The biggest news with Mizzou football happened off the field when the Tigers relieved defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach DeMontie Cross of his duties on Sunday evening.
Barry Odom addressed that on Monday in a teleconference, but Tiger players and assistant coaches spoke for the first time since the news on Tuesday afternoon. The universal reaction from Mizzou players: Surprise.
"We really weren’t expecting that. We just hope everything goes well with this situation. It’s a tough one," defensive tackle Terry Beckner said. "Nobody was looking forward to that happening, but sometimes things happen out of nowhere and you have to run with it."
"Absolutely we weren't expecting anything like that," linebacker Joe Burkett said. "There's nothing we can do so we're just moving on."
The biggest change may be an increased involvement with the linebackers for the head coach. Odom will take over coaching the inside backers himself.
"He's way more involved now," Terez Hall said. "He's the one that recruited me so it ain't really nothing different. I was here the year we were 5-7 and we had one of the best defenses in the country and he was coaching my position. It's not really nothing different. Coach Odom's Coach Odom. He's always coaching."
"It's just a little more. He's in and out of everybody's meeting room so I think he'll just be in our meeting room a little bit more.
As for the coaches, they're all ready to pull a little bit more weight going forward with the defensive staff down one assistant.
“Obviously there’s more on everybody’s plate,” secondary coach Ryan Walters said. “Willing to do whatever coach Odom is asking of us and whatever the kids need us to do to put them in a position to be successful on Saturday and move forward.
“There’s gonna be some adjusting, but the week’s too short. There’s no time to sit around and dwell on it.”
“I coach the defensive line. I’m gonna try to go out and do the best job I can to coach those guys,” Brick Haley said. “Whatever I’m asked to do and whatever role that he asks me to play I’m going to try to pick up that role and give it the best chance I can to be successful. We’re all going to have to chip in.”
"Let me tell you something about our staff. Our staff's always coaching. They all been involved. It's not like they're just jumping in. No, they've been there. They've been with the crew."
BROHM HAS PURDUE PLAYING WELL
The Tigers’ opponent on Saturday suddenly presents a much different challenge than most expected it to before the season. Purdue, like Missouri, is 1-1 through two weeks. But the Boilermakers went toe-to-toe with Louisville into the fourth quarter before falling 35-28 in week one. Purdue then whipped Ohio 44-21 last Friday night.
“They’ve built their offensive line, they’ve got a couple transfers, they’re able to run the football,” Odom said. “I’ve followed (Jeff Brohm) a little bit over the years, just knowing who he is. He did a great job at Western Kentucky. Scheme-wise you kind of check that out from the last couple of years just to get more of an idea on that. You can see kind of who they are. He’s done a great job on making adjustments as the game goes.”
The Boilermakers are playing two quarterbacks and both have been effective. Junior David Blough has completed 75% of his passes with five touchdowns and two interceptions. But sophomore Elijah Sindelar has started both games so far despite completing just 47% of his passes for 178 yards. The Boilermakers have not named a starter in advance of either of their games so far.
“I would anticipate they’ll both play,” Odom said. “It doesn’t appear that they ask one guy to do something that they keep out for the other. Either No. 2’s in there or No. 11’s in there.”
WILSON BACK IN THE ROTATION
In week one against Missouri State, senior safety Thomas Wilson watched most of the game from the bench before playing the last couple of series against the Bears. But Wilson started in week two against South Carolina and played well, making five tackles and breaking up a pass.
“He played really well,” Walters said. “He did very well in communication. I think that was the biggest piece that we were missing right there.”
Wilson and fellow starter Anthony Sherrils were the two highest-graded safeties against the Gamecocks.
"I feel like I played well," Wilson said. "I was a little bit rusty, but this Saturday I feel I'll play a lot better."
It would have been easy for Wilson, a senior, to sulk or give up after not being in the rotation in week one. Instead, he upped his effort and earned more time.
"It was tough, but I just tried to stay positive and encourage the guys that were out there," Wilson said. "Just continued to practice hard, staying ready and just trusting my teammates and coaches."
“It’s gonna take everybody in our room to be good on defense and to play the way that we can play,” Walters said. “Just a testament to what we believe in here. You’ve got to be ready to go when your name is called. Fortunate for our room that he was.”
BECKNER BACK IN FORM
Another guy who was much better in week two than week one was defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr.
“I saw a very explosive Terry Beckner,” Haley said. “I saw a young man that came in with some great effort, some really good technique and just a guy that wanted to come and play. He did a good job. He played his butt off.”
Beckner is coming off his second torn ACL in two years and Haley thought perhaps he just needed a week of game action to get his game back in form.
“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Haley said. “When we went into the first week, we saw a lot of cut blocks from Missouri State. I think that made him play a little more tentative also. I think when he came out last week he was more prepared mentally and physically to go and play.”
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVEMENT
As first reported by PowerMizzou.com on Tuesday morning, Odom confirmed that reserve running back Nate Strong left the team the day before the season opener against Missouri State.
Strong committed to Missouri out of East St. Louis High School in 2015. He spent the next year-and-a-half at Hinds CC in Mississippi and joined the Tigers before the 2016 season. He ran for 137 yards on 32 carries last week, including a 52-yard, two-touchdown effort in the season finale against Arkansas.
Speaking of running backs, Odom said on Tuesday that he expected Damarea Crockett to play this week. Crockett missed the final quarter-and-a-half against South Carolina with a bruised tailbone.
Crockett said he got hurt in the second quarter.
"I just fell on my tailbone with a D-tackle on top of me," he said. "It was just an awkward fall."
He stuck it out for a while and even tried to go back in during the second half, but had to watch the rest of the game from the sideline.
"I tried to that first drive coming out of halftime when I came in and then came out," he said. "It just wasn't feeling too spiffy."
Crockett ran for 97 yards, giving him 299 through the Tigers first two games. He practiced on Tuesday and said he'll be ready to go this weekend.
Offensive tackle Yasir Durant, who left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, has also been cleared to return to practice.