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Mizzou Football Presser Notes: Gasparilla Bowl

Tigers’ head coach Eliah Drinkwitz addressed the media following the announcement of the Gasparilla Bowl matchup against Wake Forest.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri Tigers (6-6) are headed to a third consecutive bowl game, this time to Tampa, Florida, for the Gasparilla Bowl against Wake Forest (7-5).

Mizzou head coach Eliah Drinkwitz addressed the media this morning to discuss the Dec. 23 bowl matchup as well as transfer portal updates, injury news and much more. Here are a few of the takeaways from today’s conference.

The much-anticipated Mizzou-Kansas response

Mizzou made its rounds on Twitter last week for a “bowl projection” that sent the Twitter-verse into a frenzy when a report suggested the Tigers did not want to play kansas. Today, Drinkwitz quieted the drama in an emphatic fashion.

“I realize that bowl selection process is different from conference to conference,” Drinkwitz said. “If you haven’t been in a bowl game in, I don’t know, 12 or 15 years, then maybe things change for you.”

“We submit preferences to the conference, based on a lot of factors,” he added. “We factor what’s best for our fan base, what’s best for our student athletes and what’s best for our athletic department. We take any bowl game that they give us and whatever matchup they give us.”

Drinkwitz said, if it were his choice, he would have picked the national championship, but “that’s not how it works.”

For Mizzou fans who are waiting for the desired matchup between the two rivals, Drinkwitz noted that the next game in scheduled on September 6, 2025, and he told fans to buy their tickets early.

Jumping back to the bowl game, a pre-Christmas bowl matchup will allow student athletes to return home for the Christmas holiday season, something that also plays a role in the decision making, according to Drinkwitz.

Away from the football side of things, Drinkwitz capped his press conference with a memorable quote, having the last word in this Kansas rivalry, saying “Let’s go beat Kansas in basketball this weekend. You got it, Dennis (Gates, the Mizzou men’s basketball head coach).”

Drinkwitz excited for opportunity to play in Tampa and face Wake Forest

Tampa, Florida.

That’s where the Tigers will face Wake Forest right before Christmas, and if you ask Drinkwitz, there’s few other places he’d rather be.

“It’s one of my favorite places,” Drinkwitz said. “I’d recommend everybody go to Ybor City and go to the Columbian restaurant... it’s absolutely gorgeous. So, you know, I’m pretty excited about going to Tampa to be honest.”

Outside of the food possibilities, Drinkwitz mentioned the weather as another added bonus, calling the opportunity to go to the city of Tampa for a bowl game, a “pretty good deal.”

Asked specifically about how fans should view the importance of a bowl game, Drinkwitz mentioned the significance of supporting the University of Missouri.

“Showing out is a great sign to our football team and future recruits of the support they’re going to have while they’re here,” Drinkwitz said.

Last year’s Armed Forced Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, stood out to Drinkwitz as a good representation of a successful fan atmosphere, and the hope is that the atmosphere in Tampa will showcase a similar feel.

The difference between last year and this year, however, is undoubtably the opponent—Wake Forest.

“I have a ton of respect for (Wake Forest head coach) Dave Clawson and Wake Forest and the job he’s done there,” Drinkwitz said. “They’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Sam Hartman, so that will be a tremendous challenge and allow our team to a focus for the bowl game.”

Hartman, in particular, is one of the nation’s most respected passers, and he helps to run a unique style of offense.

“(Wake Forest’s offense) is based heavily on RPOs (and) they do a really good job of throwing the ball vertically down the field,” Drinkwitz said.

On the defensive end, they also showcase talent.

“Defensively, they are attacking but they’re going to keep the ball in front of them and make you earn everything,” he added. “They’re very sound. They don't beat themselves.”

Wake Forest will pose a challenge coming from the ACC, which featured a plethora of talented teams like Clemson and North Carolina. The Demon Deacons will also be facing Mizzou for the first time in program history, making for a memorial debut between the two programs.

Drinkwitz provides injury, roster and transfer portal updates

Today marks the opening of the transfer portal and so far, the damage has been limited on the Mizzou front, with the exception of wide receiver Dominic Lovett’s intention to transfer.

“We thought we had maybe 12 to 14 (players who would transfer), and we came in four short of that so far,” Drinkwitz said. “I’m very pleased with the guys who have chosen to stay and want to continue to work.”

Not including walk-ons, seven Tigers have announced their intentions to transfer. Dominic Lovett headlines the list, as one of the SEC’s premier receiving talents, who posted his decision to transfer yesterday.

Drinkwitz did say, however, opportunities for players to transfer are still there.

“I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for us to get a few more guys, maybe to find a different opportunity or see what their role is, and decide they want to do something different after the bowl game,” Drinkwitz said. “But for us, it’s been about what we expected to be honest, from top to bottom kind of expected these things.”

Those potential losses will also be compounded with the looming decisions from those who plan to enter the NFL Draft. Isaiah McGuire and Martez Manuel have already announced their intentions to begin their next journey, and Drinkwitz confirmed that they are the only two who have made it clear they will not participate in the bowl game.

Outside of those two names, Ty’Ron Hopper, Kris Abrams-Draine and Darius Robinson will be a few names to watch in the coming weeks, but none have announced their plans yet.

Drinkwitz also provided updates on the injury front, noting that Tyrone Hopper and Joseph Charleston are on track to play in the bowl game. Barrett Banister is still working back, but should see a share of snaps for his final Mizzou football game. Chance Luper, who has been held out all season with a blood clot, is not medically cleared and will not play in the bowl game.

Offensive lineman EJ Ndoma-Ogar, meanwhile, had season-ending surgery and will be on track to return in time for spring practice.

These additions and subtractions make roster planning difficult for Drinkwitz and his staff, but another complication is the redshirt rule. Players who redshirt can play in only four games, including the bowl game, so Mizzou will be shorthanded in the department as well, specifically in the safety position group.

“Ja’Marion Wayne has played din four games, and so has DJ Wesolak, so those guys will be unavailable for the bowl game,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s going to give guys like Isaac Thompson, Tyler Hibbler and Tyler Jones more opportunities at the. safety position in this game.”

In the realm of college football, Drinkwitz also learned about the transfer of North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary, who announced this morning his intention to leave the Wolfpack.

As an assistant at NC State, Drinkwitz helped to recruit Leary, and Mizzou became an immediate potential landing destination for the talented quarterback who threw for 48 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

Drinkwitz did not reveal any intentions, noting that he did not want to break any transfer portal or NCAA guidelines. Instead, he took the opportunity to address the idea of the transfer portal as a whole.

“If you want me to be real, there’s a thing called supply and demand,” Drinkwitz said. “And when supply is high, demand is low. If you look at supply and demand in the portal right now, there’s a whole heck of a lot of really good player in the portal, and you have an opportunity as a coach to really improve your roster in a hurry.”

As evidenced with its reformed defense this season, Mizzou is no stranger to making the most of transfer portal decisions. Now, with a strong quarterback hitting the portal in addition to the other pieces that the Tigers want to target, expect a busy offseason.