Missouri’s connections to Memphis continue after Odom’s return Fulton, Missouri News

"Probably could have stayed here and in a very — I don’t want to use the word comfortable, but I felt like I had become a little bit comfortable, and that’s a scary thing to me," Odom said. "I wanted to be a coordinator, I wasn’t really interested in waiting around, and I wanted to try to do it on an opportunity where I could go be myself and build the brand along with the direction of a program that needed it, and was it a chance, you bet it was. But also I’ve got a lot of belief in when you continue to stay the course and keep blinders on and work, and you’re surrounded by really good people, that great things are going to happen.

"The year before I got there they were like 3-9," Walters said. "And then won 10 games the year I was there. Again, 10 wins was the year I was there.

No, but (Fuente and Odom) built that program the right way. Flipped the roster, those guys were really gritty guys, in terms of the toughness they played with and sort of the way they went to work on and off the field.

One thing that Odom brought back with him to Missouri was a knowledge of the Memphis area and the football talent not just in that city, but in the state of Tennessee as well. Offensive lineman Paul Adams, wide receivers Emanuel Hall and Johnathon Johnson, punter Corey Fatony and linebacker Finis Stribling IV are all seniors or redshirt seniors from the state of Tennessee. Stribling is mostly a special teams player, but all have had an important role on this team, especially offensively, and with Odom’s connections there, Missouri hopes to be in on the best talent from the state of Tennessee’s next few recruiting classes.

"Really, we’ve got some good players out of that state," wide receivers coach and former director of recruiting A.J. Ofodile said. "I think as you said, not maybe nationally known for its talent but when you really actually look at the numbers across the country, Tennessee’s got some really good football players. Proximity-wise to us, we’re six, seven hours away from Nashville, Memphis, we’re in that radius, so it’s an important area to us. We’ve gotten some really good players from Tennessee and they’ve made their mark on our team."

Odom still has connections with high school coaches in Memphis, which gives him credibility and authenticity when he and his staff go to recruit there. Sophomore Aubrey Miller Jr. was injured last year and has struggled to see playing time this year behind a veteran linebacker corps, but freshman running back Tyler Badie has been a huge success this season. Both are examples of Memphis talent Odom has succeeded in attracting to Missouri, and both are the kind of player that would succeed in the AAC, perhaps at Memphis if Odom hadn’t come calling or hadn’t returned to Columbia.

"There’s so many people that are still there from when I was there those three and a half years," he said. "The director of athletics Tom Bowen has transformed, with a lot of help, has transformed that place into what it is. And you look back over the three, four, five years, they’ve won as many football games as about anybody in the country. The leadership that he has provided, but also guys like Brad Martin, who was the president when I was there, there are so many people that I’m close with that still have ties to that university and that city. It was a really good place to me and my family, and the American Athletic Conference is one that hold in very very high regard."

One player that Missouri, and the nation, holds in high regard is Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. Henderson is the national rushing leader, with 1,133 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games. His elusiveness and burst of speed, running behind a talented and disciplined offensive line, means that Henderson gets to his 162 yards per game average on fewer than 20 carries per game.

Memphis has one of the better pass defenses in the nation and could easily challenge Drew Lock and the promising but inexperienced wide receivers starting today. The Tigers are giving up fewer than 200 yards per game through the air and have allowed more than 300 yards once, against South Alabama. This could be a run-heavy game with both teams trying to control the clock.