So long, David Gibbs! We loved your recruiting and...well...hey...you definitely were listed as a defensive backs coach! Enjoy being the Co-Defensive Coordinator at UCF!
Welcome aboard, Aaron Fletcher! The former Tulsa cornerbacks coach is a mere 40-years old but has a sterling reputation at all of his former employers, particularly in the development of cornerbacks.
It also continues the trend of Drinkwitz hiring young. Obviously Steve Wilks is much older than Ryan Walters - 16 years to be exact - while Jethro Franklin and Brick Haley are the same age. But David Gibbs is 53 and Fletch is 40 so the average age of the Missouri coaching staff moved from 43.6 to 44 which is still fairly young.
Here’s Coach Fletch’s history:
Fletch has had a tough coaching career! Every other coach on Missouri’s staff has seen many years of success at their previous stops but Fletch has had only two winning seasons in his collegiate coaching career. He’s also been apart of some truly terrible defenses and some elite ones as well but, regardless, of his coaching ability, he’s always had to deal with poorly ranked recruiting classes.
If that entire paragraph sounds like a massive negative I certainly don’t mean it. He checks a lot of boxes in what I want from a Missouri coach: high school experience, working with minimal resources, and developing raw/underrated talent to perform at a higher level. Plus, he’s a Texas boy from his playing days all the way through his coaching career so he’s an easy replacement for Gibbs’ Texas recruiting experience.
Aaron Fletcher’s link to the rest of the staff
None! He hasn’t worked with any of these guys previously...which, again, isn’t a bad thing. It gives me the inclination that the guys on the staff know of his reputations/talents on their own and wanted to add him as part of their staff despite the personal unfamiliarity.
Is he good at what he does?
To answer this question I want to look specifically at his last three years at Tulsa, where the Golden Hurricane increased their win total from 3, to 4, to 6 wins and the defense improved from 96th, to 51st, to 23rd last year.
That rise in defensive production is mostly thanks to a steadily improving run defense because Fletch’s boys in the secondary were fairly steady in ‘18 and ‘19 and then exploded in ‘20.
The interesting thing about this rise is that they did it without an elite amount of disruption. Their best performance against the pass was in 2020 when they finally got to benefit from a pass rush but, overall, they just simply erase the short passing game, (usually) take away the big explosive plays, and shut down opposing offenses in passing down situations. Obviously corners are not the only group responsible for all of that work but the corner Fletch has coached are pretty dang good. Allie Green IV (8 PBUs, 1 INT) and Akayleb Evans (6 PBUs) were three-year starters for Fletch, with Evans missing ‘19 with a shoulder injury - coinciding with big explosive plays the Hurricane secondary allowed in ‘19. Reggie Robinson II posted an absurd 18 PBUs and 4 interceptions in his two years under Fletch’s watch and was the highest drafted Tulsa player since 2011. All three of those guys were super-low 2-star recruits that he transformed into lockdown corners over three years. That’s pretty good in my book.
Here’s the TL;DR version:
- Track record of solid corner development
- Familiar face in Texas recruiting circuit
- No familiarity with current staff
- No experience at a P5 level
- Teams he’s recruited are consistently in the bottom 20
You never know how a hire will go until he gets to the job. Fletch has grinded his way through high school and FCS and the G5 to get to where he is now and it’s an easy story to root for. He seems to have a solid grasp on developing corners and, of course, will be working close with Steve Wilks and Charlie Harbison in the defensive secondary room. If he can prove his recruiting chops and help Missouri’s massive crop of young corners develop early and consistently then Drinkwitz will have a tremendous asset for the near future.