February 19, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Barry Odom stops short of hard promises and immediate expectations.

The last few months have not been easy for Missouri football - a player boycott and a major drop on the field after consecutive SEC East titles. The Tigers also said goodbye to coach Gary Pinkel and dismissed its most experienced quarterback.

Pinkel, the school's career leader in victories, stepped down while battling cancer. Now it's Odom's team, and he's embracing the challenge of bouncing back from a 5-7 season.

''I ultimately knew I was going to be a head coach,'' Odom said. ''I didn't know when and I didn't know where, but I absolutely knew that it was going to happen and you always try to prepare.''

New offensive line coach Glen Elarbee has coached against Odom the last three seasons, and came away thinking: ''Holy cow, I always thought he was the best defensive mind I went up against.''

Still, the staff he's assembled is far from yes men.

''There's disagreement, know what I mean, but there's discussion,'' offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. ''You want discussion and then when you settle on something, everybody goes in and sells it to the kids.''

The 39-year-old Odom has dealt decisively with topics that steer the conversation away from football.

Maty Mauk was dismissed late last month, a few days after a Twitter video showed a person appearing to snort a white, powderlike substance while naming Mauk. The Tigers move forward with Drew Lock, who arrived highly touted but struggled as a freshman after getting thrust into the job.

Addressing recent campus unrest, Odom believes the program can help set the tone at the school by doing things the right way. Pinkel supported a brief player strike, showing solidarity with students and avoiding an expensive forfeit at BYU.

Odom said Missouri didn't lose any recruits wary of the situation and asserted that the school is a mirror of society.

''I think most parents understood,'' said running backs coach Cornell Ford, who heads recruiting in St. Louis and was one of three assistants retained. ''I think most parents respected that we stood for the players.''

As a public speaker with self-deprecating humor and plain-spoken goals, Odom has quickly endeared himself to boosters and the fan base.

The father of three, the youngest a 7-month-old daughter, Odom told a Tiger Quarterback Club audience that he's out of his depth trying to dictate terms at home. In the pecking order, he comes in ''somewhere below'' the dog.

''There's one boss in our house, and it ain't me,'' Odom said.

Missouri bottomed out last year with results similar to the school's first disappointing season in the SEC. The Tigers claimed East titles the second and third year, but in Year 5 they must claw their way back again.

Odom was a linebacker on Missouri teams that went to bowl games in 1997 and `98, ending a 14-year postseason drought. The formula then, and now, is the same. Outworking the opponent.

''These guys have worked their tails off to make Mizzou a better place today,'' Odom said. ''And tomorrow they'll wake up and do it again.''

He's well aware that recruiting never stops, especially nowadays with endless outlets for speculation.

''As long as you deal with truthfulness and honesty, which we do every day, I'm not worried about it,'' Odom said. ''There's a lot of information out there and you've got to decide what's fact and what's fiction.''

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