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Eli Drinkwitz’s history with running backs should have Mizzou fans excited

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Mizzou returns two quality running backs. Eli Drinkwitz’s history suggests he will get plenty of production out of Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Memphis at Missouri Photo by Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Most of the “whiz kid” offensive masterminds coming up in college football nowadays are spread offense gurus. They’re QB whisperers.

Eli Drinkwitz has some of that in him, too. His job will be to get the most out of his quarterback, but his offense is as much about the running game as it is the passing game.

That’s no surprise, given the lineage he comes from.

Drinkwitz is a true Gus Malzahn disciple. He coached under Malzahn at Springdale High School in Arkansas, again as a quality control coach at Auburn, and then followed him to Arkansas State before finally breaking ties with him to take a job at Boise State under Bryan Harsin.

It’s important to know where Drinkwitz has been to find out where he’s going. Gus Malzahn is a run-first coach. His teams at Auburn have finished in the top five in the SEC in rushing yards in six of the seven years he’s spent as the Tigers’ head coach.

Expect something similar from Drinkwitz at Missouri.

The Tigers are going to run the ball, but they won’t rely on it the same way Malzahn does at Auburn. Drinkwitz still utilizes many of the same elements you’ll see at Auburn, but his offense is far from a Malzahn carbon copy.

Drinkwitz is adaptable. He adjusts his offense to the talent at his disposal. If he has a quarterback that can sling the ball all over the yard, he’ll use that to his advantage. If he has a running back capable of carrying the ball 250 times in a season, he’ll utilize that back to the best of his ability.

He’s not tied to any one specific gameplan. His running back usage over the years depicts that clearly.

Eli Drinkwitz RB Production

Season Player Carries Rushing Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total TDs
Season Player Carries Rushing Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total TDs
2013 Michael Gordon 112 754 16 206 11
2013 David Oku 142 511 0 0 6
2015 Jeremy McNichols 240 1337 51 460 26
2015 Kelsey Young 101 511 8 65 8
2016 Matthew Dayes 249 1166 32 267 10
2016 Jaylen Samuels 33 189 55 565 13
2017 Nyheim Hines 197 1112 26 152 12
2017 Reggie Gallaspy II 116 506 13 52 7
2017 Jaylen Samuels 77 403 76 597 16
2018 Reggie Gallaspy Jr. 228 1091 8 38 19
2018 Ricky Person Jr. 112 471 3 7 3
2019 Darrynton Evans 255 1484 21 198 23
2019 Marcus Williams Jr. 113 652 1 7 5

As you can see, Drinkwitz has had a number of different backfields over the years, and his usage of the different backs can go a long way in showing us what we should expect from Mizzou’s running backs in 2020.

As the co-offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Drinkwitz split the carries between two running backs, but only threw a combined 16 passes to those two players. It’s worth noting that this was his season as the OC under Malzahn.

Those tendencies changed in his first year as the OC at Boise State. Future NFL RB Jeremy McNichols carried the bulk of the load on the ground, and McNichols also finished the year with more than 50 receptions. If Drinkwitz has a running back worthy of being targeted in the passing game, he’s not afraid to use him.

That became even more true in Drinkwitz’s time at NC State. Drinkwitz had some unique talents in his time at NC State from 2016-2018. Jaylen Samuels is 6-foot, 225-pound running back who was technically listed as a “tight end” in his time at NC State. Drinkwitz found a way to get Samuels more than 100 carries, 130 receptions and 29 total touchdowns in his final two years on campus. Drinkwitz did that while also finding a way to give three other bell cow running backs more than 195 carries in those individual seasons.

And last year, as the head coach at Appalachian State, Drinkwitz once again leaned heavily on his dominant running game with two running backs combining for more than 350 carries on the season.

This all leads us to Drink’s options in 2020. Larry Rountree III is one of the top returning rushers in the SEC. Tyler Badie has proven himself as a legitimate threat both on the ground and through the air as a pass-catching back.

Drinkwitz’s history with running backs should give us a clear indication that the Tigers are in good position to make the most out of their running backs. If history is any indication, Rountree will get a large workload on the ground and Badie will get plenty of looks both on the ground and through the air.

Expect the Mizzou running game to revert back to what it looked like in 2018 as opposed to the disappointing results from a year ago. Drinkwitz knows how to utilize his talent in the backfield.

He learned a thing or two from one of the best in the business in that respect.