By: Nate Smith
It might have felt like forever, but in reality, Missouri fans only had to wait one week to find out who their next head football coach would be following the dismissal of Barry Odom. On Sunday evening, it was reported that Mizzou found their new head coach, plucking Eliah Drinkwitz away from Appalachian State. ESPN’s Chris Low was the first to break the news, which was confirmed by PowerMizzou.com shortly after. Many Missouri fans were caught off guard by the hiring of Drinkwitz, who did not appear to be one of the university’s initial candidates. Terms of the deal are yet to be announced, but there are several reasons for Mizzou fans to be excited when it comes to new Head Football Coach Eliah Drinkwitz.
Eliah—or ‘Eli’—Drinkwitz comes to Missouri with only one year of collegiate head coaching experience at Appalachian State. He certainly inherited a good situation but still managed to exceed expectations, leading the 20th ranked Mountaineers to a 12-1 record and a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. Missouri fans may remember Drinkwitz’s App State team defeating the Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina earlier this season. Drinkwitz also led the Mountaineers to a road victory over North Carolina and even took his team to the Sun Belt Championship game, where the Mountaineers were victorious over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Drinkwitz’s limited experience as a head coach shouldn’t be alarming, as he does have a plethora of experience as an assistant and otherwise. Prior to his sole year as Head Coach at Appalachian State, Drinkwitz worked his way up the ranks, working under several prominent head coaches. Drinkwitz graduated from the Arkansas high school coaching ranks, where he first developed a relationship with Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn. Drinkwitz went on to work at Auburn, where he was a quality control assistant for Gene Chizik’s 2010 national championship team. When Malzahn left his offensive coordinator job at Auburn, Drinkwitz followed him along to Arkansas State. It was there that Drinkwitz got the job as running backs coach, before eventually taking on the title of co-offensive coordinator.
Gus Malzahn eventually went back to Auburn, accepting the head coaching job and leaving Drinkwitz behind. Drinkwitz stayed at Arkansas State, working under Bryan Harsin before Harsin accepted the Boise State head coaching gig. Drinkwitz then went with Harsin to Boise, and served as Tight Ends Coach for a year before becoming Boise State’s Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach.
In 2016, Drinkwitz headed back east, accepting a job as North Carolina State’s Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach. Drinkwitz’s tenure in Raleigh was impressive enough to ultimately help him land the Appalachian State head coaching job prior to this season. Drinkwitz will now head to Columbia to become the new Missouri Head Coach.
Eli Drinkwitz may not be a household name (yet), but his resume as an offensive coach speaks for itself. Drinkwitz gained a lot of respect after working as part of the Auburn Tigers coaching staff on their 2010 national championship team that featured Cam Newton. Working under coaches as prestigious as Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn is a privilege not many coaches are afforded.
Boise State’s sterling offensive reputation continued with Drinkwitz on staff. The Broncos were 15th in the nation in total offense and scoring offense during Drinkwitz’s time as the Offensive Coordinator.
At North Carolina State, Drinkwitz led the Wolfpack to a bowl game in all three seasons. NC State’s average points per game increased in each season under Drinkwitz, before taking a sharp decline following his departure to Appalachian State.
Drinkwitz has seemingly made positive impressions on all of his previous coaching stops. When he was hired at Appalachian State, current Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn called Drinkwitz “a great coach, but an even better person”, going on to say Drinkwitz “has a true gift to get the most out of his players on and off the field and will lead his team with great character and integrity.”
Former Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik had this to say about Drinkwitz: “Eliah is a rising star in this profession. He is a great football coach, a great family man and will be a great mentor and role model for young people. He is a great offensive mind, very creative, innovative, detailed and thorough in his approach. He uses his personnel as effectively as anybody in the country.”
Wake Forest Head Coach Dave Clawson says Drinkwitz has a “proven ability to develop (quarterbacks), and I always felt his game plans were creative and innovative.” South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp also took note of Drinkwitz’s offensive prowess, saying Mizzou’s new leader “creates major issues for (defensive coordinators)”. Similar to Malzahn, Muschamp referred to Drinkwitz as “an outstanding person and football coach”.
Drinkwitz’s reputation as one of the game’s best young offensive minds extends to former pro players as well. Three-time NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck spoke very highly of Drinkwitz, saying “I’ve said it many times, I believe Eli Drinkwitz is a rising star and one of the most exciting and innovative play-callers I’ve watched in the last two years. His ability to coach the quarterback and create an explosive offense is what first impressed me most about Eli; however, now that I know him I believe Eli’s character and integrity (might be) even more impressive.”
Ironically, Barry Odom was previously asked about Drinkwitz, with the former Missouri Head Coach unknowingly speaking very highly of the man who would eventually be tasked with replacing him. “I’ve gotten to know Eliah over the past few years and (I am) so impressed by his vision, work ethic and ability to relate to all. His abilities show through in the ways his team plays. He sees the big picture and will put his kids in a position to be successful in every area of their lives.”
After the news broke on Sunday night, fans got some more excitement on Monday morning. Just after 8:30 AM local time, Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, and others boarded a flight, heading pick up Eli Drinkwitz. Missouri’s Board Of Curators will meet at 8 AM on Tuesday to review and officially confirm the hiring of Eliah Drinkwitz as Mizzou’s Next Head Coach. Tigers’ fans can finally relax; Mizzou got their guy.