Eli Drinkwitz: Make or Break Year


Missouri hired Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz with massive expectations. After an impressive year at the head of Appalachian State, Missouri brought in Drinkwitz to revive a program mired in mediocrity since the departure of Gary Pinkel. Entering into year four at Missouri, it’s hard to say questions have answers. Drinkwitz is 17-19 at Missouri. The Tigers have been .500 in the regular season with two bowl losses under Drinkwitz.

Eli Drinkwitz becomes next Missouri coach, leaving Appalachian State after one season - CBSSports.com

Photo Cred: CBS Sports

The Tigers seemed to massively overachieve at 5-5 in Drinkwitz’s first year amid the COVID pandemic, but expectations rose, and the win percentage hasn’t. After impressive recruiting classes in 2021 and 2022, combined with plenty of work in the transfer portal, this roster is now in the vision of Eli Drinkwitz. It’s time to start seeing results. And the moves made this offseason reflect the urgency of a coach that needs to start showing improvement.

After some lackluster offensive results, Drinkwitz gave up the playcalling duties and brought in Fresno State offensive coordinator Kirby Moore. Moore has an impressive resume at Fresno State, as the Bulldogs were consistently in the upper echelon of offensive statistics in the FBS. Combined with impressive results from quarterbacks, Jake Haener and Moore did a good job.

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz uses dump truck to recruit linemen

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There was plenty of shuffling in Drinkwitz’s defensive staff over his first couple of years at the helm. But he now seems to have that side of the ball figured out. In his first year as defensive coordinator, Blake Baker remade a rather horrid 2021 Missouri defense into an impressively stout defense in 2022. Add in the fact the Tigers are returning a massive portion of the defensive production from 2022, and it’s reasonable to expect Missouri to be a strong defense again.

Eli Drinkwitz Tries to Troll Kansas and it Backfires - On3

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But possibly the most pressure on Drinkwitz heading into 2023 is the quarterback position. After guiding Connor Bazelak to an impressive freshman season in 2020, the results at quarterback have been pretty lackluster. Bazelak regressed in 2021, and Brady Cook was rather average in 2022. While I would contend that the offensive line was/is a much bigger problem than the quarterback in 2022, Missouri could still stand to make some upgrades at signal-caller.

As much as Cook may have flashed in the Armed Forces Bowl at the end of the 2021 season or at times in 2022. Everything Drinkwitz has done has suggested he needs to improve the quarterback position. He chased many transfer quarterbacks in the portal in the offseason leading up to 2022, failed, and had to settle with Cook for a year.

Why Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz 'will always be indebted' to Bryan Harsin - al.com

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Heralded recruit Sam Horn is pushing for the starting position. Drinkwitz brought in a high-profile transfer from Miami, Jake Garcia. The way things seem to be trending, it’s pretty reasonable to expect a new quarterback in 2023. There are questions on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers in 2023.

Much fewer than on the defensive side. How will the offensive line take a crucial step forward after a poor year? Will the talented pass-catching group make Tiger fans forget about Dominic Lovett’s transfer? Will Sam Horn or Jake Garcia be able to supplant Brady Cook and raise the offense?

Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz stirs it up after win over Arkansas | KNWA FOX24

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Between the rise of Horn, the transfer of Garcia, and the hiring of Kirby Moore, everything reflects a head coach that understands the expectations. The 2024 recruiting class appears to be lagging behind other SEC competitors. Drinkwitz received a nice contract extension as well. Expectations and urgency are high for Drinkwitz and the Tigers. Impressive recruiting classes are great, but the results are better. The 2023 season isn’t necessarily make-or-break for Drinkwitz, but it certainly will shape his future at Missouri.

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