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Eli Drinkwitz adds a fresh perspective in new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore

How much influence will Kirby Moore have on Missouri’s offense in 2023?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The hire we’ve been waiting for is officially official. Eli Drinkwitz has hired his first offensive coordinator at Mizzou, and it’s former Fresno State offensive coordinator Kirby Moore. If his name isn’t familiar, you might recognize his brother, Kellen. Kellen is the winningest quarterback in college football history, finishing his Boise State career with a record 50 wins. He spent a few years in the NFL as a quarterback before transitioning to a coach. He’s spent the past four seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, Kirby has been working his way up the coaching ranks in his own right. After playing wide receiver with his brother at Boise, Kirby took a job as the wide receivers coach at the College of Idaho. He spent 2015 and 2016 as a grad assistant with Washington, and has been at Fresno State since 2017, spending the majority of his time working with wide receivers before being named the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator this season under Jeff Tedford.

The resume is impressive. He played for Chris Peterson and worked for the likes of Kalen DeBoer and Tedford. Those are some decent mentors, to say the least. You don’t have to search far to find current or former players praising the job Moore did at Fresno State. His players seem to love him, and he’s certainly known as a bright offensive mind.

The hire is being universally praised. That doesn’t mean it’ll work, but it does signify that those in and around the industry believe it was a “smart” hire. That’s a good first step. So, what does this hire mean? What does it indicate for the Tigers? That’s a much harder question to answer.

Let’s start here: It indicates a willingness to go “outside the family.” Drinkwitz has primarily hired offensive assistants he’s worked with in his past. He was with Bush Hamdan and Casey Woods at Arkansas State. He had a history with Erik Link and Curtis Luper at Auburn. The only offensive assistants he had hired at Missouri with no prior working relationships I could locate were Marcus Johnson and Jacob Peeler. You can now add Moore to that list.

I think this is important. Fresh eyes can be important. Think about whatever it is that you do for a living. If you have the same input from the same people for an extended period of time, eventually whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish can get stale. The same is true in football. Having a different perspective on the offense was needed. I just wasn’t sure that was the direction Drinkwitz would be willing to go.

Now that he has, it begs another question: How much input will Moore have in the offense Missouri will run in 2023? I’m less interested in learning who will call the plays and more interested in what kind of plays will be run. Will this be a blend of Moore and Drinkwitz? Or will it be the same Drinkwitz offense with Moore sequencing the plays? I would personally prefer the former to the latter.

To find out what a Moore offense could look like at Missouri, I went back and watched three Fresno State games from 2022. The first was the Bulldogs’ early-season test against Oregon State. Fresno State’s offense finished that game with nearly 500 total yards, including 360 through the air. The Bulldogs ran a little bit of everything against Oregon State. The staple in their offense is a deep over for the slot wide receiver. They lean heavily on the inside zone in the running game, and they’re not shy with the RPO, either.

At least, that’s what I thought. And then I watched the San Jose State game. Fresno State played that game with their backup quarterback and he was, well, quite bad. It was obvious from the jump Moore and Tedford knew they needed to keep things simple offensively. They ran the wildcat, relied on bubble screens, went heavy on zone reads and threw in some crossers, jet sweeps and a couple trick plays (including a flea flicker). It was enough to earn them a 17-10 win at home.

Finally, I watched Fresno State’s conference championship game against Boise State. Suddenly the Bulldogs were leaning into pre-snap motion, they were throwing every possible formation at the Broncos and they were leaning into some deep shots as well. The staple, however, went back to those deep overs across the middle to their slot wide receiver.

The moral of the story is Moore and Tedford had specific game plans for specific opponents. Fresno State was not a team that went with the “we do what we do” mantra. That is... the opposite of what Missouri has been under Drinkwitz?

I also mentioned that - from what I saw - it appeared Fresno State leaned heavily on the inside zone. That would be a welcomed change at Mizzou. Drinkwitz falls in love with the outside zone, and it simply did not work for the Tigers. It was their most called play and their least productive play a year ago. Maybe we can scrap that for 2023.

There are legitimate reasons to believe Moore is the right hire at the right time for Missouri. The hire, though, was the easy part. Now comes the hard part. The Tigers need to find the right marriage between Moore and Drinkwitz’s offensive approaches, and then meld that with the right quarterback. This offense can work. It remains to be seen if it will.