Barry Odom emphasizes ‘urgency’ in first spring practice

Drew Lock: “There’s definitely a way different pace — it’s super fast to say the least.”

Courtesy of MU Athletics

The rain poured down on Faurot Field, but former Missouri football players Shane Ray and Kentrell Brothers stayed focused on their drills. They weren’t the only ones. Tuesday was the first spring football practice for the 2016 Tigers and new head coach Barry Odom.

Although Odom was defensive coordinator under former coach Gary Pinkel, his first practice went differently. It was more fast-paced and focused on “urgency,” a term used by many of the coaches. Overall, it was a change that many seem to embrace.

Here’s a look at three takeaways from the spring’s first practice:

Changes in structure

Odom’s “business as usual” mentality was apparent from the get-go when the team took the field. For him, “business as usual” meant a practice that was a faster pace for everyone, and many took note.

“I want to move with urgency,” Odom said. “If we get the work in that we need to, we’re going to get it done, and a lot of that is on our coaching staff to get it set.”

To get a glimpse of that speed, senior linebacker Michael Scherer mentioned that the practice “had close to 24 rotations,” whereas last year’s “might’ve had 10.” Even quarterback Drew Lock took note of it.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any challenge in moving from Pinkel to Odom … maybe (Odom) is a little more in your face,” Lock said. “Today, the toughest thing was the rain, but there’s definitely a way different pace — it’s super fast to say the least. It’s something that we’ll definitely have to get adjusted to, but the coaches do a nice job of directing us from drill to drill.”

Early quarterback notes

Positioned toward the center of the field, sophomores Lock and Marvin Zanders, along with Jack Lowary, a sophomore transfer from Long Beach Community College, worked on dropbacks the majority of the practice with coach Josh Heupel towering over them.

Heupel is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Andy Hill, the former quarterbacks coach, is now the wide receivers coach.

“I feel like Coach Heupel has a little more quarterback background than Coach Hill had, so there are definitely going to be some aspects of the game that I’m getting from Coach Heupel that I didn’t get from Coach Hill,” Lock said. “I’m excited, though, I’m excited.”

Of all things dealing with the key position, Lowary’s height stood out as they worked the ball toward the sideline. A key addition with the losses of Eddie Printz and Maty Mauk, Lowary has “been great” thus far, according to Lock.

“He’s definitely another arm for us,” Lock said. “He’s teaching me things. He’s a nice person to have in the room, he’s got a character about him and it’s nice to meet him.”

New defensive system

Michael Scherer said that new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross reminds him a bit of former Mizzou defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.

Scherer is entering his final year as a linebacker with Mizzou, but his first in this system, something he said will take time.

“Just like me and Donovan, everybody is trying to learn this new defense,” Scherer said. “It’s going to take a lot of reps to get it down, but we have a lot of young guys that are capable.”

Injury update

  • Terry Beckner Jr., who suffered a right ACL tear against BYU last year, remains out, as did Tavon Ross, who suffered a torn left ACL. A team spokesman said all players “would be back in some form or fashion” after Missouri’s spring break.
  • Isaiah Pierre and Jonah Dubinski have also been sidelined with knee injuries.

Charles Harris and Johnathon Johnson both suffered minor injuries in practice. Odom didn’t seem concerned.

Other things to note

  • Cam Hilton, who played a bit of receiver last year for Missouri, has been switched to a free safety. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder recorded nine catches for 129 yards last year.

    “He’s a kid that can play a lot of spots and right now free safety was the spot our team needed him in,” Odom said. “You never want to take a really great player from one side and put him to the other, but If you look at the number of receivers we’ve got compared to the number of defensive backs we’ve got and his skillset level, we needed him at safety.”

  • Marvin Zanders posted a picture on social media with junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore and Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee. Zanders said the discussion was about everything the team and school had been through last year.

    “I didn’t even know I was going to see him, but I walked into a function and he was there and I went over to introduce myself,” Zanders said. “We talked about school, the atmosphere, how everything went during the time of the boycott and the climate of the campus and how everybody responded to all that. It was a pretty cool conversation because it’s not everyday you get to talk to Spike Lee.

  • Sophomore running back Marquise Doherty is currently playing baseball and wasn’t at practice on Tuesday.

    “(The baseball team) had a game today, but the days they’re playing, we’ve worked together to make sure he’d have an opportunity to go compete in baseball,” Odom said. “The days he’s not there, he’s going to come work with us.”

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