Missouri head coach Barry Odom is entering Saturday's contest with West Virginia with a wealth of coaching experience and knowledge about the Missouri football program, but none of it as a head man. That will change on Saturday as Odom, who played linebacker for Missouri from 1996 to 1999, will lead the Tigers into Morgantown for their 2016 season opener. Odom had worked on former head coach Gary Pinkel's staff for a number of years, most recently as a defensive coordinator in 2015, before taking the reigns as Missouri's head coach. Odom has been impressed with the young Tigers work ethic since he took over in December and he talked about their overall effort the team has shown in the last nine months and in preparing for Saturday's opener.
"Our guys have worked extremely hard leading up to this point and everything that I have laid out on front of them they have embraced the opportunity to go work, and just like everybody else in the country, now it's time. I'm excited for them to go and compete in the first one."
Odom's team returns several starters from a year ago on one of the better defenses in the country, but the offense is somewhat inexperienced, as they only return one linemen with starting experience. Odom may rely on some new faces such as Alabama wide receiver transfer Chris Black and Oklahoma running back transfer Alex Ross to give a boost to an offense that struggled mightily last year. Although there will be youth and new faces on that side of the ball, Odom hopes to see several players step up and show the leadership qualities that all competitive football teams have in common.
"In the game of football there are so many moving parts and everybody's got a role," Odom said. "When I was a student-athlete there are certain times that you look at it and the chemistry was right on the team and every time when the chemistry was right, nobody cared who got the credit and there were a bunch of guys pulling the rope in the same direction - those were the best teams. They might not have always been the most talented teams but those were the best teams, so the time that we spend is on building true trusting relationships with our guys and making sure that everyone is preparing the right way, and at the end of the day everyone has leadership capabilities."
It will certainly take some of those leadership capabilities for Missouri to be able to pull off a win in a hostile Morgantown environment, and now that Odom is a head coach he tries to exemplify that for the team he now leads. Odom discussed his personal journey to this point and how it is different preparing for a game as a head coach as opposed to an offensive coordinator.
"Time has gone by very quickly (since taking over coaching job)," Odom said. "You get into the routine as a college coach, you have your season and bowl season, recruiting and that's nonstop, but you're on the road evaluating and building relationships and then you get into the winter conditioning part of your program, then into spring ball and spring evaluation and then into summer ball and camp series. All of the different things run together and you know once you get to June, before you know it, you're going to be in preparation for week one and you feel like that period of time could have been a couple of weeks."
The life of a college football coach can be quite demanding, as Odom as already found out, but he feels like he is ready for whatever the 2016 season may bring because of the time he spent around Gary Pinkel, who was the winningest head coach in Missouri history.
"There are so many people who helped me in my career, whether as a student athlete or in this profession that influence you, but Gary was a guy who was around me for a number of years, (I was) in and out of his staff and he provided me the opportunity to grow in the profession. I started as a graduate assistant and I ran the recruiting operations, I was the director of football operations, I was a safeties coach before leaving to become a coordinator at Memphis and eventually returning to be a coordinator (at Missouri), so with that, in the early part of my career he provided me the opportunity to sit with him every day and see how he ran the program and all the moving parts to it. For me that experience has proved to be maybe the most beneficial thing in the chair I am now.
"(Pinkel) had great success here. He did it for 15 years so it would be foolish for me to not stick with the things that coach built the foundation here on."
Odom has kept the specific changes and wrinkles he and new coordinators Josh Heupel and Demontie Cross have added to Missouri's playbook close to his vest, as he could hold a slight advantage in the chess game that occurs between coaches since the Mountaineer coordinators don't have any new film on Missouri under Odom's regime. Whether Odom's team can compete at a high level is yet to be seen, but it appears that Odom is well-prepared for his first head coaching job as he is doing and saying all the right things leading up to game time on Saturday.
Here is Odom's full 30-minute press conference from Monday: