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Cheers: Mizzou introduces App State's Eliah Drinkwitz as football coach

Appalachian State v North Carolina
Posted at 8:39 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 23:08:46-05

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Pulling on a visor with a University of Missouri logo then taking off his glasses, Eliah Drinkwitz became the 33rd football coach in program history Tuesday during an introductory press conference at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

Drinkwitz attended his daughter’s performance of “The Nutcracker” after winning the Sun Belt title game Saturday night before sneaking away to meet with MU officials at the Hampton Inn in Wilkesboro, North Carolina — a day later he’d reached an agreement to replace former coach Barry Odom, who was fired Nov. 30.

Drinkwitz called it “an opportunity of a lifetime” and promised “to accomplish great things together” during laughter-filled prepared remarks.

A relative unknown for most Tigers fans before this season, perhaps even this week, Drinkwitz has had a meteoric rise in the last decade in the college football coaching ranks.

The university made the official announcement in a press release a few hours before the press conference.

"I'm excited for the opportunity of a lifetime to be the head football coach at Missouri," Drinkwitz said. "This is a special place with special people. I know this is the Show-Me State, and I'm fired up to show this state what our football program is going to be all about. My wife, Lindsey, and our four girls are excited to join the Columbia community and be a part of Mizzou."

Drinkwitz, 36, went 12-1 in his first and only season as a head coach this season at Appalachian State.

The terms of Drinkwitz's contract have not been announced, but multiple reports indicate he will make an average of $4 million per season.

The Tigers, Drinkwitz said, are set up for success and he emphasized the need to reignite the passion of the fan base. He met with the team Monday night and called the players who’ve already left campus for winter break.

“Our purpose is to win, make no mistake about it ...,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to win the SEC East and a bowl with class, integrity and academic excellence.”

Mizzou won back-to-back division titles in 2013 and 2014, playing in consecutive SEC Championship Games under former coach Gary Pinkel. But the program hasn’t finished better than .500 or higher than tied for third in the seven-team SEC East during the last five seasons.

Drinkwitz promised to install his trademark up-tempo offense, which features “a downhill run game” combined with “a vertical passing game” coupled with a havoc-wreaking defense that “tackles well and creates turnovers.”

Drinkwitz said he’ll start his tenure with the Tigers as the offensive coordinator and play-caller, but didn’t rule out giving up those duties in the future.

He said he covets a versatile defense, which is focused on stopping the run but also prioritizes getting to the quarterback.

Drinkwitz’s preference would be for a “low ego, high output” coordinator to complement his offensive style.

"This is a coach that brings a good combination of creativity and excitement to our football program,” Board of Curators Chairman Jon Sundvold said in a statement. “I'm excited about the future for our student-athletes in the football program. Jim and his staff made a great choice."

Mizzou's administration hopes Drinkwitz can convince elite football talent to follow him to Columbia.

“Recruiting is the lifeblood of our program,” Drinkwitz said. “We must recruit every single day.”

He said that starts with recruiting the state of Missouri, but he also noted the program’s strong recruiting ties in Texas in addition to “wherever there’s a direct flight from Kansas City or St. Louis” that has players who fit the Tigers’ profile.

The Tigers are saddled with a scholarship reduction due to NCAA sanctions, but Drinkwitz said he isn’t worried.

“It’s going to be hard, but I like a challenge,” he said.

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Arkansas, Drinkwitz served as offensive coordinator for North Carolina State for three seasons and Boise State for one season before taking the Mountaineers’ reins.

Appalachian State — which knocked off two Power 5 teams on the road this season, North Carolina from the ACC and South Carolina from the SEC — repeated last weekend as Sun Belt Conference champions.

The Mountaineers averaged 39.4 points, which ranked ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season.

Drinkwitz’s offense, which is known for playing at a breakneck tempo, ranked 17th in rushing nationally, racking up 229.1 yards per game on the ground.

"I can't wait for every Tiger to meet Eli," MU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said. "He's a special guy who has a magnetic personality that people will appreciate and enjoy. I'm thrilled to have him here at Mizzou leading our program. He's got passion, a plan and a vision that will take this program to great heights."

During his time in the ACC, the Wolfpack offensive steadily improved under Drinkwitz from 2016 through 2018. NC State rose from 75th (27.0 points) to 40th (32.2 points) to 31st (33.8 points) in scoring offense and 63rd (416.4 yards) to 25th (451.8 yards) to 26th (456.1 yards) in total offense.

His career closely tied to Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.

Drinkwitz spent 2004 as an assistant coach at Springdale (Arkansas) High School under Malzahn.

After five more seasons at the high school level, Drinkwitz worked on Auburn’s staff under Gene Chizik for two seasons as a quality control coach, including the Tigers’ 2010 national championship campaign.

He then moved to Arkansas State as running backs coach in 2012 under Malzahn and remained with the Red Wolves as co-offensive coordinator under Bryan Harsin in 2013.

When Harsin accepted the Boise State job, Drinkwitz followed him and spent 2014 as the tight ends coach before his promotion to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach a year later.

The Broncos ranked 15th in the country, averaging 39.1 points per game, that season.

Drinkwitz replaces Odom, who was fired after going 25-25 in four season at Missouri. The Tigers reached two bowl games, but lost both during Odom’s tenure.

Mizzou went 6-6 in 2019, including a five-game losing streak after a 5-1 start to the season.

NCAA sanctions prevented the Tigers from accepting a bowl bid this season.