Just eight days after firing Barry Odom, Mizzou has hired Eliah Drinkwitz as their next head coach. Drinkwitz has the offensive background Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk wanted in explaining what he was looking for in Odom’s replacement. He also wanted head coaching experience, and Drinkwitz has a little bit of that too.
That head coaching experience is just one year’s worth, even though he went 12-1 after taking over for Scott Satterfield. Satterfield had built a power at App State, going 51-24 before leaving for Louisville last year, and left Drinkwitz a talented group of holdovers. Drinkwitz had been the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State before that, and the results were great.
We never know how coaches are going to work out. Bob Stull had taken over a disastrous UTEP program before coming to Mizzou as the hottest coach in the country in 1989. Stull had taken over a program that had won 21 games in fourteen seasons and five in the three years before Stull got there. Stull went 4-8 in his first year, 7-5 in his second and 10-3 in his third, winning as many games in three years as the Miners had won in fourteen.
But when Stull got to Mizzou, he couldn’t adjust like he did at UTEP. He went 15-38-2 and never won more than four games in Columbia, and never coached again after he got fired. On the flip side, USC offered their job to Mike Belotti of Oregon, Dennis Erickson of Washington State and Mike Riley of Oregon State in 2000, and were turned down by each. The Trojans turned to their fourth choice, mediocre former NFL head coach Pete Carroll, who built one of the great dynasties in college football history.
Drinkwitz has been around Power Five football at N.C. State and at Auburn under his good friend Gus Malzahn, the head coach at Auburn, so he knows what to look for in SEC players. He’s an innovative offensive mind who, when he’s overseen a Power Five offense, has averaged 31.2 points per game at N.C. State. When Drinkwitz left the Wolfpack after last season, their offense dropped off and scored 22 points per game.
How will he work out as an SEC head coach? We don’t know. He certainly doesn’t have the resume of Bryan Harsin at Boise State, who doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Ole’ Miss hired Lane Kiffin, but he has a sketchy history. Drinkwitz has a stronger head coaching resume than new Arkansas coach Sam Pittman. And Mizzou isn’t in the same financial or historical stratosphere as Florida State, a school that can afford to buy out their old coach for $17 million, and hire a guy that was already making $2.6 million at his old job. So FSU was the school that got Mike Norvell, the hottest coach on the market (who, it should be noted, was a huge Florida State fan growing up).
Drinkwitz doesn’t appear to be a name that’ll immediately sell season tickets at Faurot Field. He’ll have to win, and win with style. Mizzou will have to provide him the resources to put together a great staff that coaches players up. Gary Pinkel’s staff turned two-and-three-star recruits into first and second round NFL draft picks. That’s one of the keys for Mizzou success. They aren’t going to regularly recruit four- and five-star high school players. The team will need to play clean football. The errors this season, the bad penalties and turnovers and lack of takeaways, make it impossible to win when facing the kind of athletes Georgia and Florida ordinarily have.
Either way, Sterk has his man. Drinkwitz’ success at Mizzou will be directly tied to Sterk’s success at Mizzou. If the football program wins, Sterk will be a beloved genius. If Mizzou fans see more of what they saw this season, they aren’t going to sell tickets and both guys will be jettisoned in the next five years. It’ll be interesting to see if young is good for the Tigers.