NORMAN — University of Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley announced Tuesday evening that Brian Odom has joined the OU staff as inside linebackers coach. Odom, an Oklahoma native and member of the Sooners’ 2000 national championship team, spent the last two seasons at Missouri as the Tigers’ outside linebackers coach. He is the second assistant coach Riley hired today, joining cornerbacks coach Roy Manning.
Odom just finished his second tour of duty with the Tigers. He began his career in athletics as an administrative and defensive graduate assistant coach on Gary Pinkel’s 2005 MU staff. After moving on to other opportunities at Arizona and Houston, Odom returned to Missouri from Washington State where he was the Cougar’s defensive quality control assistant for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Odom was instrumental in WSU’s defensive turnaround, working under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who assumed the same title at OU two weeks ago.
“Brian has a unique background,” said Riley. “He started his career as a GA before going into the strength and conditioning world for several years, eventually becoming the head strength coach at Houston. But he decided to get back onto the field coaching and has gotten rave reviews since. He’s a tough coach, a demanding coach and has proven himself as a great recruiter. His players play with great effort and great physicality. I think that’s carried over from the type of person that he is.
“Brian being from this area, playing at OU and being on our last national championship team is obviously a tremendous plus. Like Roy Manning, he has familiarity with Coach Grinch and his system. We’re very excited to add Brian to our staff.”
“He’s a tough coach, a demanding coach and has proven himself as a great recruiter. His players play with great effort and great physicality.”
– Lincoln Riley
Missouri’s 2018 season saw Odom’s linebackers play a big role in the defensive improvement that helped pave the way to an eight-win season and a berth in the 2018 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Thanks in no small part to Odom’s pupils, the Tiger defense made huge strides from 2017 in a handful of statistical categories. Mizzou jumped from 58th nationally in rushing defense in 2017 (159.6 ypg) to 22nd in 2018 (122.9), from 97th in scoring defense (31.8 ppg) to 43rd (24.4), and from 82nd in total defense (414.1 ypg) to 54th (379.0).
Under Odom’s guidance, senior linebacker Terez Hall had 69 tackles in 2018 and led the team with a career-high 5.0 quarterback sacks in a season where his impact on ball games went well above the stats he produced. Fellow senior linebacker Brandon Lee also was a key contributor, ranking fourth on the team with 40 tackles despite missing time with an elbow injury.
Odom’s influence in 2017 was also important as Hall and Brandon Lee both turned in career years for the Tiger defense. Hall finished second on the team with 85 tackles and with his 12.5 tackles for loss (eighth most in the SEC). Lee established himself as a starter and turned into a big-play contributor, logging 42 tackles, four pass breakups and two quarterback pressures, while also notching his first career interception at Vanderbilt which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown to key Mizzou’s 45-17 win that clinched bowl eligibility.
Odom explained Tuesday why coaching at OU is a dream scenario for him.
“Working at a place like Oklahoma is a once-in-a-career opportunity, in my opinion,” said Odom. “I grew up in the state, just down the road in Maysville and Ada, and went to games in the 80s and parts of the 90s. My grandfather had season tickets and I’d go to games with him, my dad and my brothers. We sat in Section 18 in the north end zone. I wanted to play there and was fortunate to get the opportunity to do that for a couple years. Now that I’m a coach and have the opportunity to go back, it’s humbling, it’s an honor and I’m excited.
“The most appealing thing about this opportunity for me is that I’m coming in to help the institution win games, to help develop young men and student-athletes, and to do everything I can to help the program. I couldn’t be more happy or excited about it.”
Odom also expounded on his relationship with Grinch and how that impacted his decision to come back to OU.
“Coach Grinch and I had a great working relationship when we were GAs together for a short time at Missouri and then when we worked together at Washington State. Having the chance to reunite with him now is something that’s a natural fit for me. I’m appreciative of all the experiences I’ve had at every stop, and leaving Missouri was difficult to do, but I couldn’t be more excited to work with Coach Riley, Coach Grinch and everyone on the OU staff.”
Odom joined Grinch’s Washington State defensive staff prior to the 2015 season, a year after the Cougars went just 3-9 overall and ranked 97th or worse out of 124 FBS schools in six different major statistical categories. In the short span of two seasons, the WSU defense went from dead last in the NCAA in 2014 in turnovers gained (eight) to 34th in 2015 (24) and 38th in 2016 (23). It also went from allowing 38.6 points per game in 2014 (ranking 114th in the NCAA) to allowing 26.4 points in 2016 (ranking 50th). Despite winning just three games in 2014, the Cougars strung together 9-4 and 8-5 seasons in 2015 and 2016, respectively, while playing in bowl games in consecutive seasons (2015 Sun Bowl, 2016 Holiday Bowl) for only the third time in school history.
Prior to Washington State, Odom spent three years (2012-14) running the football strength and conditioning program at Houston (2012-14) after spending seven years (2005-11) working with the football performance program at Arizona. His work with the football teams helped lead to five bowl game appearances, including three at Arizona and two at Houston. Additionally, for five seasons (2006-10), he assisted UA’s football operations director by coordinating advance travel arrangements for all away games.
An all-state prep running back in his hometown of Ada, Okla., Odom was named the Oklahoma High School Player of the Year in 1999 by the Tulsa World. He attended OU for two years and was a redshirt on OU’s 2000 national championship team that went 13-0 and beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl. That same year, he won the team’s Iron Man Award for his performance in the weight room. He lettered for the Sooners in 2001 on special teams, and then transferred to Southeastern Oklahoma State, where he was a three-year starter at tailback (2002-04), earning first-team Lone Star All-Conference honors as a senior in 2004. He earned his bachelor’s degree from SEO in December of 2004.
Odom and his wife, Mackenzie, have two sons, Benjamin, who is 9, and Brock, who was born Dec. 20.