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Rock M Roundtable: Evaluating the Eli Drinkwitz hiring

The new head coach has been on the job for less than a week, which naturally means it’s time for us to decide what we think of him!

Appalachian State v South Carolina Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The chaos of the coaching search is over and Missouri has its guy in Eli Drinkwitz. It’s a name that (mostly) checks the boxes Jim Sterk was publicly espousing, and the wider fan base seems energized by the choice. How about you? On a scale of 1 (“UGH, THIS GUY?”) to 10 (“YO, THIS GUY!”), how are you feeling about the hire?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: I’m at a solid 7. Drinkwitz is a charismatic guy with a history of exciting offense on his resume. He’s coached at the Power 5 level and knows what it takes to maximize a talented roster. That being said — how big is the learning curve from Appalachian State to Missouri? I’d imagine it’s pretty big, even with his Power 5 experience. It seems likely there will an adjustment period. How long it lasts will determine how successful Drink is in Columbia.

Tim Bussen, Staff Film Analyst: Drinkwitz is a bit of a gamble--only one year of experience, took over a team constructed to win rather than building himself. Drink was hired for the upside he offers as a young energetic leader, and cutting-edge offensive mind. This makes the hire difficult to quantify. My opinion is a guy like Drinkiwitz was a shrewd, even necessary gamble. This program needs energy, innovation, and a sense of possibility. I believe Drinkiwitz offers these. 7.5

Ryan Herrera, Lead Football Beat Writer: I’m giving it a 7.5. It’s an energizing hire, yes, but Drinkwitz might be as close to the definition of high-risk, high-reward as you can get. He did great at Appalachian State this season, but he took over a program that was already established. He hasn’t yet proven that he can build a consistent contender. Missouri will be in a rebuild next season offensively, as the Tigers lose their starting quarterback, their starting tight end, two starting receivers and three starting linemen, and there’s still the possibility their starting running back leaves early as well.

But he has learned under some incredible football minds around the country, and he’s helped his teams put together winning records at every stop he’s made in the college ranks. Can Drinkwitz get Missouri to a bowl-eligible record for the fourth year in a row? Only time will tell, but it’s looking like a pretty exciting offseason is underway.

Matt Antonic, Football Beat Writer: I’ll give this a 7.5. He won the press conference. He has a great charisma about him. He’s already been active on the recruiting trail. He checked all the boxes. Of course, the hire might seem better simply because it is a good end result after a chaotic search, but it stands up on its own. Drinkwitz has been successful everywhere he’s been, and seems to have given the fanbase and program a desperately needed shot in the arm. He has FBS head coaching experience and has a strong offensive background. Missouri got it right in the end.

NCAA Football: Sun Belt Conference Championship-UL Lafayette at Appalachian State
Missouri’s new coach is no stranger to success, winning the Sun Belt Conference in his lone year at Appalachian State.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Drinkwitz has limited experience as a head coach, but was successful in his lone year. He also comes with a wealth of Power Five experience under several good coaches. What encourages you most about his resume?

Josh Matejka: His list of mentors is impressive, but how can you not love that 12-1 mark he put up at App State? Yes, I know he was basically just managing Scott Satterfield’s roster, but Satterfield never took them to 12 wins or two Power 5 wins on the road. I don’t care how good you think App State’s roster was — it takes a hell of a coaching job to get to 12-1.

Tim Bussen: As you say, association with good programs — Auburn and Boise — and coaches — Malzahn, Harsin, Doeren — are a strength. But I’m most impressed with Drinkwitz’s personal offensive bona fides. He has racked up yards and scored points wherever he’s been, whether Boise, Raleigh, or Boone.

Ryan Herrera: He’s young, he’s hungry and he has the knowledge to push Missouri to another level. I don’t think he’ll turn the Tigers into national championship contenders year-in and year-out, but he turned his first group as a head coach into a Top 25 team with a 12-1 record and took home a Sun Belt Conference championship. Again, he’s a bit inexperienced as head coach and took over a team that was already established, but his quick success makes him an enticing coach to get hyped for.

Matt Antonic: There are many impressive things about Drinkwitz’s resume, but what stands out to me most is the diversity of his resume. Drinkwitz has coached at the high school level, has been an offensive analyst, quarterbacks coach, running backs coach, tight ends coach, offensive coordinator and head coach at the FBS level. Missouri needed a strong offensive mind after an incredible regression on that side of the ball during the 2019 season. That Drinkwitz will call his own plays should be comforting to Tiger fans in the near future.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at South Carolina
Drinkwitz has climbed the coaching ladder quickly, and he’ll likely face some new challenges as the head coach at an SEC school.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, this hire isn’t without risk — as mentioned above, Drinkwitz’s experience as the top dog is limited. What’s the one thing that concerns you most about his jump from App State to Missouri?

Josh Matejka: Believe it or not, the recruiting doesn’t worry me. All Drinkwitz has to do is recruit to Missouri’s regular level and he’ll have enough talent to compete in the SEC. And Coach Drink has already made it clear that recruiting talented players is a high priority for him.

What does concern me ever so slightly is his choice to be his own OC/QB coach. I said on Twitter that I don’t mind the choice, but how long is he able to keep that up? At some point, the rigors of being an SEC coach will catch up with him and he’ll have to delegate some responsibility. When he gets there, does that throw off the formula that has made him successful so far? I’ll be curious to find out.

Tim Bussen: Sure, Drink oversaw a fantasy season at App St. this year, but he took over a seasoned FCS superpower with a pre-installed program and culture of winning. Yes, he pushed the team to a new level, knocking off UNC and USCe, but how much credit is he due? It’s hard to say.

My other reservation: as I said above, perhaps the main value Drink brings to Mizzou is his offense, which he calls himself. He now steps into a role where his time and energy will be spread thinner than ever. Will Drinkwitz retain control of his offense and risk becoming overwhelmed with his responsibilities? Or will he adopt the popular CEO-coach model, delegating game-planning and play-calling to coaches that might not offer the same edge? I’m not saying these will be problems, but they are potential pitfalls Drink needs to navigate.

Ryan Herrera: Can he recruit well, especially in the Midwest, a region he hasn’t even been close to as a coach since he was at Arkansas State from 2012-13? He was a big help in locking down the 26th ranked class as the offensive coordinator at NC State in 2018, but outside of that, the classes for the programs he’s been a part of haven’t landed higher than No. 50 since he was the quality control coach at Auburn in 2011. He’s a young guy that might be able to connect well with recruits, and some of the reactions on Twitter from current Tiger commits (and those who have recently reopened their recruitment) have been positive. Locking down the members of the current class would be a big first step, but he’s still got a lot to prove on the recruiting trail.

Matt Antonic: Drinkwitz obviously has head coaching experience, but it is limited. We know he is a great coach and offensive mind, but there was just one year to judge him off at Appalachian State. With Odom, my biggest concern was always in-game coaching. Now, it is recruiting. Drinkwitz’s recruiting was solid in his only season in Boone, North Carolina, improving the Mountaineers class by nearly 30 spots from the previous season. We will see how well he recruits running an SEC program.