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Missouri Tigers 2016 Spring Football Preview

Harold Brantley

Harold Brantley

Missouri is coming off an emotional 2015 season. Former head coach Gary Pinkel, the winningest coach in program history, announced his intention to resign after the season when he revealed he was diagnosed with lymphoma in May.

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Pinkel made the announcement on Nov. 13, just one day prior to Missouri's biggest win of the season, a 20-16 upset of BYU that also followed the team's successful protest of former university president Tom Wolfe's handling of on-campus racial incidents, which led to his resignation.

In 2016, former defensive coordinator Barry Odom will take over as the Tigers' new head coach. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Odom's first spring at the helm in Columbia.

3 Storylines to Watch in Missouri’s Spring Practice

1. First impressions of Barry Odom

We don't know what to expect from Odom as a head coach. However, he does have the benefit of plenty of familiarity with the Missouri football program.

Odom played middle linebacker for the Tigers from 1996-99 and worked his way through the program as a graduate assistant in 2003, the director of recruiting from 2004-05, the director of football operations from 2006-08 and safeties coach from 2009-11 before leaving to oversee Memphis' defense in 2012.

He made his return in 2015 as defensive coordinator and now has the opportunity to coach at his alma matter one year later. Spring practice will give fans a glimpse of what to expect in Odom's first season. While the position battles will be a key focus, how Odom handles his first practices also will be analyzed.

Related: Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2016

2. Lack of depth at quarterback

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The quarterback position is regarded by many as the most important in football. But in Missouri's case, it's an area of concern in spring practice.

Former starting quarterback Maty Mauk was dismissed from the program after facing multiple suspensions during his junior season. Soon after, redshirt sophomore Eddie Printz announced his intention to transfer.

Missouri's only two returning scholarship quarterbacks are Drew Lock — who split time with Mauk in 2015 — and Marvin Zanders. The Tigers also added junior college transfer Jack Lowary in February.

Lock is expected to retain the starting job but the Tigers still lack depth at quarterback, which should cause some concern in Columbia.

3. Statuses of Harold Brantley and Terry Beckner Jr.

Missouri was without one of its best players in 2015. Brantley missed his entire senior season recovering from multiple injuries suffered in a car accident last June but will be able to return in 2016.

Brantley took his first reps with the team since suffering the injury last summer and the defensive tackle impressed his new coach, according to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Beckner Jr. entered his college career as a 4-star prospect for the 2015 recruiting class. Beckner played as a true freshman but suffered a right ACL tear late in the season. He was one of several players who sat out during the Tigers' first spring practice on Tuesday but Odom is optimistic that his young defensive tackle will be on schedule to make a successful return, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Tribune.

Pre-Spring Missouri Outlook in the SEC

Missouri is a far cry from the program that won back-to-back SEC East division titles in 2013-14. The Tigers will be in the early stages of a rebuilding process under Barry Odom and fans shouldn't expect too much in the head coach's first year. However, the East is still winnable so 2016 won't be a complete disappointment. Missouri could be competitive in a lackluster division and possibly pull off several upsets.

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— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.