Mizzou football 2016 commit Greg Taylor joined BK on The Sports Wire to discuss his commitment status, who he hopes takes over as the coach of the Tigers, and why he committed to Mizzou in the first place. All of that and more in our conversation.
Mike Kelly, the voice of the Missouri Tigers, joined Matt and BK on The Big Show to discuss Gary Pinkel’s legacy, Mike’s reaction when Pinkel made his announcement that he has cancer, and where Mizzou goes from here.
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Jeff and BK are back for another episode of The Inside Slant to discuss the why the Chiefs could be in the hunt more than anyone could have expected three weeks ago, why the Rams are plummeting in the minds of many, and just how disastrous are the Packers and Patriots’ wide receivers? We put it into perspective with a quick game. All of that and more this week on The Inside Slant.
Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou joined Matt and BK on The Big Show to discuss Mizzou’s coaching search, why Les Miles would be a great option for the Tigers, and why Justin Fuente might not be an option after all.
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Mizzou athletic director Mack Rhoades addressed the media on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming coaching search, what qualities he will be looking for in a coach, and to explain why he believes Missouri is a top of the line job.
Dave Bartoo of CFB Matrix joined Matt and BK for his weekly spot on The Big Show to discuss the difficulty of replacing a coach like Gary Pinkel. Plus, Bartoo gives us some out of the box candidates. Could a former UCM coach be coming back to Missouri?
Comments Off on Comparing the Mizzou Coaching Candidates
For the first time in a generation, Missouri is looking for a new head coach. By now you know the background: Gary Pinkel announced Friday that he was diagnosed with non-hodgkin Lymphoma in May, and underwent treatment at the Mayo Clinic in May and June. By two-a-days, Pinkel had questioned whether this was the correct way to spend his time. And, on Friday, he announced that he will retire following the 2015 Missouri football season.
So here we are. Unsettled. Unsure. Anxious.
Coaching searches are a funny thing. You do all the background research, and more often than not, you screw it up. Something Pinkel said at his press conference stuck with me: the average division one football coach lasts six years. Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades hopes the coach he hires lasts a lot longer than that.
With that in mind, let’s meet the candidates, shall we?
There are three coaches that will receive the most buzz when talking about the Missouri coaching search. They are Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente and Houston head coach Tom Herman. They all have things in their favor, and they all have some question marks surrounding them.
Breaking it Down:
1) Missouri Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom – He’s the current defensive coordinator at the University of Missouri. He’s been successful at every stop. First he was a successful linebacker at Mizzou. Then he was successful for a year as the head coach at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia. Eventually he became the defensive coordinator at Memphis – where he was successful (more on that in a moment), and finally he came home in 2015, to the tune of a top five defense nationally. He’s a damn good coach. And he’s #MizouMade. There’s a lot to like about Odom. BUTTTTTT he’s never been a head coach. And that’s terrifying. How will he handle the new responsibilities? Can he balance the duties of putting together a defensive gameplan every week while also handling the responsibilities of being an SEC head football coach? I think he can, but there’s no way of knowing. And that scares the bejeebus out of potential employers.
About that background, though. Barry Odom is an unbelievable defensive coordinator. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been uber successful. He comes in, makes changes to the defense, and turns them into a top 25 defense. Don’t believe me? Here are the numbers.
Memphis scoring defense prior to Barry Odom:
2010: 117 in scoring defense (39.8 points allowed per game)
2011: 105th in scoring defense (35.1 points allowed per game)
2012: 80th in scoring defense (30.3 points allowed per game)
2013: 44th in scoring defense (24.6 points allowed per game)
2014: 11th in scoring defense (19.5 points allowed per game)
2015: 84th in scoring defense (29.3 points allowed per game)
Pretty good, huh? He took a defense that ranked among the bottom 20 nationally and made them into a top 20 defense. AT MEMPHIS. At Missouri, his job was a little easier. Take a defense that ranks among the top 50 every season, and make them into an elite defense. Yeah, he passed that test, too.
Missouri scoring defense prior to Barry Odom:
2013: 34th in scoring defense (23.1 points allowed per game)
2014: 19th in scoring defense (21.1 points allowed per game)
2015: 5th in scoring defense (14.7 points allowed per game)
There’s a pretty clear pattern here. Before Barry Odom arrives, one thing happens. Then when Odom gets into town, the defense gets better. Like, a lot better. And they continue to do so until they rank among the top 15 nationally. And when he leaves, as we saw at Memphis, the defense gets worse simply by him not being there. This Barry Odom guy can coach.
