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Eli Drinkwitz Was a Lazy Play Caller in 2022

And I have numbers to prove it!

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

The thesis is the title. You clicked on it, you know why you’re here. But before I go into my argument, let me concede a few points:

  • I am not a scheme guy. I have interest and a passing knowledge in it but am far away from being an expert.
  • This is college football, not the pros. A team has the two weeks in spring, all of August, and then 10 hours per week during the season to practice. Point being: play callers can whip up good opening scripted plays but, as a game wears on, most OCs are going to resort to the stuff they’re most comfortable with/they believe the team executes the best.
  • Missouri was down two starting linemen before the season even began and then lost the backup right tackle in week four, forcing a lot of juggling on the offensive line. Most offenses struggle without consistency in the front five.
  • We are assuming that Eli Drinkwitz was the primary play caller for the first nine games and the bowl game against Wake Forest while Bush Hamdan was the primary play caller for the Tennessee, New Mexico State, and Arkansas games.
  • Brady Cook had a torn labrum. That’s been well discussed at this point but is still true and, of course, very limiting on the types of throws he can make.
  • The play calling data I’m utilizing comes from the indomitable SEC Stat Cat who does tremendous work in charting plays, yardage shares, and success rates.
  • The average success rate for college teams in 2022 was roughly 44%. Anything higher than that is pretty good! Anything lower than that is pretty bad!

In 2022, the Tigers played 13 games and Missouri’s offense was on the field for 890 plays. For the entire season, there were only five plays that were called more than 25 times throughout the year.

Can you guess what they were?

It’s ok, I’ll give you a second.

No, I’m not counting that shitty “Tyler Macon goes under center on 4th down to try and draw the defense off sides” play. That’s a good guess, though!

Yes, “screen pass” is a good guess. But what else?

Ok, I’ll list the top five called plays in order from least called to most called, the yardage gained on the year with that play, the yearly success rate, and more!

Ready? Here we go!

5. Screen Pass

Screen Pass Play Design

Rock M actually has a tremendous in-depth analysis on screen passes from 2015 that goes into more detail on the types of screens an offense can call but, for now, the design up above is the one Eli calls the most; a quick pass to the most athletic receiver on the outside that hits before the defense can react and gives the receiver time and space to run as fast as he can in a straight line.

Number of times this play was called: 39 (seems low, huh?)

Percentage of all plays called: 4.4%

Total yards gained: 121

Percentage of total yards gained: 2.5%

Yards per play: 3.1

Success rate: 30.8%

As a reminder, the average success rate in college football in 2022 was 44%, so we’re already off to a bad start! If the fifth-most called play in your playbook averages a mere 3.1 yards and only a 30.7% success rate...why the hell are you calling it so much? I’ll answer my rhetorical question with “it’s an opportunity for an explosive play” (which Mizzou had to rely on this year with a terrible running game...see below for more!) god, how many times did Eli need to see Luther or Dom or Cody barely get 3-yards before realizing that he might need to try another play to get explosive yards?

4. Inside Power Read

Inside Power Read Design

There are a lot of ways of running stuff and names/assignments switch based off of the book you’re running with, so there is a solid chance this isn’t quite what Drink runs. However, in my mind, this is what inside power read looks like: the running back will run a jet sweep with the quarterback reading the end man on the line of scrimmage; if the defensive end is up field, the quarterback will pull the ball and run inside power. The reason that I picked this design is that it pairs really well with wide receiver jet sweeps and other various RPO options (which Drink loves to use as eye candy but rarely as a real option).

Number of times this play was called: 45

Percentage of all plays called: 5.1%

Total yards gained: 236

Percentage of total yards gained: 4.9%

Yards per play: 5.2

Success rate: 42.2%

This is much better! It wasn’t quite at the 44% success rate median but 42% is a huge improvement over 30% and averaging 5.2 yards per play ain’t bad either. Obviously a huge factor in this play in particular is that, by design, it can feature Brady Cook’s strength of running the ball. Plus, he improved in his ability to read defenders as the year went on.

3. Flood (and its variations)

Flood Design

Flood is a popular passing scheme as it can be run in a lot of different ways. Sail, Play Action Boot, and Cross are all Flood concepts based on the primary concept of stressing out a specific corner. The way it works is that the offense positions three receivers on one side of the field and a single receiver on the other side and forces the defense to make a decision on who they are going to cover. If they leave the lone receiver on an island then you throw it to him when he beats his corner. If they roll safety help to the single side, then the two receivers running similar routes at different levels on the other side will force the corner to pick one, making an easy throw to beat a safety in coverage (or go over the top). When this is combined with the quarterback rolling out and threatening to run, the defense is theoretically forced to give up an easy gain no matter what they choose.

Number of times this play was called: 61

Percentage of all plays called: 6.9%

Total yards gained: 387

Percentage of total yards gained: 8.1%

Yards per play: 6.3

Success rate: 40.9%

Again, 40% isn’t the best success rate for a play called so often but averaging 6.3 yards per play is good and, in theory, a staple of an offense that has a mobile quarterback. An educated guess - based on watching all 13 of these games multiple times - was that the reason this concept wasn’t more successful was due to the limitations of Brady’s throwing ability. We’ll check back in next year to see how much this was called and how successful it ended up being.

