The biggest news out of the session with reporters was that Odom expects to have redshirt senior linebacker Donavin Newsom back on the field this Saturday after Newsom missed most of the past two games with a quad injury.
“I think we can get a couple guys back, specifically Donavin Newsom, this week, play him a little bit more which would be great for us,” Odom said. “The other day with the linebacker injuries and then Cale Garrett getting the targeting call there early, Don Barnes, ran out, our equipment guy, and gave me a pair of cleats in case we had one more down I think I was going in. So it would have been ugly but we would have made it work. T.J. Warren stepped in again and played really well at the SAM spot and then Eric Beisel did a really nice job. He and Joey Burkett and Brandon Lee, those guys there inside, they ended up finishing the game out.”
The season-ending knee injury suffered by leading tackler Michael Scherer against Middle Tennessee made Newsom more of a focal point of the defense. But then Newsom, who became the team’s leading tackler after Scherer’s injury, was sidelined early in the next game against Kentucky with his injury and was only able to play a few snaps on Saturday at South Carolina.
“I talked the other night at length about Donavin Newsom and I feel very strongly about him,” Odom said. “There’s some things with him. He’s fighting through an injury, wants to help this team, wants to help this program. There were some things with Donavin in the recruiting process. I knew his coach, Bob Bunton, a number of years ago because he was Aaron O’Neal’s head coach. So that situation for me is very up close and personal.
“There’s a lot of similarities between Donavin and Aaron. Playing the same position. Same high school coach. Kind of the same demeanor. The other day when Donnie couldn’t go as much as he wanted, that was a tough one because he’s an important part of our program and has done so much. I know from not too long ago being a senior and getting hurt during your senior year, that’s hard. And things don’t go exactly how you want them to go your final year. I can relate. It drives me every day to do everything I can to get us in position to go win a game for those guys. They’ve done a lot for me, that class specifically, since Dec. 4 and I want nothing more than to be able to provide them an opportunity to celebrate in the locker room after Saturday’s game and then regroup and play as good as we can the next week and then the following week. That’s where I am. That’s our focus. I’ve got strong conviction on trying to get that done.”
Odom spent some time on Monday reviewing what went right and wrong in the 31-21 loss to the host Gamecocks.
“There were some times that we felt like we were in the game, even late, and got to the point where we had an opportunity to win it,” he said. “We just didn’t play well enough down the stretch to do that.”
The Tigers tied the score, 21-all, early in the third quarter but didn’t score again. They also missed two field goals in the fourth quarter.
Still, there were some positives, the coach said.
“Up front I thought defensively we played better than we have the last couple weeks,” Odom said. “I think the run fits were a little bit cleaner. I think we’ll be better this week than we were last. Then offensively we did some really good things. We turned the ball over play five, which hurt us, gave them a short field.
“I think there were six times we got inside the 50 and came away with zero points. That’s hard to do to win a game. Defensively we didn’t get any turnovers and offensively we gave it up three times. There aren’t going to be many times that this team can be minus-3 and have a chance to win a game.”
The Tigers’ two missed field goals in the fourth quarter Saturday — Turner Adams missed wide left from 44 yards and Tucker McCann missed wide right from 31 — didn’t help their chances for a late rally.
On the season, Missouri’s kickers have made just five of 10 attempts.
McCann, who was given a scholarship to replace graduated senior Andrew Baggett, has made five of nine attempts (60 percent). Adams, a junior walk-on, missed his only attempt.
“We’re going to continue to work on it,” Odom said. “Those two field goals obviously were big points in the game but also they are one play. You’d like to obviously have those six points. I know that. It’s also the momentum that goes along with it. It’s good for them, bad for us.
“The ability to go out and kick a whatever-yard field goal it was, you’d like to have that in your back pocket. That offensively you know if you get to the 23-yard line, we’re getting three points. We’ve got to get to that point that if the snap is right and the hold is right the kick goes between the uprights. We’re not there and that’s frustrating.”
Odom went with Adams over McCann to start Saturday’s game because of an off-the-field issue with the freshman kicker. The coach said Monday he thought McCann had been punished enough, which was why he went back to the youngster late in the game.
The coach made it clear on Monday that he still has high expectations for McCann, who was one of the top kicking prospects in the Class of 2017 and who picked Missouri over Alabama and Florida State, among others.
“I believe Tucker’s going to have a great career here,” Odom said. “I have no doubts about that. He’s a tremendous talent. We have to get it where it happens every day, throughout the week of practice and then in a game, in a real live situation. He’ll get there. I don’t doubt that at all. … I feel good about his career. I know he’s going to bounce back. I have a lot of confidence in him. We need it to happen now.”
Redshirt junior linebacker Eric Beisel was a highly-rated recruit out of Rockwood Summit High School in suburban St. Louis but hadn’t played much on defense until the injury to Scherer, a three-year starter.
Beisel had five tackles, including three for losses, in his first career start against Kentucky. Then he had 14 tackles, including two for losses, at South Carolina.
Beisel’s five tackles for loss in the past two games are the second most on the team this season, trailing on defensive end Charles Harris, who has 7.5.
“He’s played pretty well the last two weeks,” Odom said. “He understands the playbook. I would guess, if you guys walked outside right now, I bet he’s on field 1 going through drills by himself. That’s what he does on Monday. He’s got a routine. He goes through extra footwork drills by himself. He’ll either be in my office upstairs after he’s done with that or one of the position rooms watching film. He enjoys playing the game. He’s passionate about being a really good player. He cares about the University of Missouri. He wants Mizzou football to have success.
“All that together doesn’t automatically make you a good player but he’s putting it all together, he’s playing well, he’s playing fast. Sometimes we have to tell him to slow down just a little bit because he gets out of position a little bit. I’m proud of him and I anticipate him having three really good weeks coming up.”
PRAISE FOR HOWELL
Junior left tackle Tyler Howell enrolled at Mizzou in January after going through Butler Community College to get qualified academically and has since solidified a position that was a big question mark after last season.
The 6-foot-8, 320-pound Howell has started every game and been a big boost to an offensive line that has allowed just 10 sacks in nine games.
“He’s done a really nice job since January,” Odom said. “He’s developed. He’s transformed his body in a positive way. He’s played pretty well every game. He’s got a chance to be a special player. Physically he’s got a lot of tools that not many have and then combine that with he’s got pretty good feet and I think another offseason in our program will help him tremendously on his strength and obviously his quickness. I wish we would have had him a little bit longer but he’s done a good job in the time he’s been here on just working his way into that position and I think he’s gonna end up being a guy that can be a game changer at that spot.”
Want more BlackAndGoldIllustrated.com coverage? Become a member today to get insider information, members-only forums, exclusive videos, team shop offers and ticket discounts. Click HERE to learn more and get a 7-day free trial.