Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Missouri football team erased a few more question marks Friday, adding a defensive coordinator and a defensive line coach to Barry Odom’s staff.
DeMontie Cross was hired to be the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, the team announced, and Football Scoop reported Missouri would be hiring Chris Wilson as its defensive line coach.
A Missouri alum, Cross is currently the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at TCU, and he will join Missouri’s team after the No. 11 Horned Frogs play Jan. 2 in the Alamo Bowl. Cross will also be the Tigers’ linebackers coach. Both those positions were held by Odom for a season before he was hired to succeed Gary Pinkel as Missouri’s head coach.
“DeMontie is an outstanding addition to our staff,” Odom said in a release. “He’s really established himself as one of the top defensive minds in college football, and he’s had success at every stop he’s been at over the years. I’ve witnessed him on the road recruiting. He’s relentless and has done a great job of establishing meaningful relationships in a number of geographic areas.
“I know he’ll be a great mentor and leader who will relate well with our guys. I expect DeMontie to bring some great ideas and concepts defensively to us that will build on what we’ve been able to do this past year. Obviously he has great enthusiasm, excitement and passion for Mizzou, and we’re proud to have him back here.”
Cross has been the linebackers coach at TCU since 2013 and was named co-defensive coordinator at the beginning of this season. The Horned Frogs allowed 26.1 points per game this season, third in the Big 12 and tied for 59th nationally. TCU’s 396.7 yards allowed per game rank fourth in the conference and 66th nationally. The Horned Frogs’ 2.33 sacks per game are tied for seventh in the conference and their seven interceptions are eighth.
“I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with coach Odom and contribute to a place that has given me so much,” Cross said. “Mizzou is in my blood, it’s the place that made me the man and the coach that I am today. It’s also a dream come true for me to work alongside a guy I’ve known for so long. Coach Odom and I have had a strong bond on and off the field, and I’m excited to come in and support him and his vision in every aspect imaginable. I’m honored he’s put his trust in me this way.”
Before coming to TCU, Cross was the linebackers coach at Kansas in 2012 and the secondary-special teams coach at Wisconsin in 2011. He coached with the Buffalo Bills from 2006-2010 as the inside linebackers coach, the special teams coach, the assistant lienbackers coach and a defensive and special teams assistant. He was Iowa State’s outside linebackers and special teams coach from 2001-05 and the secondary coach at Sam Houston State in 2000.
Cross graduated from Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis. After transferring from Illinois, Cross played safety at Missouri from 1994-96, earning second-team All-Big Eight honors in ‘95 and second-team All-Big 12 honors in ‘96. He worked as an administrative graduate assistant at Missouri in 1997 and a graduate assistant and outside linebackers coach from 1998-99.
Though he’s now the head coach, Odom has said he will continue to have his hands on the defense in some capacity.
“Mizzou has already established a good reputation on defense,” Cross said, “so all I’m looking to do is come in and put my own twist to it and try to make it even better. My players will know that a sense of urgency, attention to detail, and playing with enthusiasm and energy are the things that are most important to me. I think people enjoy watching a defense that plays that way.”
Rarely given much room for error by Missouri’s stagnant offense, the Tigers’ defense was one of the best in the country this season. Missouri allowed just 4.32 yards per play, third in the country. The Tigers’ 16.2 points allowed per game was sixth in the nation. Both marks ranked second in the Southeastern Conference to Alabama.
If the hiring of Cross didn’t cement the fact Craig Kuligowski would not be returning to Missouri, reports of Wilson’s hiring did.
Kuligowksi, an esteemed defensive line coach under Pinkel since 1996, considered taking the defensive coordinator position at Illinois before last season, and if he was to stay at Missouri at all, many figured it would be to fill Odom’s shoes as defensive coordinator.
Wilson most recently worked at Southern California as the Trojans’ defensive line coach. He was fired earlier this month. Wilson held the same position at Georgia in 2013 and was the defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 2010-12. He coached in the Big 12 from 2000-09 as the defensive line coach at Colorado (2000-04) and the defensive ends coach (‘05-09) and special teams coordinator (‘07-09) at Oklahoma.
An Oklahoma graduate, Wilson has also held coaching positions at Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Illinois State.