2. Outside Zone

Outside Zone Design

Also known as “Drink’s Binky”, this play has been a staple of the Drinkwitz offense since his days at Arkansas State, and one that Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie ran to perfection. The 2022 guys? Not so much. But you can see the appeal; the offensive line blocks in a direction rather than a specific guy, and the running back flows behind that movement to the outside boundary until he finds open space (or a hole) and hits it for big yards. And, as you can see in this design, you can also add an RPO wrinkle and have the quarterback keep it and/or throw it the receiver on the opposite side of the movement (although Drink doesn’t do that enough). The thing to remember with this play is that, in previous years, this was a good play to generate explosive yards. In 2022 though? Eh...

Number of times this play was called: 119

Percentage of all plays called: 13.5%

Total yards gained: 555

Percentage of total yards gained: 11.6%

Yards per play: 4.7

Success rate: 28.5%

Yuck. Yuck yuck yuck. When your staple plays gets called 119 times but only manages a 28% success rate you’re just being lazy. And while it did gain the most yardage on the was the second-most called play, of course it gained a ton of yardage! You’ll remember the games where freshman lineman Armand Membou would don the number 9 and lineup as a tight end/6th offensive lineman? This play was the reason why, to help beef up the outside blocking on Eli’s favorite toy. I would argue that the inefficiency of this play is one of the biggest reasons why the offense fell backward this year; whether you want to blame the line or the backs, it doesn’t matter, Drink’s go-to play stunk and he never really got over it.

1.Inside Zone Read

Inside Zone Design

Say hello to the play that was called the most in 2022 and Bush Hamdan’s personal favorite play. The offensive line has the backside tackle and guard double team an end; the center double teams a tackle with the playside guard but then releases into the second level, while the playside tackle immediately heads to the second level to block the Mike linebacker and leave the weakside edge rusher unblocked. The quarterback reads the unblocked defender (the edge player in this design, sometimes its an interior lineman) and either hands it off to the back or scampers into the space vacated by an over-pursuing defender. The beauty of this play is that it creates mush; a pile of bodies wailing on each other in a scrum that, if done repeatedly, can suck in outside defenders and leave the quarterback with extra space on the edge. Brady Cook loves this stuff, and Bush loved calling it for him.

Number of times this play was called: 134

Percentage of all plays called: 15.2%

Total yards gained: 548

Percentage of total yards gained: 11.4%

Yards per play: 4.1

Success rate: 47.0%

Luckily the play called the most had the best success rate of the five plays reviewed here. Most of the calls for this came in that three game stretch with Hamdan driving the car but Drink liked to mix in the inside zone in hopes to soften up the outside zone (to no avail). Cody was always happy to get smacked in a pile 20 times per game and Brady was always eager to run around as well so it should be no surprise that this was the go-to for the ‘22 season. It’s a shame that we didn’t see a noticeable amount of plays building off of this look as counter, smash, and RPO passes combined to account for 22 plays on the year.

Plays That Should Have Been Called More

This category is stuff that was called 10+ times over the year and averaged a success rate greater than the national average of 44%. Here’s that list:

  • Checkdown/HB Option - 46.2% success rate - 26 calls
  • Quarterback Draw - 58.3% success rate - 24 calls
  • Dagger - 54.2% success rate - 24 calls
  • Slants (and its variations) - 71.4% success rate - 21 calls
  • Spacing/Curl Flat - 50.0% success rate - 14 calls
  • Utah Pass - 50.0% success rate - 14 calls
  • Outside Power Read - 57.14% - 14 calls

Look, I’m famously not an offensive coordinator. And maybe a lack of looks over the year meant that, when the plays above were called, they were super effective.


Maybe, MAYBE, Kirby Moore should call slant routes more often. And sprinkle in quarterback draw more liberally. I dunno. Just spit-balling here.


The title of this piece is “Eli Drinkwitz was a lazy play caller in 2022” and I think that the above data shows it. Yes, injuries limit effectiveness and most college offenses only have 5-6 plays that they are really good at. But the fact that four of the five plays Eli continuously went to were not super successful - nor gained a ton of yards per play - tells me that he wasn’t willing (or able) to get creative and find new things to try and move past his usual calls to move the ball. Eli has been doing this a long time but it certainly seems like his creative gears ran out this year. Again - I feel like this absolutely needs repeating - four of his five most called plays failed to even hit an average success rate, and the second-most called play had a horrifying 28% success rate!

But that’s why Kirby is here, right? Hopefully his outside perspective running similar sets will give him the opportunity to call stuff that is geared around this personnel’s strengths and find some staples that can actually hit. And even with Eli having veto power over anything called, my hope is that Moore has room to operate the way he wants and maximize the effectiveness of this offense.