Missouri head football coach Barry Odom met with members of the local media Monday morning, four days ahead of the Tigers' regular-season finale against Arkansas.
Odom discussed the matchup against the Razorbacks, waiting for the NCAA to announce its appeal decision, vying for win No. 6 on the season, his job security, injuries and more.
Missouri heads to Little Rock on a five-game losing streak and with a 5-6 record, needing one win to become bowl-eligible pending the NCAA's decision on its appeal of a postseason ban.
The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Arkansas is 2-9 and has struggled a lot this season. What are the Razorbacks missing, and what’s your outlook on them going into this matchup?
Odom: “I think we’ll get Arkansas’ best game. They ended up last week against the No. 1 team in the country (LSU) scoring 20 points, and if you watch that game in entirety, the first quarter, they were going back and forth competing really well. I’ve recruited a bunch of their guys — either we filled up or they decided to go to Arkansas. I know what kind of skill set they’ve got. I think they’ve got tremendous coaches. We’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win the game.”
Friday afternoon could be your last game of the season. Do you anticipate knowing the NCAA’s decision on the appeal by kickoff?
"Man, I sure hope so. You would like to know that going into the game, but also, like I talked to (the team) last night and the things we’ve been talking about since January, the unknown, well, here we are yet in the last week of the season and we still don’t know. One way or another, I think everybody will be anxious to find out when that is and what it is. But the clock’s ticking. We’re just waiting on the phone call."
Do you feel any better or different than last week about the faith that athletic director Jim Sterk and the administration has in you going forward?
“Yeah, we met last week, but we meet every week. At this point, I’m trying to do everything we can to get this next win. I think that’s so huge for our program on … continuing the momentum with three bowl games in a row. That means something. We talked about that last night as a team, the importance of getting No. 6 to be bowl eligible — not only for our senior class, but for Mizzou football. That’s a big deal. Anyone who takes it lightly to be in the conversation of being qualified for a bowl, they haven’t been in the game very long. That’s the focus right now for me.”
Your players have been behind you when talking with the media. How much does it mean to you that they support you?
“I would be disappointed if they weren’t. I feel like I’ve got a great relationship with them, and I feel like it’s built on love and trust and honesty and just being real. They know what they get from me every day of the week, and that’s the way relationships are supposed to work.”
What do you expect in regard to the availability of cornerbacks DeMarkus Acy and Jarvis Ware, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and receiver Johnathon Johnson?
“Ware is going to practice today, it sounds like. Acy would still be day-to-day. We’ll get out and see how much he can do today, and that’ll determine the workload for tomorrow. But I would anticipate Ware would be ready to go. (Okwuegbunam and Johnson) are both projected to practice today and that’ll tell me a lot. If they can get out and go tonight, then obviously signs are pointing the right direction. If they can’t, then we’ll adjust and get the guys out there who are ready and healthy enough to help us go win.”
If Acy and/or Ware can’t play against Arkansas, what are you going to try to do differently to make sure what happened against Tennessee doesn’t happen again?
“Play better. The guys that we’ve got out there, we’ve got to find ways to get more pressure on the quarterback. We’ve got to do better on our underneath cover zones on re-routing, and then in man-to-man, 1-on-1 competitive balls down the field, we’ve got to be able to win them. There’s a number of things that go into that. We’ve got to provide some support for whoever is out there on the field and not put them on an island as much, but also there should be times that it’s me versus you, who’s going to make the play?”
Tyler Badie, a running back, is your leading receiver this season. Is this a sign to you that the passing game is not where it should be?
"You bet. Anytime your runner is your top receiver, that would be some of the reason why we’ve not had near as much success as we’ve needed to on that side of the ball. Tyler’s done some great things, but I don’t think he should be our leading receiver."
How beneficial would it be to your running game to have more of a vertical passing attack?
“I think it’s huge and I’ve talked about that all year. I also look at the weather in Little Rock on Friday. It’s supposed to be 80% chance of rain, so we’ve got to be able to run the ball. Who knows what it’s going to be, but if you can run it, for us, that opens everything else up. If you can’t, you get suffocated and you can’t do anything.”
Is there any concern the bowl ban could roll over into next season?
"I’m concerned about a lot of things and that would be one of ‘em. You just don’t know until you get the information. It’s the unknown, unfortunately. So you just continue to work and press forward and make a plan on the information that you have and you go with it in those regards."
With the sanctions also come recruiting restrictions. As we’re getting close to national signing day, does that make it harder to put together the ideal class?
“Heck yeah, I’m not gonna walk into a living room and say, ‘Hey, we want you at Mizzou,’ and then come back next week or two weeks from now and say, ‘I didn’t really mean it. We don’t have a spot.’ It’s impactful on every level that you look at it as you try to put together a recruiting plan and a calendar and you don’t know what you’re dealing with. We’ve got a stack of papers of, ‘This is what this could look like, this is what it’s not.’ I just need the word: either ‘go’ or where we are. That’s the unknown, but that’s the hand we’re dealt right now.”
How important is it to keep some levity and try to keep things fun in the locker room?
“You’re not going to steal my spirit. You know what I mean? The joy, the reason that you do the job you do. Shoot, I want to win them all, but also if you allow yourself to get into the dark moments, then you don’t live life. Life’s too short, man. You’ve got to keep pushing. I may go in the office and shut the door and have a moment to myself, but you know what, my guys aren’t going to see anything different from me. We’re full steam and we’re going to get this done.”