Missouri retools football program with three new coaches

Odom fills offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and defensive line coaching roles.

Barry Odom wasted little time forming his coaching staff for the 2016-17 season.

In a span of five days, Missouri football found its newest offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Josh Heupel, named DeMontie Cross its defensive coordinator and linebackers coach and added Chris Wilson to man the defensive line.

Heupel was named offensive coordinator Dec. 17, making him the first of Odom’s hires. Heupel comes from Utah State, where he held the same position during the 2015 season. Before taking over Utah State, Heupel was the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2011 to 2014.

“I’m really pleased to have someone the caliber of Josh Heupel join our staff,” Odom said. “I’ve known him for a long time and have always respected him highly, as a player, a coach, a recruiter and a coordinator.”

While Heupel’s offense at Utah State underperformed without star quarterback Chuckie Keeton at the helm, his offenses at Oklahoma were stellar. In his final year at Oklahoma, the Sooners finished the year ranked 23rd nationally in total offense and averaged 36.4 points per game.

Heupel will be taking over a Missouri offense that struggled mightily during its 2015 campaign. The Tigers only averaged 13.6 points per game and ranked 125th out of 128 teams in terms of total offense.

“I am very grateful to Coach Odom for this opportunity,” Heupel said in a statement. “I believe this is a special place that has just scratched the surface of what it can be and it’s a program that is capable of winning championships on a consistent basis.”

Odom’s next hire was announced on Dec. 18, when he pegged Cross as his defensive coordinator.

Cross played free safety at Mizzou from 1994 to 1996 and was a graduate assistant and outside linebackers coach for the Tigers from 1998 to 1999. His experience includes five years in the National Football League, where he was a linebackers and special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills from 2006 to 2010.

His most recent stint was with TCU, where he worked as the linebackers coach during the 2013-14 season and as the Horned Frogs’ defensive coordinator in 2015.

“(Cross) is an outstanding addition to our staff,” Odom said in a statement. “Obviously he has great enthusiasm, excitement and passion for Mizzou, and we’re proud to have him back here.”

Cross’ defense ranked 63rd nationally and fourth in the Big 12. He is taking over a Mizzou group that finished sixth in the nation in total defense and is expected to have eight out of 11 starters return to play during the 2016 season.

“I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with Coach Odom and contribute to a place that has given me so much,” Cross said. “Mizzou has already established a good reputation on defense, so all I’m looking to do is come in and put my own twist to it and try to make it even better.”

Mizzou’s most recent hire occurred Dec. 21 when Wilson was named the team’s defensive line coach.

Wilson comes to Missouri facing perhaps the most daunting challenge of the three coaches. While he is inheriting one of the scariest lines in the country, Wilson is replacing Craig Kuligowski, who has held the position for the past 19 years.

Wilson’s track record includes stints at Colorado, Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Georgia and Southern California. He was also a linebacker at Oklahoma from 1988 to 1991.

“I’ve known of (Wilson) and thought highly of him for a number of years,” Odom said in a statement. “He’s very passionate about coaching the defensive line and he’s got a great feel for fundamentals and understanding what it takes to mentor a group and lead them and have them playing at their best level.”

Wilson was most recently the defensive line coach at USC. He was let go after the Trojans experienced a dismal 2015 campaign on defense. The upcoming season will be his fifth year in the Southeastern Conference after spending three at Mississippi State and one season at Georgia.

“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity to be at such a great institution and program as Mizzou and also to be back in the SEC,” Wilson said in a statement. “I understand the tradition of excellence that Mizzou has had with the defensive line, and I’m honored to come in and work hard to help give them a chance to be even better in the future.”

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