The Maneater

Mizzou Camp: Odom emphasizes depth following second scrimmage

The Tigers are aiming to work in freshmen to their sets as the season moves within two weeks.

Mizzou football coach Barry Odom talks to players during stretches before a fall Mizzou camp practice at the Mizzou Athletics Training Center on August 13, 2018.

Barry Odom and others on the Missouri football coaching staff didn’t hesitate last Friday to stress the importance of the Tigers’ upcoming scrimmage. That pivotal scrimmage, the second of 2018 fall training camp, took place Saturday night and was closed to media, but Odom spoke about it for the first time after Tuesday’s practice.

“‘2s’ did some good things on being able to offensively manage and move the football,” he said. “Defensively I thought we tackled well and were assignment-sound. We did some things to really help guys get some game experience that really hadn’t had that much.”

The scrimmage was designed to feature and test Missouri’s backups and freshmen in an effort to establish roster depth, so starters and veterans saw limited action, Odom said. It was a point he drilled home on Tuesday.

One of the biggest questions going in — who will serve as Drew Lock’s second-string quarterback — remains unanswered. With Micah Wilson, Lindsey Scott Jr. and Jack Lowary each lobbying for the position, Odom hopes to use the final days of camp this week and next before reaching a decision.

Odom also confirmed Tuesday that redshirt sophomore tailback Dawson Downing will be on scholarship after spending his first two years as a walk-on. Downing will join freshman Tyler Badie as options for the Tigers’ third-string running back behind Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III, who appear positioned to split time in the backfield.

Walk-ons were a prominent talking point for Odom and players who each praised their importance, especially throughout the preseason camp process.

“I tell walk-ons all the time I couldn’t do what they do,” offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton said. “They have a chip on their shoulder because they’re asked to do some of the most work on the team and yet it’s little reward. Those guys are the lifeline and the backbone of college football.”

Pendleton is a senior left guard and one of five returning starters on the offensive line. Odom spoke highly about the value of Missouri’s experience in the trenches, a crucial factor toward protecting a Heisman candidate in Lock and that plethora of running backs.

“They’ve got a calmness about them, and also they understand the looks with the experience that they’ve had,” Odom said. “There is a feeling of comfort for the running backs, for Drew … just because [the offensive line have] played so well together. They understand. They speak the same language. It’s a good group. We’ve got to keep them healthy and keep pushing.”

Defensively, all three of last year’s starting linebackers are returning — Terez Hall, Cale Garrett and Brandon Lee — though Hall has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury at camp and will miss time early in his senior season. Dynamic freshman Nick Bolton will help cover for Hall while Aubrey Miller Jr. and Jamal Brooks will provide added depth at the position.

“We’re anticipating [Bolton] playing real snaps on defense,” Odom said.

The secondary will be highlighted by returners Adam Sparks and DeMarkus Acy playing wide at the cornerback spots, and the defensive line sports a secure interior with seniors Terry Beckner Jr. and Walter Palmore. One defensive line spot seems to be up in the air still between Tre Williams and Nate Anderson, but the core remains similar with Chris Turner likely to be the other defensive end.

The biggest difference from last year will ultimately be the play-calling shift to Ryan Walters, who was promoted from within as the former secondary coach. That similar player personnel — as well as new redshirting rules — is why Odom is so intent on working in freshmen and creating depth.

“At this point,” Odom said, “a majority of the freshmen are gonna have action.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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