COLUMBIA, Mo. – It’s easy to see the fun-loving side of Brad Davis, who took over as Missouri’s offensive line coach Dec. 15.
Recent Tigers offensive line commit Jack Buford said that during his recruitment, he would often talk with Davis over FaceTime and would rap songs with Davis and his children. Wednesday morning, while Missouri’s offensive linemen spoke to reporters in the Mizzou Athletic Training Center dining hall, Davis walked up behind the crowd and started recording the scene on his cellphone.
“He’s something else. He’s always joking around,” said right tackle Paul Adams, who stifled a laugh when he saw Davis filming in the background. “He’s different, but it’s a good different.”
Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, the returning right guard, said this after searching for the right word to describe his new coach: “I don’t want to say childish, but he has a lot of spirit and energy.”
In his first meeting with the Missouri media in February, Davis – who coached the offensive line at Florida in 2017 – stressed the importance of “recruiting” the group of veteran Tiger linemen he was about to lead. The Tigers’ offensive line, after all, was returning all five starters who paved the way for the Southeastern Conference’s most potent offense last season.
So far, the consensus is he’s accomplished that task.
“He’s the perfect guy to lead this room,” left guard Kevin Pendleton said. “He’s just like us. He loves what he does every day.”
There’s another part of Davis’ personality that only his linemen see.
“He knows how to flip the switch when it’s time to work,” Wallace-Simms said. “When he flips the switch, that’s pretty much that. When it’s work time, it’s work time. When it’s play time, it’s play time.”
In the eyes of Missouri’s pocket protectors, that makes Davis all the more likable.
The Tigers’ offensive line isn’t easily satisfied. The group is determined to improve on its solid performances in 2016 and 2017, a two-year period in which it lead the SEC in sacks allowed (27) and total offense (501.4 yards per game). Pendleton said he’s seeking the lofty goal of a national championship.
So when Davis makes the switch in practice, it’s embraced.
“In the room, he’ll teach you, correct you, and out on the field he’ll teach you and correct you but with a fire. With a sense of urgency,” Pendleton said. “He wants to bring a sense of urgency. If you’re complacent, you won’t get anywhere.”
“You can take it different ways,” left tackle Yasir Durant said. “Honestly, I kind of like it because a coach is not always going to be fun. He’s not always going to be on your side. It’s good he has that side so you know he’s serious, so you’ve got to put in that work.”
Davis has a particularly big group to oversee this season. Missouri should have 16 offensive linemen at its disposal, four of them newcomers.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans up front, but there’s a lot of young guys behind us,” Pendleton said. “He’s making sure if – knock on wood – something happens, the next guy’s ready.”
The Tigers haven’t had a lot of offensive line injuries to deal with the last two years, though they’ve gone to their reserve pool anyway. Wallace-Simms and center Trystan Colon-Castillo opened the year in the lineup by passing returning starters Adam Ploudre and Jonah Dubinski on the depth chart. Durant eclipsed Tyler Howell at left tackle three games into the year.
The abundance of depth on the line gives Missouri options and its starters time to catch their breath in games and practices. It hasn’t always been that way – Adams and Pendleton recalled two summers ago when the Tigers had a paltry eight-man rotation.
“I’m really happy. We’ve got some fours now, so that’s pretty good,” said Wallace-Simms, referring to fourth-string players. “I’m excited. That’s less stuff we have to put our body through. And you get to mentor some young guys and teach them.”
As for Davis, he’s made a positive impression on more than just the Tigers’ offensive linemen. He appears to be fitting in seamlessly with Missouri’s coaching staff, which also welcomed offensive coordinator Derek Dooley and outside linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves into the fold this offseason.
“I would say our staff harmony is solid and good. The ability to work together is as good as I’ve been around,” coach Barry Odom said. “The thing I’ve admired most about the new hires is their ability to relate to our players and really understand it’s what I’m looking for ultimately in those positions.
“When you hire someone, it’s for them to be truthful, be honest, be a team player and work well together. They’ve poured themselves into our team in terms of getting to know them and be around them.”