New Missouri coach hires OU alumni; Ross transfers to MU

The Missouri football team is taking on a distinctive Oklahoma influence under first-year head coach Barry Odom.

Running back Alex Ross of OU is transferring to MU, which hired former OU quarterback and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as part of the new football staff. And there are other OU alumni on the coaching staff.

Odom was hired to replace Gary Pinkel, who had been the head coach for the Tigers since 2000. Pinkel is the winningest coach in Missouri history with a 118-73 record at MU. Under Pinkel, Missouri won five conference divisional titles and went to 10 bowl games with five final rankings in the Top 20. He was national coach of the year in 2007 and he guided the transition from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference.

Odom, who had been an assistant at MU for 14 years, was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, and grew up in Maysville, Oklahoma. He played football at MU under former Coach Larry Smith.

Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, formerly the athletic director at Missouri, praised Odom’s hire.

“From the moment I met him on his official visit as a prospective student-athlete, through watching his playing years as a Tiger, it was clearly evident that Barry Odom’s character, leadership skills and intent to make everyone around him better would position him for success in everything he pursued,” Castiglione said. “I’ve followed his career journey ever since with great interest. I’m absolutely thrilled for him as he realizes his dream of becoming head football coach at Mizzou. He has taken every opportunity to properly prepare for this moment and I firmly believe he will lead Missouri to a lot of success.”

Ross, who played high school football at Jenks, has graduated from OU with one year of eligibility left. Under NCAA rules, he can transfer to another school and play immediately.

OU is loaded at running back with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and Ross had been limited to most returning kicks last season.

Heupel, who was fired by OU coach Bob Stoops at the end of the 2014 season, was offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Utah State last season. When Ross was a sophomore, he had his best season at OU under Heupel with a career-high 595 yards (6.8 yards per carry).

Last season, Ross rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries.

Missouri has only one returning running back with college experience, paving the way for Ross to have an impact immediately.

Also during his sophomore year, Ross was named to the All-Big 12 first team as a kickoff returner, averaging 31.2 yards per attempt. Missouri was dead last in the nation in kickoff returns last year.

“Alex has been a great teammate and team guy for four years for us, and we’ve always been proud of him,” said Stoops. “This is an opportunity for him to go somewhere else and play full time. We wish him the best.”

Heupel was the starting quarterback for the Sooners in 2000 when OU won the national title.

“I just truly believe in Barry and who he is as a person and his vision for the program,” Heupel said. “I’ve known him as a competitor for a long time on the football field while we were both playing collegiately and competing against him – we’ve recruited the same area in Texas for a long time.  He’s organized, he’s detailed, he’s very professional.  He’s relentless and he works extremely hard.  You add all those attributes up, and the success he’s had on the defensive side of the ball recently as a defensive coordinator, you just know he can maximize what we have here and we’ll do a great job of recruiting great players here.  I just think it’s a great time to be here and be a part of Missouri Football.”

Heupel led OU to a 13-0 record in 2000 and won the Walter Camp Award. He was named AP National Player of the Year. He led an offense that averaged 45 points a game and scored 63 points against Texas.

Heupel coached two Heisman Trophy winners, Jason White and Sam Bradford, of Oklahoma. A humbling loss to Clemson in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl led Stoops to dump Heupel and bring in Lincoln Riley as the new OU offensive coordinator.

Heupel will also coach quarterbacks at MU.

Another former OU quarterback, Joey Hazle, has been hired as an offensive analyst for Missouri.

When Rhett Bomar was kicked off the OU team, the Sooners were left with two quarterbacks – Hazle and senior Paul Thompson, who had switched positions to wide receiver. Hazle was a transfer from Golden West Community College and he backed up Thompson. The Sooners won the Big 12 that year.

Another OU player hired by Odom is former Sooner linebacker coach Jackie Shipp. For the past three years, Shipp has coached the defensive line at Arizona State. He was a defensive line coach for Oklahoma from 1999-2012.

Shipp is a former recipient of the All-American Football Foundation Mike Campbell Top Assistant Coach Award and has been named by Rivals.com as a Top 25 recruiter nationally.

“I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to welcome Coach Shipp to the Mizzou family,” said Odom.  “He has had great success throughout his career and that includes developing some of the best defensive linemen in college football.  I’ve seen him recruit with relentless energy and have always been impressed with how he gets his players to play the game.  I’m most excited about him leading and mentoring our student-athletes and providing them with a platform for success in life,” he said.

Shipp grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and competed for OU in the Big 8.

