Move aside, Lane Kiffin: Eli Drinkwitz is the new bad boy of the SEC
The new bad boy of the SEC isn’t Lane Kiffin, folks.
Sure, Kiffin is an entertaining guy, always quick with a quip. And his Twitter game is second to none. But there’s a new kid on the block who is making even more headlines ahead of the 2021 season.
That would be the bespectacled, nerdy, brash, confident, second-year Mizzou coach, Eli Drinkwitz. Yes, the same guy who recently checked in at No. 126 on ESPN’s ranking of all 130 FBS coaches as players.
Sporting some slick Air Jordans, Drinkwitz blew into Hoover like a storm Thursday, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) July 22, 2021
In his crosshairs were Oklahoma, Texas, Dan Mullen, Arkansas, Shane Beamer and anyone and everyone else he was asked about during his media appearances. Even Kiffin would have cautioned Drinkwitz to perhaps tone it down a bit Thursday.
Let’s start with the big news of the week. Oklahoma and Texas are reportedly looking to join the SEC. That would be bad for Mizzou, right?
Well, Drinkwitz isn’t afraid of a challenge. In fact, it sounds like he’s already prepared to use Texas and Oklahoma joining the conference as a recruiting pitch:
Drinkwitz on Texas/OU to SEC reports:
“I've been saying for years we’re the best conference in college football and obviously, those places want to join us. Maybe we were trendsetters, leaving the Big 12. Maybe that opened the door and gave them courage to try it, too.”
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) July 22, 2021
Eli Drinkwitz on reports Texas and Oklahoma have interest in joining the SEC. "They're not on our schedule this year, but if they are in the future, I hope I'm employed long enough at Mizzou to see that."
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) July 22, 2021
Mizzou's Drinkwitz doesn't sound like a coach who runs a school that would vote against Texas, OU joining the SEC. "We're ready for any challenge that's thrown at us."
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) July 22, 2021
Oh, and he wasn’t afraid to throw his hat in the ring with a jab at Texas for the recent “Horns Down” drama:
BREAKING: Eli Drinkwitz asked Greg Sankey if Horns Down would be a penalty if Texas came to the SEC.
Sankey: “No comment.” pic.twitter.com/D5hlAQr2bi
— SDS Podcast (@TheSDSPod) July 22, 2021
Drinkwitz also had Florida coach Dan Mullen in his crosshairs. It’s no secret Drinkwitz doesn’t like Mullen. After Mullen’s on-field tirade at halftime of the 2020 matchup between Florida and Mizzou, Drinkwitz hasn’t missed an opportunity to take a shot at Mullen.
When asked about Florida’s trip to Faurot Field this season, Drinkwitz joked that he’s praying for snow, adding that Mullen would just complain about it anyway:
Drinkwitz on Florida’s trip to #Mizzou: “I’m praying for snow. Dan (Mullen) is going to complain about everything anyway.”
And then he thanks Shane Beamer for informing the world South Carolina is going to throw to his tight ends a bunch this season. Said Tigers will be ready.
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) July 22, 2021
As you can see in the tweet above, Drinkwitz also joked about first-year South Carolina coach Shane Beamer. In a thinly-veiled recruiting pitch to 4-star 2022 TE Oscar Delp, Beamer mentioned how South Carolina wants to throw the ball to the tight ends a lot.
Well, it sounds like Drinkwitz has already passed along that information to new Missouri defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. You’d better believe Wilks will have plenty of wrinkles ready for the Gamecocks on Nov. 13.
While every game is important in the SEC (particularly that Week 2 matchup against Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats), it sounds like Drinkwitz already has the Arkansas game circled. When asked a strange question about Mizzou not having a rival in the SEC, Drinkwitz took a shot at the Razorbacks:
“I kinda like the rivalry we have with Arkansas. I can’t remember the last time they beat us. … Just because y’all don’t think it’s a rivalry, doesn’t mean it ain’t a rivalry.” – @CoachDrinkwitz on Mizzou’s perceived lack of a rivalry
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) July 22, 2021
Drinkwitz is 1-0 against the Hogs. That victory extended the Tigers’ winning streak to 5 over Arkansas.
Yes, Drinkwitz is brash and isn’t afraid to speak his mind, but the results are there to back up the talk. No one expected the Tigers to go 5-5 during a 10-game SEC schedule in 2020. It could have been even better, but Mizzou lost a season-ending game against Mississippi State in December and couldn’t play in the Music City Bowl vs. Iowa due to COVID-19 issues.
With 4 manageable nonconference games on the schedule this fall, and a relatively navigable SEC slate, the wins should keep coming for Drinkwitz in Year 2. Put together a season with 7-9 wins, get to a good bowl game and Mizzou fans should be happy. Then, Drinkwitz can keep talking. No one likes a coach who can talk but can’t win. Everyone likes a coach who gives great quotes and backs it up on the field.
Fortunately, Drinkwitz has a key player coming back to work with. QB Connor Bazelak is back. Drinkwitz is excited to see how much better his quarterback can be with another year under his belt:
Drinkwitz on Connor Bazelak: "We have a proven commodity at the quarterback position."
Mentions Cooper, Chism and Dove as MU's top receivers.
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) July 22, 2021
And, naturally, Drinkwitz had a joke ready about Bazelak, saying he wants his quarterback to win another SEC Freshman of the Year award:
Drinkwitz jokes the team is trying to get QB Connor Bazelak to win back-to-back SEC freshman of the year awards if it's possible with COVID exceptions.
— Theo DeRosa (@Theo_DeRosa) July 22, 2021
It’s one thing to win talkin’ season. It’s another thing to do it when the games begin. Drinkwitz has a strong foundation to build on after a 5-5 debut. Excitement around the Missouri program is high entering 2021, and the 2022 recruiting class shows that.
Drinkwitz has revitalized the program and isn’t afraid of any challenges that might be coming this fall (or in the future when a couple of Big 12 programs may or may not join the SEC). Recruits will see that, and that’s the point.
The only thing he’s afraid of? Don’t expect him to pull a Kiffin and criticize SEC officiating (no matter how much the officials might deserve it). Kiffin joked that his $25,000 fine in 2020 wiped out his son’s college fund. Drinkwitz said Thursday that he hasn’t been in the big-money SEC long enough to have the type of money it takes to afford those kinds of fines:
If Drinkwitz keeps winning on and off the field, soon he should have the money to pay an occasional hefty fine. After all, in the SEC, it just means more!