COLUMBIA, MO. • In Saturday’s paper we profiled Missouri’s two senior football analysts, Ted Monachino (defense) and Garrick McGee (offense). Barry Odom’s two veteran staffers had much more to say in recent interviews about their unique roles on the staff, their views on modern college coaching and their impressions of their boss, MU's third-year head coach.
Monachino talked to the Post-Dispatch as Mizzou was preparing to play Purdue on Sept. 15. By then, Monachino was prepping for the following opponent, Georgia.
Q: Your job here is a new role for this staff. Describe your job as senior defensive analyst.
A: During the week I’m working ahead. I’m on the next opponent. By Sunday I’ve got some ideas in the can that I’m ready to present to the guys from a situational standpoint. First and second down. Third down. The red area. The things we’ll talk about as a full staff. I’ll give them some ideas about not only what (the opponent) does but things I’ve seen on tape or that I’ve done in my past I’m able to give input on.
Then during practice I stand back and my job is to assist, support and simplify. Wherever I can do any of those three things is what I do. I can’t give any instruction to a player on the field. Now I can stand back and point out big things effort-wise, but I can’t really coach on the field. Now in the building, when I walk by guys I can talk football with them. They can come watch tape. They can do a lot of things. But out there on the grass I can’t (coach). The majority of my time has been in film study. It’s been a great lab for me. It’s not like I’m doing all the giving. Coach (Odom) gave me the opportunity to come in here and learn a lot of football. College is a completely different game than pro football right now.
Q: So at this point, you’re an expert on all things Georgia?
A: I’m on the track to getting there. I’m not there quite yet. It’s still early in the week. By Friday I’ll have a really good feel for a lot of things they do. I’m watching as much film as I can get my hands on. Historical film still plays because those guys have a DNA. You like to figure those things out. What do they like to do on second and 7-plus? What do they like to do on blitz downs? What do they do on downs when they think they’re going to get pressure? When they do get pressure, can we design something that’s unblocked?
Q: What’s your role on game day?
A: I stand as far away from the ball as I can with a little notecard and a wet erase pen and I write a note or two on every snap that occurs with our call in mind and with the structure of what the offense does in mind. If there’s something I need to get in the staff between series I get that to them. There’s a couple ways I’ve done that. I’ve gone to one of our younger coaches and said, ‘Are we talking about A, B and C? Because these are the three things that came up in that series. We lost an edge. We had a guy running free in Cover 2. And we had a bad blitz track.’ If (defensive grad assistant) Grant (O’Brien) gives me the thumbs up that we’re covering those things as we speak I know I can move on, erase my card and get ready for the next series. If it’s something I need to get to (defensive coordinator) Ryan (Walters) specifically, ‘Hey, don’t forget you’re now in this situation: It’s a heavy run-pass tendency in this direction,’ then I can get that to them before the next series.
Q: But you can’t be on the headsets with the other coaches?
A: No. I have no access to any electronic communication. Anything I can do has to be face to face.
Q: You’re also not allowed to coach players on the field. You’ve been doing that all your professional life, so how different is this role?
A: It’s completely different. It’s a different role that I’ve learned to enjoy. My DNA is I want to coach players, so that part has been a little difficult. But the staff has been great and they’ve allowed me to have some input where it was warranted. During training camp I took copious notes every day during practice and did a write-up of what I saw during the course of practice for how we were doing in individual (drills), how we were doing in small groups and team (drills), how we were communicating as a staff and from player to player and coach to player. There’s a lot that goes into it, and I get to stand back and take a broad snapshot of what’s going on. That’s a good place to be.
Q: Why was this job appealing for you?
A: This is home. It was a situation where Coach wanted me here. I know he could have had a lot of people here because I’m sure there’s a lot of people in the same situation that I’m in. As a person that knows this place and this town and this program, it was a perfect fit for Coach and me. That made it easy. And my mother is still in the state. That gives me a chance to see her more often. I do miss my family. They’re going to stay in Indiana for the season. Our youngest, Michael, and my wife Amy are in Indianapolis.
