Eliah Drinkwitz is Missouri’s new head football coach. To find out more about him while he was at Appalachian State, I reached out to Moss Brennan and Silas Albright of The Appalachian for their insight on what Missouri could potentially be getting in the future. The following is a Q & A on Appalachian State’s perspective on Drinkwitz:
Sammy Stava: The Eliah Drinkwitz rumors to Missouri began swirling last Sunday, and it developed really quickly. What were your first reactions to this hire? Were you surprised or did you have a good thought that this might be coming?
Moss Brennan (Editor In Chief): We were pretty surprised when the first reports started to come out that he was going to leave. With how much he talked about building the program and what the App State family meant, it was surprising. If you go back to his introductory press conference for App State last year, he talked about how App State wasn’t a stepping stone job, so to then take a Power Five job after only one season was interesting for us to see. I think we all knew he would leave eventually, as the program has great success and that is only natural for a coach, but we were not expecting it after one year.
Silas Albright (Sports Editor): We had heard that a plane from Arkansas landed at a nearby airport by Saturday. When a reporter asked Drinkwitz about the rumors in the post Sun Belt Championship presser, he seemed pretty uncomfortable. He compared the rumors to fake news in his answer, so naturally when I heard he took the job I was surprised. It was less than 24 hours later. I will say that, in my gut, I thought him leaving was definitely a real option, but it was definitely still surprising when it happened and the way it happened.
SS: Appalachian State had an incredible season, going 12-1 with a No. 20 College Football Playoff Ranking and a Sun Belt Championship. Of course, a lot of this Mountaineers’ team was built with Scott Satterfield’s players. How much credit does Drinkwitz deserve for this year, and how much of it was it mostly taking over Satterfield’s team?
MB: I think App State has a great team with great players no matter who is coaching. It remains to be seen if Drinkwitz can recruit as a lot of the players he coached this year were very experienced and good players from the Satterfield era as you said. Drinkwitz was a good coach for App State, but when you have a top running back in Darrynton Evans, a very strong receiving core in Corey Sutton and Thomas Hennigan (among others), and Zac Thomas at QB, it’s hard to not be a good team. So it’ll be interesting to see how he is able to recruit at Missouri as the team he coached this year was loaded with talent from the Satterfield era.
SA: After Satterfield took the job last year and App State was in a coaching search, I don’t think anyone around Boone was worried. We knew how good the team was last year, and with so many returners we knew we’d be in for a fun season regardless of the coach. I don’t think it’s fair to say Drinkwitz doesn’t deserve any credit, though, but his recruiting and building a team on his own hasn’t been seen yet. My feeling is that Missouri took a risk and it will be interesting to see how Drink’s decision plays out.
SS: This the second year in a row an Appalachian State coach has landed a Power Five job. Scott Satterfield took a 2-10 Louisville team to 7-5 and won ACC Coach of the Year this season. Do you think Drinkwitz can have that same type of success in his first year with Missouri next season?
MB: I’m not very sure how good Missouri is as a whole as I have not really followed them this year, but I think it will be hard for him. He inherited a really good team as a first time head coach at App and I know Missouri is in some trouble with the NCAA right now so that will also be a difficulty for him. It will definitely be a test for him, but I don’t think it will be the same as Satterfield taking over Louisville.
SA: I would say it’s possible but I wouldn’t expect it. Scott Satterfield had much more experience when he left than Drinkwitz did. The SEC is also a much different conference than the ACC. I just haven’t seen enough of Drinkwitz to really be able to speak to what I think he’s capable of. He’s only been a college head coach for one season, so we’ll see.
SS: Eliah Drinkwitz will become the second-youngest Power Five conference in the country behind Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. It was a small sample size, but Drinkwitz did go 2-0 against Power Five teams with road wins over North Carolina and South Carolina. With what you have seen in his only season at Appalachian State, do you think Drinkwitz has what it takes right now to make that jump to the Power Five?
MB: If you go back to the season before Drinkwitz came, App State took Penn State to overtime at Penn State, and the year before that lost to Wake Forest at home by a late missed field goal. While yes, he did go 2-0 against Power Five schools this season, only one of those schools was bowl eligible and they went 6-6. He inherited a team that was pretty experienced playing in big games against big schools. Those wins were huge for the program, but I am not sure that will transition over to Missouri.
SA: In my personal opinion, no I don’t. We got those two big wins, but like I said earlier, no one was worried about the upcoming season after Satt left. I’d say most of us in Boone had been expecting to win those games. We’re a top 25 team and neither UNC or South Carolina was anywhere close to that this year. We also could’ve closed both of those games out a lot better than we did. That was something that happened more than just those two games. We opened up a lead and barely were able to hang on in the end several times. I’m not sure if that directly reflects on Drinkwitz’s coaching or not, but it should definitely be noted. I’m not sure playing like that would be as successful against top-tier SEC opponents.
SS: According to 247Sports, Eliah Drinkwitz’s first recruiting class in 2019 ranked 101st in the country and fifth in the Sun Belt. His 2020 recruiting class has made a big jump, now 76th in the country and third in the Sun Belt. What makes Drinkwitz a good recruiter and do you think his recruiting style can work at Missouri?
MB: I can’t say much about Drinkwitz’s recruiting style. I know he would talk about visiting “rock stars” when on the recruiting trail. I also know a lot of the other coaches played a big role in recruiting, including Shawn Clark, who will be named the new head coach on Friday. The players love Clark and that was very evident when players started tweeting out #clark2020 when the Drinkwitz news was starting to come out. The NCAA sanctions will also make it a bit harder for him on that front. He will have access to more money and resources that a school like App State just doesn’t have which will likely help on the trail.
SA: He’s a charismatic guy and if he’s anything like how he is with the media when he’s recruiting, he’ll say anything to get them on his side. He’s had success in every job he’s had so it would make sense for players to want to play for him. I really can’t speak to his recruiting all that much. I’m not sure it’s treated as important here as it at other schools. The fan base here is pretty much used to not landing the big name recruits. App State’s four straight Sun Belt Championships and bowl wins speak to the fact that recruiting rankings aren’t the most important factor to success.
SS: Finally, what are the biggest strengths and weaknesses that you have seen with Eliah Drinkwitz as a head coach?
MB: His mentality of going “1-0” each week I think really resonated with players as they would always bring that up in interviews.
SA: Well, obviously Drinkwitz has shown to be great at winning. 12 wins and likely 13 if he’d stuck around for the bowl game are not an easy thing to achieve in any conference. He’s also a great talker. He’s an intelligent guy and knows when to say what. He’s a bit cocky which I think helps fans to like him, as long as he backs it up. I don’t want to give him too much credit for calling plays that set up players for big seasons because nearly all of these guys are returners that have proven they can perform highly at this level. I think all these traits could turn into weaknesses if Drinkwitz doesn’t win. I mean, the main strength of a coach is if they can win or not. He was winning basically the whole time at App State, so naturally everyone loved him. I haven’t really seen how he handles adversity.