive player. Runs with really tremendous pad level. He runs angry. That’s usually a combination of being a really good player.”
Fournette had 1,034 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014 and then rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2015. Through three games this season — he sat out the second week because of an injury — Fournette has 386 yards rushing on 67 carries, an average of 5.8 per attempt, and two touchdowns. He’s averaging 128.7 yards rushing per game.
“I think that it presents a great opportunity for our defense to line up and see what we can do and it’s also a tremendous challenge on playing with tremendous gap integrity and playing 11 guys,” Odom said. “If you get an opportunity to tackle the guy, you better have your mind right because he’s going to have his right, I guarantee it.”
Missouri held talented Georgia running back Nick Chubb to 63 yards rushing on 19 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per carry, in its Week 2 loss against the Bulldogs.
“There’s a little bit different structure in the blocking schemes and some of the things that those two teams are doing,” Odom said. “There’s some carryover as well. A little bit different of a player. I didn’t know it until last week getting into LSU, there’s not many times that (Fournette) takes a tremendous shot. His pad level is right. Man, he’s really good.
“The other tailback that plays in there, No. 5 (Derrius Guice), jumps out as really an impressive player. One of the guys that you keep looking at, No. 44 ( J.D. Moore), their fullback, he makes it go. And they are good up front. So all that combined, what a great opportunity and challenge for us defensively to go against a really good running back.”
Missouri has some injury concerns going into Saturday night’s game, but Odom was optimistic the Tigers would have some guys back.
“The one that would be a question mark, the biggest question mark to me would be Logan Cheadle with his ankle sprain,” Odom said of the Tigers’ junior reserve cornerback. “He was out there last night but very limited. He may be a little time away.”
“Abeln and Wingo both practiced,” he said. “They practiced well last night.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Justin Smith also missed Saturday’s game.
“He had a previous knee injury for a couple weeks ago, came back and played some and then beginning of last week it ended up flaring up a little bit,” Odom said. “He went in and had a quick scope on that. … He’s supposed to practice by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. He’ll be back out on the field. Not to get real medical but there was a loose body in the knee that was causing the swelling, so we got that taken care of.”
Sophomore running back Nate Strong, a junior college transfer, also missed Saturday’s game against Delaware State.
“On Thursday I guess last week had an ankle injury in practice,” Odom said. “He was making really fast steps moving forward that I wanted to get him in there the other day but it didn’t allow itself to happen with his injury. He should be really close this week. He was definitely getting into the mix.”
DECISION TO PLAY UTSEY
Odom explained the reasoning behind playing true freshman defensive tackle Markell Utsey in the second half of Saturday’s blowout win, thus ending the possibility Utsey may redshirt this season.
“He’s 300 pounds and moves well and I think he’s going to end up helping us down the stretch,” Odom said. “That’s why we ended up activating him. I think it’s a line-of-scrimmage league and if you can be good inside then that lends your success rate to be a little higher.”
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