Mizzou's Drinkwitz has jokes
HOOVER, Ala. – Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz took the stage Thursday for SEC Media Days and he brought jokes with him.
“There were a lot of hard-hitting questions coming out of yesterday, and I think one of them was whether or not the horns-down is going to be a 15-yard penalty in the SEC in the future,” Drinkwitz said. “So, I asked Commissioner Sankey in the hallway, and he gave me a strong rebuttal by saying no comment. So, we'll see where that goes.”
Drinkwitz, of course, was making light of Wednesday’s news that Texas and Oklahoma were interested in joining the SEC. Mostly, however, the conversation was about his Tigers, a team many believe might be one of the surprise programs in the East.
You brought up wondering about horns-down and if that was going to be a penalty if Texas were to come to the SEC. Besides that, what was your initial reaction about hearing the report of Texas and Oklahoma having that interest?
Drinkwitz: “I've been trying to tell people everybody wants to play in the SEC, man. If you can attract a couple of really good schools to come play, that's great. I immediately called my athletic director and told him that if the commissioner changes and adds two games to our schedule, I think we all understand that Mark Womack is going to put both Texas and OU on Mizzou's schedule moving forward. So, we're ready for any challenge thrown at us.
“No, in all seriousness, control what you can control. That's all speculative. This is talking season, as a coach once phrased it, and speculative season, and gives you all a lot of things to do. But what we're worried about is converting third downs and scoring touchdowns. They ain't on our schedule this year, and if the commissioner decides or our presidents decide that's what it will be in the future, then hopefully Missouri employs me long enough to see that."
When you reflect back on year one, what would you say are the most critical steps you took as a first-year head coach? What were some of those challenges and most important lessons you learned? Two, for the four first year head coaches in this league, what would you tell them is awaiting them in this league?
Drinkwitz: “I think the critical steps we took forward to, obviously, in order to have a chance to win the SEC, you've got to win your division first. They hadn't beaten Kentucky in five years. For us to beat Kentucky, I think was a big step in the right direction. Then to turn around and avenge the loss to Vandy, who the previous year had beaten them, was extremely important.
“We hadn't won at South Carolina since, I think, '14, so to go on the road and win the Mayor's Cup—again, to win the East is extremely important.
“I'm not like a gray hair up here who has a lot of wisdom to be throwing out. I've got a tough enough job keeping myself aligned. I'd just tell those new coaches to be who they are, and there's going to be a lot of new challenges facing forward. Ignore the voices, stick to the plan, and whatever will be will be.
“There are eight new head coaches in the last two years. It's not for the faint of heart. Be careful what you wish for.”
How did you think Connor Bazelak played last year? What are you looking for him from this season with the experience he's got, first spring with you and all that?
Drinkwitz: “Connor Bazelak, I thought last year he really played within himself. He's a maverick. He went out there and went into really difficult situations and gave him an opportunity to play the game. Obviously, there are areas he needs to improve on—deep ball accuracy, red zone completion percentage, and touchdowns.
“Those are a direct coordination with me as the play caller and quarterbacks coach. I've got to give him more opportunities in the red zone to make plays. I've got to put more trust into him. He's got to put more trust into his players, into his teammates, and I think you'll see that growth.
“He spent a lot of time in the film room, at the Manning Passing Academy this past week. He's anxious to continue to improve. I think one of his strengths is his quest for a constant learner.”