“I think back to (Missouri) greats like Phil Bradley, James Wilder, Leo Lewis and all of those teams, and I always have had great respect for Mizzou and their history,” said Shipp. “Now, it’s the SEC which we all know is considered the best league by so many, and Mizzou has already played for two league championships in a short time which is really impressive.  I’m excited to come to work with a great staff that Coach Odom has put together, it is a great situation all around to have success with.”

Before arriving at ASU, Shipp, a former NFL linebacker who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to the 1985 Super Bowl, spent 14 years coaching the defensive line for head coach Bob Stoops at the University of Oklahoma.  Shipp was hired by Stoops on his original staff at Oklahoma in 1999 and proceeded to coach with the Sooners in their 2001 National Championship win (13-2) over Florida State.

Shipp mentored three All-Americans at OU, including two-time recipients Tommie Harris (Lombardi Award recipient in 2003) and Gerald McCoy (Lombardi Award finalist in 2009).

Shipp played collegiately at Oklahoma (1980-83), where he was a standout linebacker, starring on Sooner squads that posted a combined 33-14-1 record, won two bowl games and captured the 1980 Big Eight Championship.  In the 1982 game with Texas, Shipp set the school single-game record with 23 tackles.  He still ranks second in career tackles at OU with 489.

Shipp’s coaching career began at Langston University in 1991 where he served as linebacker coach.  In 1992 he moved to Central Missouri State University.  After one year coaching the defensive line at the University of Tennessee at Martin (1993), Shipp was hired to coach the defensive line at Southern Illinois University in 1994, where he stayed three years.  During that time Shipp also completed coaching internships with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers (1994) and Minnesota Vikings (1995-96).

In 1997 Shipp became the defensive line coach at Northeast Louisiana University (now Louisiana-Monroe) and then was hired in 1998 as defensive line coach at the University of Alabama.

Former Oklahoma center Jon Cooper has been hired as an offensive graduate assistant at Missouri. Cooper went to OU in 2005. He played in eleven games, starting two, for the team as a freshman. In his second start, he suffered a dislocation and break in his right ankle at Texas Tech and missed the remainder of the season. He was one of the most solid true freshmen on the team after posting no penalties and a high passing grade of 83 stringent in OU’s stringent grading process.

Cooper was named the starting center his sophomore season in 2006. Cooper had 125 knockdown blocks during the course of the season, including 18 against Oklahoma State.

Cooper led one of the nation’s best offensive lines in 2007, starting all 14 games and logging team highs with 798 plays and 136 knockdowns.

Former OU player Joe Jon Finley was hired to coach tight ends at Missouri. Finley was an all-conference performer in his playing days for the Oklahoma Sooners.  He spent the 2015 season on the coaching staff at Baylor, where he worked extensively with the tight ends as an offensive quality control specialist.

This past season, the Baylor offense was among the most potent in the nation, as the Bears led the country in both total offense (616 yards per game) and scoring (48.1 points per game).

“Joe Jon brings great energy and enthusiasm to our program, he is a winner who has proven himself in a short time to be a valuable asset offensively in run game organization, concepts and teaching,” said Odom.

“I’m very excited to get to work with Coach Odom and the staff he’s put together,” Finley said. “I’ve known of Coach Odom for a long time, I’d heard about him and his family growing up and I’m very excited to be part of his team.  I can tell he’s going to bring great energy and work ethic to the table for this staff and program.  I’m also looking forward to working again with Josh Heupel.  I know what kind of worker he is and the mind he has, he’s done nothing but win everywhere he’s been.  It’s a great step for me at a great place and I can’t wait to get to work,” he said.

Following his playing career at Oklahoma, Finley spent parts of five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2008-10 practice squad), Detroit Lions (2010-11) and Carolina Panthers (2012 training camp).  After spending time in training camp in 2012 with the Carolina Panthers, Finley became an offensive graduate assistant (quality control) for Oklahoma.

At OU, he assisted the tight ends/tackles coach in every facet of the job, and assisted in game planning for Heupel as the Sooners posted a 10-3 record, shared the Big 12 title and earned a berth in the Cotton Bowl as part of the 2012 season.  Oklahoma followed with an 11-2 season in 2013, which included a 45-31 win over #3 Alabama to cap the season in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.  He spent the 2014 season back at Los Fresnos High School, before joining Baylor for the 2015 campaign.

Finley was a four-year letterman for the Sooners, and part of three Big 12 championship squads (2004, 2006 and 2007).  He totaled 775 yards and 10 touchdowns on 62 career receptions in 50 games.  He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention acclaim as both a junior and senior.

In addition, new Missouri defensive line coach Chris Wilson coached at OU from 2005-09 and safeties’ coach Ryan Walters coached at OU in 2012.