I’m Not Drunk on Drink, But I’m Catching a Smooth Buzz

Let’s close the book on year two of the Eli Drinkwitz Era at Mizzou.

Let’s take stock of where we’re at:

-.500 record (11-11)
-2020 Music City Bowl Invite (canceled on account that kids should have been spending Christmas with their families during a pandemic instead of playing an exhibition game in front of 22,000 people)
-Signature wins over Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and defending National Champion LSU
-#14 2022 Recruiting Class in the nation, 5th in the SEC (247 Sports)
-#17 2022 Recruiting Class in the nation, 6th in the SEC, 12th in composite (Rivals)
-#5 recruit in the country yoinked from Lincoln Riley, who is scared of the SEC
-#9 ranked quarterback in the country
-7 Rivals Top 300 2022 recruits, four of whom are from Missouri
Dan Mullen’s soul

Quite the resume after two years, considering the average Mizzou head coach’s resume after two years includes losing recruits to every power five school in a 500 mile radius, devastating losses to rivals, devastating losses to Sun Belt schools, devastating losses to Mountain West schools, which ultimately leads to the fanbase spiraling into the delusional rumor that Bob Stoops is looking at land in South CoMo.

The most impressive feat of Drink’s second year was the turnaround on defense. I was ready to run Steve Wilks out of Missouri every Saturday. The defense was atrocious. Playing uninspired, disorganized football. They flipped that on its head real quick.

Mizzou returns quite a bit on defense next year. Losing Blaze Allredge and Allie Green IV will sting, but Mizzou is bringing back Trajan Jeffcoat and Isaiah McGuire on the D-Line. Allredge was a phenomenal playmaker, but he was given those opportunities because of the havoc Jeffcoat and McGuire were causing inside.

I called Steve Wilks’s scheme overcomplicated and ineffective because I am an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I also have eyes and that’s just what it looked like. Things changed almost overnight. It clicked. Mizzou’s defense showcased a trait that is extremely valuable at the college level: They got better as the year went on. Significantly better. They won games with the defense. Something that hasn’t happened at Mizzou in forever and something that was definitely not billed as one of Drink’s strong suits when he was hired.

This much is true: Eli Drinkwitz is building a complete program. It’s simply not enough to outscore people anymore and I’d argue that it never was. That’s a one-way ticket to 8-4 with some gaudy offensive stats along the way (JOSH HEUPEL) and is just the worst goddamned brand of football to watch. You can only beat Vandy by 30+ so many times. I thought we were in for an offensive explosion under Drink, but maybe that’s not the goal at all? At least, not right now. That may be how he ascended through the collegiate ranks so quickly, but it doesn’t seem like he wants that to define his program. I see a coach who is prioritizing balance and consistency.

He understands the limitations of his roster. Does he have more eye candy in store once Luther Burden, Sam Horn and Tavorus Jones have the experience to pull off his whole playbook? You know he’s got the good stuff locked away. Like, you know Andy Reid had a special section of his playbook listed as “DO NOT TOUCH UNTIL YOU HAVE A ONCE IN A GENERATION QB”. Why not? It’s like that bottle of Caymus or Pappy you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

Drink’s maintaining a steady course. This wasn’t going to be a quick fix. Nothing worthwhile ever is. I feel good about the Tigers. The best is yet to come.