Our son Samuel is a quarterback at Wittenberg University in Ohio and our daughter is an ICU nurse in Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Her and her husband our having our first grandchild in October.
Q: These positions are usually short-term. Does that make it difficult not knowing what’s next?
A: If I keep my priorities in order the length of this job really doesn’t matter. If this becomes a five-year job or a five-month job, as long as I keep my priorities to assist, support and simplify, there’s going to be a need for that in perpetuity. There’s always a need for that. Right now, the thing I’ll tell you is my family stayed in Indianapolis so we didn’t have to move twice in five months. Our expectation is less than a year from now at the end of the season there are going to be jobs that move. Whether those jobs are in college football or pro football, we’ve got to be in tune to what those movements are and willing to go where the job is.
Q: College staffs are so different, so much bigger now compared to when you played. Is it because there’s so much more information available, more resources, more at the coaches’ fingertips?
A: That’s the thing. That’s why you need those bodies. You’ve got so much data you can manipulate and crunch in many different ways. You need enough guys with eyes on all those beats. It’s completely different. Even as a college coach. When I was last a college coach, there were nine of us and the head coach. We were it. We were the recruiting department. We were the academic department. There was compliance and the people who helped us in academic support, but we were responsible for everything the kids did from the moment their feet hit the ground until they went to bed at night. That part of it is good. Our coaching staff has a chance to really focus in and soak in football more during the day than what I did when I was coaching in college. It’s different for sure. There’s so many people here who all they want to do is help. Because of Mr. Sterk and what Coach has done, we’re not lacking in any area in terms of finding guys who can get answers when you need them.
Q: Is the modern college staff starting to look more like an NFL staff?
A: It’s similar in some ways, but our guys still have balls to keep in the air that we didn’t in the National Football League. Recruiting and academics we didn’t have to worry about. We didn’t have to worry about parents. It was all football, all day. That’s why that league is what it is. Every year in that league is like three years in this league simply because that’s all you spend your time on. I studied football from sun up to sun down many, many days.
Q: After so many years in the NFL are there any parts of the college game you find refreshing?
A: I’m stimulated by a lot of the learning. There are things formationally that we didn’t see in the NFL. There are things in the running game that we didn’t see with the quarterback. That’s a tough question to answer when your owner asks you how your $19 million quarterback got hurt because he was running a quarterback power play. That doesn’t fly. But in this league we’ve got to tend to the quarterback. So there are issues where we’re covering a certain formation but they’re still presenting some two-back run game because the quarterback is that second back. That part has been refreshing. It’s been a great lab for me. I’m learning.
Some of the concepts in college football are going to move into the National Football League, and when that happens I will have had some exposure. Those guys who are in the (NFL) now they’re relying on guys like me to come in and have some answers. ‘When we do get the zone-read series, how did you guys approach it?’ Well, I’ll have some answers on how we approach it here. Ryan does as good a job of anybody of putting our guys to defend formations, number one, have their eyes right in the right place and then minimize gains. That’s been good for me to learn from him and for me to have some input in things he’s been doing.
Q: You’ve been around some elite players in the NFL, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and others. What can you take from those experiences and translate to these college players?
A: Coach asked me in a team meeting to stand up and talk about a couple of the guys I coached and I was able to do that. The game is really simple. Sometimes we as coaches have a tendency to screw it up and make it too difficult. But I had a chance to do that in a team meeting. I’ve had a chacce to address the defense individually. I talked to guys as I walk by them in the hallway. ‘Hey, next time you see this, think of it this way.’ That’s good. When you’re dealing with mature, professional football players they see things differently. They’re professionals in a lot of ways. It’s not just that they’re really good players. Most of them are great men. They have families. They care deeply about those things that are important to them. When you can impact young guys that way and they start to become mature earlier than later, it gives you a good chance to play good football on Saturdays, same way it does on Sundays. That’s what my job is, to grow some guys. Coach told me to take some pet projects when I got here player-wise. Those guys have started to turn the corner from a maturity standpoint and a study standpoint and what’s important and taking care of their bodies. It’s those little things I can give them, and when they realize you can help them be better they’ll listen to anything you say.
