HOOVER, Ala. – When Barry Odom made his first Southeastern Conference media days appearance a year ago, he’d known for months he was going to field several questions about off-the-field matters in the wake of the team’s November 2015 boycott.
Then the night before Odom was set to take his turn in front of reporters, his boss, then-athletic director Mack Rhoades, informed Odom he was leaving to take the same job at Baylor.
The news broke the following day shortly before Odom’s news conference began, and Odom was left answering questions about how the man who hired him was bolting for Baylor before Odom ever coached his first game.
“Weird timing,” Odom said Wednesday, when he was back at the Wynfrey Hotel for his second go-around at the conference’s annual media days. “It’s crazy how that stuff works.”
With that in mind, Odom joked that, by comparison, he was happy to be answering questions about how his team’s defense underperformed in his first year on the job.
“Maybe this year, we get to talk about why we weren’t worth a – why we weren’t very good last year in football,” Odom said. “I welcome that.”
He’s also eager to get the taste of a 4-8 season out of his mouth.
“When you win four games, guys, believe me, it hurts your soul,” Odom said.
Senior middle linebacker Eric Beisel said the defense has been watching film nightly on a voluntary basis. Beyond helping in the obvious manner, Beisel said the group film study is helping forge bonds that were missing last season.
That said, until a unit that ranked last in the SEC in total defense and 12th in scoring defense shows its improvement on the field, questions will linger.
“We have a heavy artillery going into this season,” Beisel said. “We’ve got a ton of things we can run. We’ll be really dangerous on the defensive side of the ball.”
ODOM PASSES ON REALIGNMENT TALK: Odom will leave it to the folks at Auburn to pound the drum regarding SEC divisional realignment. He’s not entering the discussion.
When asked about his thoughts on perhaps switching divisions with Auburn, Odom referenced the comments that Greg Sankey made on Monday, when the SEC commissioner struck down talk of realignment by saying it isn’t an agenda item within the league.
“We'll stand with Commissioner Sankey on our conference stance on that,” Odom said.
CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH: Odom said all of Missouri’s players who dealt with injuries during the spring have been fully cleared. That list includes defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Oct. 22 game against Middle Tennessee State.
It marked Beckner’s second knee injury in as many seasons. He tore the ACL and medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a 2015 game against BYU.
Beckner was cleared to participate in a limited capacity during spring practice. He didn’t play in the spring game.
“Things look to be going really well for him,” Odom said.
Other players who dealt with injuries during the spring were defensive end Marcell Frazier (broken arm), Blue Springs South graduate and tight end Kendall Blanton (ankle surgery), defensive end Franklin Agbasimere (broken foot), wide receiver Nate Brown (shoulder surgery) and defensive tackle Markell Utsey (ACL).
WEARING NO. 25: Missouri bestowed a great honor to freshman linebacker Jamal Brooks when it awarded him No. 25 this summer. That’s the number that was worn by former Missouri linebacker Aaron O’Neal, who collapsed on the field during a voluntary preseason workout in 2005 and later died. Missouri keeps O’Neal’s memory alive by selecting a player to wear his number. Linebacker Donavin Newsom had the number from 2013-16.
“That means a great deal to him to wear that in the right way,” Odom said of Brooks.
HOWARD REMAINS SUSPENDED: Odom said there’s no change in the status of junior defensive end Nate Howard. He remains suspended indefinitely. Howard faces a Class D felony charge following his June 14 arrest on suspicion of possession of psilocybin mushrooms.
Howard was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
“Hopefully we get to a conclusion sooner than later on this,” Odom said.
University policy states that any athlete facing felony charges will remain suspended until a judgment is reached in the case. If the athlete pleads guilty to the felony charge or is convicted of the felony, the athlete is permanently barred from competing in athletics for any school in the University of Missouri system.
HONOR ROLL FOR CROCKETT, FRAZIER: Missouri running back Damarea Crockett and defensive end Marcell Frazier earned spots on award watch lists announced earlier this week.
Crockett is one of 85 players on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the college player of the year. Frazier is among 85 players on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive player.
Crockett rushed for 1,062 yards in 2016, breaking the Missouri record for yards by a freshman, and 10 touchdowns. His average of 96.6 rushing yards per game paced all freshmen in the nation. Crockett also set MU’s single-game record for yards by a freshman, going for 225 yards on 24 carries against Tennessee. He topped 100 yards in five games.
Frazier, a senior, finished last season with fury. All but one of his 7 1/2 sacks came in the season’s final three games. He finished with 33 tackles.
Additionally, punter Corey Fatony on Monday was listed as one of 146 nominees for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which honors players committed to volunteerism and off-the-field works. The final roster of 22 recipients, which will include 11 Football Bowl Subdivision players, will be revealed in September.
On Wednesday, Fatony was also named to the Ray Guy Award watch list for the award that goes to the nation’s best punter.
MU GRAD GETS PROMINENT SEC NETWORK ROLE: The conference announced Tuesday that Columbia native Tom Hart will be the play-by-play voice for the SEC Network’s marquee game each Saturday night. He takes over the role from Brent Musburger, who retired in January.
Hart, a Rock Bridge and MU alumnus, will be joined on the Saturday night crew by Jordan Rodgers as color analyst and Cole Cubelic as on-field reporter.
Rodgers replaces Jesse Palmer, who remains with ESPN, and Cubelic replaces Kaylee Hartung, who moved to CNN.
Hart has called games for a variety of networks, including the past three seasons with ESPN and the SEC Network.