BOTTOM LINE: Barry Odom is a damn good defensive coordinator. We’ve heard time and time again that he’s highly regarded within coaching searches. And he’s a Mizzou guy. This is his dream job. If Mack Rhoades hires Odom and he’s great, it’s the last football hire that Mack Rhoades will make at Missouri. But – and there’s always a but – Odom has never been a head coach. And that could weigh heavily on Rhoades, who reportedly really liked Will Muschamp throughout the coaching search at Houston. I think Odom would be a very good hire at Missouri. But there are inherent risks in hiring a guy that’s never been a head coach. It remains to be seen how much of a risk Mack Rhoades wants to take.
2) Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente – Fuente is the only coach of the three that has built and sustained a program. He took an interesting route, too. He played quarterback at Oklahoma and Murray State in the late 1990’s and eventually played a year in the Arena Football League before getting into coaching. He got his start at Illinois State, a pretty solid FCS program, in 2001. He spent his first three years there as the quarterbacks coach, and eventually was promoted to offensive coordinator. His team had a monsterous year offensively in 2005, producing more than 39 points per game. That season put him on the map nationally, and in 2007 he was hired as the running backs coach at TCU. After just one season, he was promoted to co-offensive coordinator, and TCU never really looked back.
But that’s not why Fuente is a head coaching candidate. What Fuente has done at Memphis is nothing short of remarkable. Memphis had five total wins in the three years prior to his arrival. In a lot of ways, it mirrored what Pinkel inherited at Missouri. It was a terrible job. Slowly, but surely, Fuente built them into a contender. And in his third season on the job, the Tigers won 10 games, finishing the season with a big win over BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. His team has followed that up with an 8-2 start to the season. Oh, and did I mention that Fuente recruited and developed a potential first round pick at quarterback?
Fuente, with his quarterback background, is an offensive guy. He had Barry Odom handle the defense while Odom was coaching at Memphis. Just like we did with Odom, we looked up how the teams Fuente coached have done before, during and after he’s been involved with each respective offense. Here are the results:
2001-2006: Illinois State (QB Coach / Offensive Coordinator)
Illinois State scoring offense prior to naming Fuente Offensive Coordinator:
2001: 6th in scoring offense (23.5 ppg)
2002: 5th in scoring offense (22.6 ppg)
2003: 5th in scoring offense (26.5 ppg)
* All Illinois State rankings are within the Missouri Valley Conference, as national rankings are not made available.
There are some obvious years in which Justin Fuente’s offenses have exploded. In his second year as an offensive coordinator at Illinois State, the team scored more than 39 points per game. TCU’s offense was always ranked among the top in the country with Fuente at the helm. And at Memphis he’s built an offensive powerhouse in 2015. Those three stretches have an obvious connection: incredible quarterback play.
Fuente had a quarterback named Luke Drone at Illinois State in 2005. Drone was a really good player, and eventually was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills. He didn’t make the roster, but the fact that the Bills signed him as a guy that played for Illinois State says a lot. At TCU, Fuente had a guy named Andy Dalton at the quarterback position. You may have heard of him. And this year at Memphis, there is a quarterback by the name of Paxton Lynch that will likely be selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
You can choose to look at this in two ways. 1) Justin Fuente can recruit and develop quarterbacks. That’s something that Gary Pinkel was really good at, and it’s something that you obviously want in any college football coach. Or 2) Justin Fuente’s best years as an offensive football coach came with outstanding quarterbacks, who would have succeeded with any coach. I can understand both viewpoints, but I think it’s important to point it out because it’s going to be a question that people have about Fuente.
BOTTOM LINE: Justin Fuente, in my eyes, is the conventional hire. He’s paid his dues. He was successful in the FCS. His offenses were explosive and effective when he got his chance to lead the show at TCU. He’s built a program at Memphis that was in shambles when he arrived. And he’s shown the ability to recruit and develop quarterbacks throughout his career. If you’re looking for the negative on Fuente, it’s simple. Memphis still wasn’t very good his first couple years on the job. The team only became good when a first round quarterback started playing for them. So is this success due to Paxton Lynch, or Justin Fuente? To me, this is a chicken or the egg argument. The other concern could be recruiting. Memphis is far from a traditional power, but their recruiting hasn’t exactly been top-notch with Fuente at the helm. They’ve ranked 90th, 89th, 77th and 87th nationally in recruiting, according to Rivals.
3) Houston Head Coach Tom Herman – The third and final Missouri candidate is another obvious one with clear-cut connections to Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades. Rhoades hired Herman at Houston, and Herman’s done nothing but impress since arriving on campus.