Q. Who’s an example of one of those pet projects?
A: Cale Garrett is a sponge. He wants to learn everything he can learn. He wants to play perfectly. We know this is a dirty game. It’s not a clean game. Tennis is a clean game. Golf is a clean game. You either do or you don’t. Football there’s a lot going on. You’ve got the worry that there’s a guy 3 yards from me who would like to hurt me at the snap of the ball. And I’ve got all these things to take care of: I’m part of the front, part of the coverage, part of the pressure. With Cale, we’ve tried to narrow his focus to just a few things. Stance and start. Where his eyes belong. What leverage he needs to finish the down in. He’s really bought into that. It’s ramped up his film study and that’s helped him play better.
He loves football. You can tell how much a guy loves football by how he plays. That one loves football. We’ve got a roomful of them in there. The character of that room is really good.
Q: What’s your impression of Barry now that you’ve spent some time working with him?
A: My opinion before I came through the door was that he’s as tough, as smart and detailed as I’ve ever been around. That was what I heard from people who had worked with Coach. That’s what I had observed myself as I watched him on the sideline when I was able to see on Saturdays and conversations I had with him on the phone. He has not disappointed in any of those areas since I’ve been here. I’d love to see him be the head coach here for the next 20 years. He does it the right way. The slogan here is ‘Win it Right.’ He wants to do it that way. I’m thrilled to be part of his staff.
Q: You got the Rock Bridge High School head-coaching job almost 20 years ago but then left for a college job before coaching a game. Then a year later Barry becomes the head coach at Rock Bridge. Did the way that unfolded play a role in you coming back to Columbia?
A. It worked out good for everybody. It worked out great for Rock Bridge and great for us. In the long term it’s worked out great for the university. We’ve never really sat down and had a long talk about how that all went down, but he understood it and understands me and why I did what I did. I had an opportunity and it was an opportunity to change our lives forever as a family. I was able to do that. So fortunate that when I was at Hannibal High School, I had really, really good players. When I was at Pacific High School, I had really, really good players. As you start working with really good players your reputation as a coach starts to ramp up because you’ve had good players. This game has been and always will be about those guys. My job is to not screw them up.
Garrick McGee has been a college head coach at UAB and a Power 5 offensive coordinator at four different schools. He jumped at the chance to join Odom’s staff last spring and has been more than impressed with the program. McGee talked to the Post-Dispatch during Mizzou’s bye week.
Q: Describe your role on this staff.
A: The first thing is advance scouting. I stay a week ahead. We’re preparing for South Carolina right now, but I prepared for South Carolina last week when we were playing Georgia. Now I’m onto Alabama. The reason you do it like that is on Sunday when you’re done with the game, it takes time for the coaches to figure out the next defense. Who are they and what do they believe in? You have a person who’s a week ahead who can come in on Sunday night and say, ‘This is who they are. This is what they believe in. This is their personnel.’ I’ve never had anyone like this as a coordinator, but I can really see the value of the position. That’s the main thing.
Then you just have answers for what the defense is doing. We’re watching film and I’ll say, ‘This is how they run that pressure. In this situation they’ll do this.’ Then (offensive coordinator) Derek (Dooley) will figure out this is how he wants to attack it. I pretty much have to be an expert on what the opponent is going to do.
Q: More than anything you’re watching a lot of film?
A: I watch film all day long. It’s the coolest thing ever.
I spend time in the staff meeting also. But I grew up a coach’s kid, so I’m one of those guys who could sit in front of a screen and watch video for eight hours a day. I enjoy every second of sorting the cut-up and watching it this way and then sorting it by front and watching it. Then I’ll watch the same cut-up but watch it by coverage. Then watch it again and sort it by pressure. Wait a minute, you just watched the same thing? Yeah, but it was a totally different theme you’re watching. That’s how you try to break down what they’re doing.
Q: In practice and games are you essentially an extra set of eyes for the offensive staff?
