COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri football coach Barry Odom offered updates to the Tigers’ injured players, highlighted by redshirt senior linebacker Michael Scherer, during his Monday afternoon press conference.
But Odom didn’t offer much information on the injuries.
Scherer (knee), cornerback John Gibson (knee), safety Thomas Wilson (undisclosed), tight end Jason Reese (ribs) and defensive tackle Terry Beckner (knee) all left Saturday’s 51-45 loss to Middle Tennessee with injuries and did not return. Right guard Alec Abeln (ankle) missed the game.
“Everybody that’s injured that left Saturday’s game, at this point, I don’t feel great about any of them coming back for at least tomorrow’s practice,” Odom said. “We’ve got to evaluate where we are. Everybody in America is banged up at this point. It’s Week 7 or 8 or 9 for some. That’s the game. You have to have your next guys ready to go play and understand that if you’re a two or a three that you are one play away from being a starter. So as a coaching staff we have to do a great job of teaching our kids and putting them in position to go play just like they’re the starter.”
Scherer was on crutches during Saturday’s game, but Odom didn’t provide much insight into the veteran linebacker’s injury.
“They’ve got another meeting coming up here later on this evening that I’ll be a part of and find out a little bit more from there,” Odom said. “I’d say he’ll be doubtful at this point for this week. I’m hoping for the best.”
“Same deal,” Odom said. “With both those guys are going through a couple more tests this morning. Then we’ll find out later on. (John) Gibson, he may practice toward the end of the week so we’ll maybe get him back.”
The news was more encouraging on Reese.
“Reese, on the report that we got last night, I think he’ll practice,” Odom said. “He’ll probably be limited tomorrow in practice but we anticipate him being back.”
Odom said redshirt junior right guard Alec Abeln, who missed Saturday’s loss after re-aggravating an ankle injury, is expected to play against Kentucky.
If Scherer can’t play on Saturday against visiting Kentucky, what would be plan for that weak-side linebacker spot?
“Between (Joey) Burkett and Brandon Lee, (Eric) Beisel and Cale Garrett, we have to cross-train all of those guys and they have. DeMontie (Cross) has done a pretty good job on cross-training them up to this point,” Odom said. “There’s not going to be any one person that will just stand in and play every snap of the game. I think it would be wise of us to get a number of those guys ready to go. They’ve got a lot of practice reps, just not a ton of game reps. Then Terez Hall has been bouncing back and forth. He’s been at the SAM and inside. We’ll get the right fit there. It will probably be a combination of a number of guys if Mike is not available.”
In addition to trying to replace Scherer’s on-field production and leadership, if he can’t play, the Tigers will need someone to step up and handle getting the defense lined up correctly.
“That will fall on the linebacker room,” Odom said. “They have to get guys lined up. We’ll ask guys to be a little more vocal. Usually it’s been Scherer saying it and everybody else echoing it, so we’ll have to do a great job on making sure we get that communicated.”
One possibility is true freshman middle linebacker Cale Garrett, who has started the past two games when Scherer was moved outside to take the place of Joey Burkett in the starting lineup.
Odom said he was pleased with what Garrett has done so far.
“For two weeks as a starter, as a freshman, that’s what I’m counting on him doing,” Odom said. “There’s a lot of freshmen around the country that are playing and playing really well. At this point I need to quit looking at it as he’s not a freshman anymore. He’s been through spring ball with us, he’s been through two-a-days and now he’s played. So I anticipate and expect for him to play well and play at a high level.”
ODOM FOCUSING ON DEFENSE
Odom, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator last season, said in a radio interview on Monday morning he would do more to try to help out the team’s defense. He was asked about that at his press conference.
“I’ll try to provide some help, as much as I can,” he said. “I’ve got an opportunity to go help that side out and I’m going to do it. I’ve been trying to balance both sides along with some of the other things and I need to spend my focus there.”
Odom said he’ll try to help however he can.
“When you’re not playing well enough on one side of the ball, then as the head coach, everything goes across my desk and I want to do everything I can to get it right,” he said. “That’s the way I was brought up. That’s what I believe in. I like our staff and, I said it a couple weeks ago, I love this team. We’re not winning. Yet. We’re going to. I’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
PRAISE FOR PLOUDRE
Odom praised redshirt junior offensive lineman Adam Ploudre, the former walk-on who started in place of Abeln vs. Middle Tennessee.
Ploudre, who also started a game earlier this season when Samson Bailey was out with an injury, was put on scholarship this season.
“He’s done a great job,” Odom said. “He started the other night. He’s a kid that was a walk-on in our program and we awarded him a scholarship, back, it’s been a couple months now. Tremendous worker. In the classroom he’s above a 3.0 student. Works his tail off in the weight room. I see him up here a lot watching video, trying to prepare the right way. He’s embraced the opportunity to have a chance to go compete at that spot and play well. He really likes being coached by Coach (Glen) Elarbee, which is awesome. Practices the right way. So I’m proud of him.”
The Tigers missed plenty of tackles against Middle Tennessee, something that has plagued Missouri’s defense for much of this season.
Odom said he doesn’t know how to solve that issue.
“I don’t understand it because we’ve spent more time, more than we did last year, more than we did when I was at Memphis,” Odom said. “Maybe we’re trying to tackle too much. I don’t know. But it’s not working. It’s not relating to how we’re playing in live competition. I’ve got to find a way to get it fixed. We do form tackling. We do tackling drills. We do tackling circuits.
“Very rarely do we tackle to the ground once we get from Wednesday on. It’s more of a thud tackle, fit, correct proper leverage, working with the other 10 guys on the field to making sure you’re in your right fit. We’re not tackling very well. That’s obviously a huge understatement. So it can be better.”
MORE PRAISE FOR CROCKETT
Freshman running back Damarea Crockett has been one of the bright spots the past two games, back-t0-back 100-yard rushing performances.
Against Middle Tennessee, Crockett scored four touchdowns.
“We’re going to continue to put more on him,” Odom said. “He’s running with a purpose. He’s learning, still, how to play the position on what it’s going to take to play at this level. I think he can get a lot better. There’s a lot of pieces that go into that with the tailback playing well and Coach (Cornell) Ford’s done a great job bringing him along as the season has progressed. I think he’s got a really bright future. I’m excited about what he’s done and I’m more excited about what he’s going to do.”
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