Tom Herman started his career in the state of Texas, and he’s worked all across the state ever since. He spent time at Texas Lutheran, Texas, Sam Houston State and Texas State from 1998 to 2008. In 2009 he got the job as the offensive coordinator at Iowa State. In 2012 he moved again, this time to Ohio State to serve as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator. Herman’s highly regarded in coaching circles, but his offensive numbers are interesting to me. He never led a great offense at Iowa State, and while his offenses were incredibly effective while at Ohio State, it’s difficult to distinguish how much of that was Herman, and how much of it was Urban Meyer.
With all of that said, it’s easy to see why Tom Herman’s a hot commodity. Since taking over at Houston the program has flourished. They’re landing big-time in-state recruits, their offense is scoring at will, and their team is undefeated and well on their way to a group of six bowl game. Below is Herman’s track record as an offensive coordinator.
2009-2011: Iowa State (Offensive Coordinator)
Iowa State offense prior to Tom Herman:
2008: 59th in scoring offense (25.3 ppg)
TOM HERMAN NAMED OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR:
2009: 103rd in scoring offense (20.5 ppg)
2010: 97th in scoring offense (21.7 ppg)
2011: 90th in scoring offense (22.7 ppg)
AFTER HERMAN LEFT FOR OHIO STATE:
2012: 87th in scoring offense (24.5 ppg)
2013: 90th in scoring offense (24.8 ppg)
2014: 99th in scoring offense (23.2 ppg)
2012-2014: Ohio State (Offensive Coordinator)
Ohio State scoring offense prior to Tom Herman:
2010: 11th in scoring offense (38.8 ppg)
2011: 79th in scoring offense (24.5 ppg)
HERMAN NAMED OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR:
2012: 21st in scoring offense (37.2 ppg)
2013: 3rd in scoring offense (45.5 ppg)
2014: 5th in scoring offense (44.8 ppg)
HERMAN LEAVES FOR HOUSTON:
2015: 28th in scoring offense (36.4 ppg)
2015: Houston (Head Coach):
Houston scoring offense prior to Herman:
2013: 27th in scoring offense (33.2 ppg)
2014: 60th in scoring offense (29.8 ppg)
HERMAN NAMED HEAD COACH:
2015: 8th in scoring offense (43.5 ppg)
Tom Herman’s coaching path is really interesting to me. Iowa State has some of its best years with Herman as their offensive coordinator, but that’s not saying a whole lot. The offense didn’t get a whole lot better with him, and the team won six or seven games all three years. And I’m not sure how much stock I can put into any offensive coordinator that works for Urban Meyer because of the amount of success Meyer’s teams have had everywhere he goes. But what Herman’s done this season has been very impressive. He’s revitalized a Houston program that desperately needed some life, and he’s built an offense that ranks among the top 10 nationally. That’s no small thing.
BOTTOM LINE: I really don’t know what to make of Tom Herman. Is he the next offensive genius that simply needed a chance? Or was he the benefactor of Urban Meyer’s offense, and a guy that inherited a better job than people realized when he got to Houston? Those are questions that Mack Rhoades will have to ask himself throughout the process. What Herman does have going for him is the clear connection. Rhoades hired him at Houston, so clearly there’s some sort of affinity for Herman. He’s also had undeniable success as a head coach this season. And Urban Meyer’s coaching tree certainly has success stories – Charlie Strong, Kyle Whittingham and Gary Anderson each come to mind. But I do wonder if Missouri is willing to pay that $2 million buyout that will be required for Herman to leave Houston early. And I also wonder if Herman is a flash in the pan, to be honest.
WRAPPING IT UP:
There’s a lot to consider. I think Missouri’s coaching search will come down to these three candidates. And I think any of the three would be quality hires. They all have different pros and cons. But, in the end, I think Barry Odom would be my hire. He’s been successful at every level. He has Missouri ties. He’s highly regarded within coaching circles. And if you think he’s going to be a successful head coach, you make him YOUR head coach.
But, it’s not my hire to make. And I have a feeling that my sensibilities will be different than that of Mack Rhoades. If I had to predict as of today who I think Rhoades will go with, I think it would be Justin Fuente. He’s built a program from the bottom up. He’s proven that he can win at a high level. And Fuente has proven based on hiring Barry Odom, and based on my own interactions with current Missouri safeties coach Ryan Williams (who coached at Memphis prior to coming to Mizzou) that he has an eye for coaching talent.
This story is far from over. There will be twists and turns along the way. But one thing, I believe, will remain constant: Missouri will come back to one of these three coaches. And, when they do, they’ll make a good hire. It’s a fun, unsettling, anxiety-filled time to be a Missouri football fan.
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Mizzou players and coaches met with the media to discuss Gary Pinkel’s announcement that he will retire following the 2015 season, to break down the team’s win over BYU, and to preview the Tigers’ senior day matchup vs. Tennessee.