A: That’s right. In practice the rules don’t allow you to do any coaching, but you can stand out there with the script and watch what’s going on. I take a lot of notes and then we come in as a staff after practice and watch it and I’ll have my notes already there. On game day I can take notes on what’s going on and then at halftime I’ll present notes on how I see things. You can analyze but the rules don’t allow you to coach.
I really think there’s value in the position. We have Ted up there and Coach (Dave) Ungerer for special teams and we’re all in the same office and spend a lot of time talking. I’ll say, ‘Ted, look at this blitz.’ Or Ted will say, ‘Look at this protection. What do you think they’re trying to do?’ We spend a lot of time talking ball, man. It’s pretty cool.
Q: Do you miss not having as much on-field interaction with the players?
A: There’s limitations on the job. Guys who are working in college football are in it because of the relationships with the kids. That’s why you should be doing it. And the on-field pressure moment with the kids when he throws an interception and he doesn’t have any answers and you’re able to go up to him and settle him down, you miss that.
Q: Why was this job appealing for you?
A: It was Barry. I had a conversation with him and he explained to me in detail, ‘This is what my program is about. This is what I’m looking for in this position. This is how I set my staff up. With the culture we have in this building, everyone enjoys being around each other. We have fresh air in our building. There’s no cliques. We’re all here doing what we can to get these kids in position to be their best.’
That fits my philosophy. Then he got me on the phone with Coach Dooley. We started talking. My dad was a high school coach and we spent a lot of time in Georgia when Coach Dooley’s dad was the coach at Georgia. I knew a lot of those assistant coaches and Derek was saying, ‘I can’t believe you know Hornsby Howell and Ray Goff and those guys.’ So we connected there. Then we started talking about Derek’s system and what he wanted from the role. It fit my philosophies in what I believe in. then I came in one day and got to meet the staff. I knew Brad Davis and Joe Jon Finley and Brick Haley. It’s just a really good fit for me. I like these guys. These guys enjoy being around each other. It’s really an intense situation with a coaching staff because you’re with each other all the time. It’s how Barry sets the culture.
Q: Did you know Barry previously?
A: We had never been together but Barry’s from Oklahoma and we tend to know where (coaches from Oklahoma) are coaching. We got guys out at Utah State that are from Oklahoma. We tend to watch them. Virginia Tech is someone we’d watch because Justin Fuente is from Tulsa. So I knew the head coach at Mizzou is from Oklahoma, so I was obviously watching them.
Q: Barry is still a relatively young head coach and you’ve been a head coach. Is he open to feedback and advice?
A: Barry is open to feedback from everyone. He’s the boss, but it’s our program. I’ve learned so much from him about managing the culture, understanding that he’s the one setting the standards and maintaining the standards. But the culture is a certain way and how he deals with the players and goes out of his way to teach these kids to be men. A lot of coaches talk about that, but that’s one thing I’ve been telling the coaches here: ‘I’ve recruited against Mizzou a lot, but I didn’t know you were here doing this stuff. I didn’t know you were having meetings on Thursdays about how to be a man.’ A couple days before one of the biggest games you have you take time out of your day to develop your players as people. You’re showing them how to look people in the eye and shake their hand or show them what’s most important to being a man. He does that every Thursday. Parents don’t know you’re doing this. This is an advantage in recruiting. I’ve been doing this a long time at a lot of good places. I’ve never been anywhere that’s doing that and teaching kids like that.
On the practice field, the rules say you have to keep your shirt tucked in. Your shirt can’t hang out. So if there’s kids on the field with their shirt untucked, Barry doesn’t like that. What he’s doing is teaching kids what it’s going to be like in life. You’re going to have to tuck in your shirt at some point in life. The kids don’t really get it right now, but when they’re gone, they’re going to appreciate those meetings. The parents should be happy their kids are in this building, because he’s going out of his way to teach them to grow up. They go to class. He doesn’t play around. You’re going to tutoring and you’re going to be on time. I’ve been totally impressed with his commitment to the players and teaching them to grow up and be men.
Q: These analysts are still fairly new in coaching. Do you like this setup enough to where it’s somewhere you’d like to stay?
