Notebook: Odom talks contract, Kelly Bryant, bowl game prep

Offensive analyst Garrick McGee will take over as Missouri’s tight ends coach through the Liberty Bowl.
Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam runs away from defenders and sprints into the endzone for his first of three touchdowns in a 65-33 win over Memphis on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.

Missouri may have 23 days until it plays football again in the Liberty Bowl against Oklahoma State, but the past week has been as eventful as a college football program can have during such a long break.

The Tigers got their anticipated bowl game assignment, won the recruitment of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant as a graduate transfer and got their coach Barry Odom extended through the 2024 season with a $600,000 raise. Odom spoke with local media after Saturday’s practice.

“All good stuff,” Odom said. “You want to be busy this time of year.”

Odom holds onto one-day-at-a-time approach after new contract

Odom was asked about his excitement to be secured at MU for a long time after his new contract approved Wednesday gave him a two-year extension. The coach was more focused on the next few days than the next few years.

“I’m thankful for our leadership, and that starts with President [Mun] Choi, [Chancellor Alexander] Cartwright and [athletic director] Jim Sterk,” Odom said. “There’s a lot of vision that we all four have together that is moving this program and our athletic department and our university in the right way. I’m excited about that. Also, I understand that we've got to have a really good Sunday tomorrow. I know that's the boring answer with the process of how you go do it, but it kind of works best for me.”

Beckner sticking around for bowl game against fast offense

Missouri will have a lighter week of practice with final exams upcoming for players. From there, the Tigers will transition into more opponent-based practice revolving around Oklahoma State, Odom said. The Cowboys bring a fast-paced Big 12 offense that defensive coordinator Ryan Walters expects will be a challenge to prepare for.

“They’re good, man,” Walters said. “They’ve played well all year, especially on that side of the ball. Their quarterback does a good job getting it out quickly. You see tempo all over the place. Formation into the boundary, they do a good job of balancing up the attack with both run and pass. Lot of [run-pass option] games, so you’ve gotta have your guys lined up in the right spot. And we’ve gotta protect on the deep ball. They’re explosive on offense.”

Senior defensive lineman Terry Beckner Jr. said Saturday that he will play in the bowl game despite many NFL prospects being known to skip their bowl games.

“This is my last one at this university,” Beckner said. “That’s pretty big to me. I want to play my last one and I want to end it out right.”

Injury report

Missouri will be carefully watching its injured players over the coming weeks to determine availability in the bowl game. Senior receiver Nate Brown is working back from a groin injury but Odom said the Tigers “don’t know where we’re at with that.”

Running backs Damarea Crockett (ankle) and Tyler Badie (foot) both wore red no-contact jerseys at practice Saturday. Crockett missed Missouri's final game of the regular season against Arkansas. Cornerback Adam Sparks missed the last four games of the season but was involved in some practice activities while wearing a red pullover, and receiver Richaud Floyd (concussion) was mildly involved but also in the red jersey.

Sophomore tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (right shoulder) was in a sling and red jersey at practice Saturday and didn’t participate at all. He is considered one of MU’s top-potential players at any position but has missed most of the second half of the season.

“[Okwuegbunam] will be very limited in any action until we get to actual bowl week,” Odom said. “We’ve kind of put a calendar together on both sides for once we get to Memphis to see if he can do some things.”

Offensive analyst fills in as tight ends coach

Missouri might be without Okwuegbunam at tight end in Memphis, but it will definitely be without its tight ends coach, Joe Jon Finley. Finley left as tight ends coach at MU and is expected to take the same job at Texas A&M. Odom told reporters that offensive analyst Garrick McGee will take over as tight ends coach through the bowl game, then Odom will “make some decisions after that point.”

“[McGee] has been around in his role as a senior analyst, understands the offense, knows our team,” Odom said. “He has done a great job in his time here working with the staff. And then really helping our offense and helping our team and putting himself in position to learn what we’re doing and how we do it.”

McGee has been offensive coordinator at Illinois and Louisville and was head coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“He’s given a lot of feedback to me because of his experiences,” Odom said. “We’ll kind of make some decisions from [the bowl] on what way we’re gonna go.”

Kelly Bryant committed week before announcement

Saturday was the first time Odom was made available to local media since signing Kelly Bryant to come to MU next year as the Tigers’ quarterback.

“It took mutual interest on both sides, both parties,” Odom said. “[Bryant] wanted an opportunity here with the structure of what we have coming back offensively, and then it took the entire organization once he got here to recruit him. Once we get guys here on campus, we have a great chance to get them because we’ve got a really good thing going. I'm excited to get him around his teammates, and start that process of getting to know them and them getting to know him. And then getting to work.”

Odom confirmed that Bryant committed to Missouri when Odom visited his house on Nov. 26, the week before Bryant announced. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn visited Bryant twice after that point to try making a final case.

“I was confident, but you never know until you get the final word I guess,” Odom said. “Was excited when he told us on the 26th. He was mature on how he approached the process, and I knew there would be a late charge by a number of people, which there was. That's always the case in recruiting. I felt strong that he was gonna stay with us.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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