The excitement of the offseason got to a lot of us. I read comments talking about being worried a bigger program would come calling for Mizzou’s head coach, semi-joking (I hope) comments about building statues, even glowing profiles in national publications. The offseason hype machine around Eli Drinkwitz was a real one for more than just Mizzou fans.
And mostly for a good reason. The recruiting was something we hadn’t really seen. He was landing more elite 4-star players than both Odom and Pinkel had, and he was landing some of those players from out of state. His 10-1 season at Appalachian State carried over to a 5-5 record with an undermanned team in a COVID year against an All SEC schedule last season.
But the reality of the situation was bound to catch up at some point, and the loose laces keeping the season together seemed to split yesterday. Tennessee, a completely mediocre SEC team, boat raced Mizzou in one of the worst home losses in the history of Memorial Stadium. The Volunteers, a team whose SP+ rank is two spots ahead of Boston College, treated Missouri’s defense like an FCS club.
It was 28-3 after the first quarter, and 45-10 at halftime. Against SEMO, Missouri had smaller leads at those junctures in the game than what Tennessee had over Mizzou. Just let that simmer for a minute.
I’m on board with the idea that the talent level along Mizzou’s Defensive Line and Linebacking groups needs to improve significantly if Drinkwitz and the Mizzou fans want this program to be special. The players they have aren’t good enough to be special, but they are good enough to be adequate. They’re good enough to be competitive. Right now they’re not competitive on defense, so much so that the secondary, which should be a strength, looks demoralized for having to make so many tackles down the field.
So something has to change.
It’s one thing to be merely bad and under talented along the defensive line, it’s a whole other thing to get gashed like yesterday, and be non-competitive. If you took the two teams jerseys off, and you put an FCS logo on Mizzou’s helmet the outcome would make sense. And that is concerning. Because again, while the talent level isn’t great, it’s also not this bad.
So who gets the blame?
Everyone really, but at this point how bad they’ve been should reflect directly on the coaching staff. For whatever reason the talent they do have isn’t performing, at all. Angles are bad, gaps are open, blocks aren’t shed. Trajan Jeffcoat was a preseason All SEC pick, has 9 tackles on the season, and a sack, after four games. Two transfer cornerbacks heralded as potential NFL draft picks came in as non-starters, and have been too busy chasing down runners 8-10 yards down the field to flash NFL potential.
Ultimately the eyes are going to turn to new Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks. Football is mostly the same at every level with the addition of talent as you move up. But Wilks message has failed to resonate with the players he’s tasked with leading. If it were resonating, they’d be getting some stops. And whether that message, the scheme, or the game plan is falling flat, it’s on Wilks, and ultimately Drinkwitz, to get it all figured out.
Drinkwitz asked by @Ben_Fred if he has to make a change at defensive coordinator: "I just stepped off the football field. I haven’t considered anything like that."— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 2, 2021
I’m sure Steve Wilks knows more about defensive football than I could ever hope to. He’s been an effective coach at the pro level for years. I’m in no way questioning his knowledge. But it’s currently not working. Drink and Wilks need to get on the same page, and they need to make sure the players are on the same page. And the product needs to get a whole lot better.
I’ll never be the guy calling for a coach to be fired, after all I still catch flack for thinking MIzzou was probably wrong to fire Barry Odom. So in no way am I saying Drinkwitz should fire Wilks, or even move Wilks into a different role. Drink is the guy in charge so he gets to make the call, and Wilks has earned being the Defensive Coordinator over the course of his career. But if he isn’t able to adapt and change the approach to find a way to just make it... better, then I’m not sure where that leads him or this program for the rest of this year. But the schedule doesn’t get any easier in the second half. It’s been nearly half the season so far and it’s only gotten worse. Time for things to start getting better.
Stats from StatBroadcast:
Here are your other SEC scores:
- 1. Alabama 42, 12. Ole Miss 21
- 2. Georgia 37, 8. Arkansas 0
- Kentucky 20, 10. Florida 13
- Mississippi State 26, 15. Texas A&M 22
- South Carolina 23, Troy 14
- 22. Auburn 24, LSU 19
- Vanderbilt 30, UConn 28
Yesterday at Rock M
- Missouri vs Tennessee football GameDay: info, where to watch, predictions
- Bottoms Up! The Hype Man Edition
- Gamethread: Mizzou vs Tennessee
- Five Takeaways from Mizzou’s 62-24 loss vs. Tennessee
- Tennessee Walks into Columbia, Runs all over Tigers