A: Well, there’s not any openings here, so I don’t know. But the culture in place here, the town, the recruiting these guys are doing, this is a good situation. There is no doubt about it. This is a good place to coach football.
Q: How much have staffs changed over time during your career? They’re bigger than ever in college football.
A: I say this all the time but when I worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars., I was pretty much a graduate assistant and it was just me. I did all the breakdowns. All the game books. I had to handwrite Tom Coughlin’s game sheet. Now we’ve got 10 extra guys walking around, and I’m like, ‘You guys don’t even know what it was like. All this work you do, one guy had to do it.’ That’s how the business used to be. It’s one thing I worry about. A lot of young guys coming into this business, they don’t have to do everything, which means you have to manage your time the right way because you have so much stuff to do. You have to cater to every coach. Nowadays at this level, each coach has someone to do this and do that for them. Back in those days, there was one guy who did it for every coach. I think you learned a lot more about different phases of the game.
Q: With all these resources and coaches, are teams more prepared in today’s game?
A: With all the analytics and percentages, it’s all good. You can find out how many times on the left hash (the opponent) is going to be inside leverage at defensive back? You can pull that up and see it. But Coach Lombardi and Tom Landry and my dad, they would say, ‘This is going to come down to blocking, tackling and the turnover ratio. You can calculate all that mess you want, but ultimately you have to win at the line of scrimmage, take care of the football.’ That’s what gives you a chance to win games. That means you have to motivate your team and staff.
Now all the percentages helps you formulate a plan to give you the best opportunity to play well, but ultimately football has been football from the beginning of time. The game the other day (against Georgia) was about the turnover ratio. It’s about getting a punt blocked. What happened? We turned it over three times and got a punt blocked. You’re not beating that team. And that’s what we learned. Barry preaches it every day: It’s about turnover ratio. If you’re plus-one, there’s this percentage you’re going to win. If you’re minus-two or three with a punt block, you normally get beat by 50 points by a team like that. We got beat by two touchdowns.
Q: When there are moments during a game where you see something play out just like you saw on film, do you take pride in that and tell yourself, ‘I did my job this week’?
A: You know what happens when you’ve been a head coach. You’re never selfish where you say, ‘That’s my play or I did my job.’ Because you understand how important everybody’s job is and you understand that who gets the credit doesn’t matter. When you’ve been a head coach and a coordinator for years and you understand the good calls and bad calls, everyone chips in and who cares who gets the credit. Give it to the kids anyway. Everybody do their job. The fortunate thing about my career is I’ve been a head coach, I’ve been a coordinator. I’ve been to a point where I don’t really need the credit anymore. I just want to do my job.
I’ve been a head coach. I’ve coached in the Sugar Bowl as a coordinator. I’ve been a coordinator in the Big Ten, the ACC, the SEC. I played in the Big Eight, played in the Pac-12. I’ve been a head coach in Conference USA. Then I got fired (at Illinois last year). So it was like I had gone full circle. It’s really fun to come out and do what you can to help your kids get better and play better.
Q: How much are you still learning about the game in this role?
A: Me and Ted were talking and the term we used was you approach this with ‘a learner’s mentality’ or ‘a learner’s spirit.’ I want to learn more, not just about football but anything. Barry comes in and does power points about development. I’m back here taking lots of notes. I pride myself on learning something else. What else can you learn? I’ve learned a lot from Derek, too. He’s been around. He knows how to motivate the team and he’s doing a really good job calling plays and how he approaches the game. I’ve learned a lot from Ryan (Walters) about defensive structure and how things are thought through and how he game plans and how he sees third downs.
Q: How does your experience throughout your career help this team have a better offense?
A. You can see more things. You can anticipate they did this pressure on this down. … You’re not trying to prove yourself. You’re just trying to do a good job. That fits within (Odom’s) culture. That’s what he wants. Give the kids the credit. If we get beat we take the blame. The Purdue game, that play Drew Lock made in the 2-minute drive, all the things I did to study Purdue’s defense, that kid made that play and won that game for us.