For the first time since the spring football game in April, Missouri head coach Barry Odom sat down with the media Wednesday afternoon at Shakespeare’s Pizza to discuss several topics.
One of the biggest talking points from the conversation was the college football recruiting calendar’s changes from the early-signing period — where recruits can sign official paperwork in the third week of December during their senior year and take official visits in the spring of their junior year.
Odom is unsettled with the current schedule, as things need to unfold quicker to get the most quality on future rosters.
For example, Odom said that of the several players to take official visits last weekend, he hadn’t met half of them in person. He’d only communicated with them via text and phone calls.
“There’s a number of concerns with trying to ring in what is our calendar ... nobody has the right answer,” Odom said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to slow down at this point now that’s it’s what it is.”
The Tigers signed most of last year’s recruiting class in December, with one or two guys being added by National Signing Day in February.
With January being a non-contact period from the NCAA, coaches can show up at schools, but can’t meet with recruits.
“Foundationally that’s a problem with our sport because the true baseline emphasis that we put on recruiting is relationship-building and it’s hard to build a relationship when you haven’t had the chance to sit down with a kid and really visit in person,” Odom added.
Odom is used to calling a recruit’s home phone and having one of his parents pick up and also building a relationship with a prospective player’s parents.
The new schedule forces Odom and other coaches to offer high school athletes that have three semesters left before graduation to stay competitive with other Division I schools.
“I sure hope that we don’t continue to speed up the process,” Odom said.
Odom fears that the recruiting schedule could lead to a trickle-down effect for high school seniors similar to NFL Draft-eligible players sitting out bowl games to not risk injuries because talented players already have their scholarship secured.
Speaking of incoming recruits, every member of the Tigers’ latest recruiting class is now with the team except for Kirkwood receiver Maurice Massey, who is finishing up his final high-school course. Massey is expected to be in Columbia next month.
Odom also shared a much-improved bill of health for his team. Among those with previous knocks is Jalani Williams, who is going through most drills and should be cleared to take part in preseason camp after suffering a broken foot.
Linebacker Chad Bailey, who is recovering from a torn ACL, cornerback Adam Sparks, who suffered a stress fracture in his leg, and tight end Daniel Parker Jr., who tore his labrum, are all on track to full health.
After a few injury concerns last fall and this spring, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is a full participant in summer practices.
“He looks more explosive in his movements, it seems like to me,” Odom said about Okwuegbunam, a projected first-round 2020 NFL Draft selection. “Mentally he’s on a mission to make up from the time away.”
Here are the other highlights from the conversation with Odom:
• Terry Petry is still the only Tiger in the transfer portal. Petry, a redshirt sophomore cornerback originally from a Houston suburb, aims to be closer to home for personal reasons. Odom believes Petry will end up at the junior college level.
• There’s no new information on the timetable to hear back from the NCAA on sanctions against the football program. Odom added hearing back in late summer or early fall is still the expectation. Any players with one year of eligibility remaining can choose to leave Missouri by Aug. 1 without having to sit out this upcoming season, though none have taken that route at this point ... “It weighs on you, it’s there, it’s real,” Odom said about waiting to hear back from the NCAA. “You never know what’s going to be handed to you.”
• Odom said the program is continually waiting to hear back on quarterback Shawn Robinson’s waiver to be eligible this fall after transferring from TCU.
• Odom expects any Class of 2020 recruiting momentum to continue. The Tigers jumped from the 13th-ranked class in the Southeastern Conference to 11th over the last week according to the 247Sports composite.
“I think there’s a lot of great things [that are] going to happen in the next couple weeks in those regards which is exciting,” Odom said.
• Odom is excited to see the Tigers ranked in most, if not all, preseason top-25 rankings. Missouri has been viewed as the third-best team in the SEC East behind Florida and Georgia.
• On the current state of the team, Odom said — “I think the leadership of this team is moving us in the right direction ... they are taking charge and it’s been good. There’s a number of guys on both sides of the ball that are taking ownership of what needs to be done and the habits that we need to see right now to be able to continue to move forward.”