Everything Eli Drinkwitz said on Tuesday
Eli Drinkwitz met with reporters on Tuesday afternoon to wrap up the win over North Texas and look ahead to Texas A&M. Below is the full transcript of the press conference as well as video.
“I want to first say good luck to the Mountaineers tonight, Shawn Clark, as they play Louisiana-Lafayette. Tuesday night, I know that’s a big game for coach Clark and that team. You know, after reviewing the game film, was really proud of the way our guys competed. I thought we — there was people questioning, and obviously on film the questions of the effort in previous weeks, and so we wanted to get that off the tape. We wanted to take that off the tape. And I think we absolutely did that. Really proud of the way the defensive line and Al Davis really stepped up. I thought the d-line was very disruptive, did a tremendous job with negative yardage plays, with gap control, sacks. Was it perfect? No way. Never gonna get to the perfect game, but you're always striving for it. So really proud of those guys. And then obviously, there's always things that you’ve got to improve on. Cannot give up 21 points in the fourth quarter, period. And with eight minutes left to go in the game, you know, gave up 21 points, and it really kind of led to some things to fix. And so, spent a lot of Sunday and yesterday making sure we're getting those things corrected. We'll work on that today. But have shifted our focus to a really good Texas A&M football team. Obviously have a lot of respect for their head football coach, coach (Jimbo) Fisher. I think one of only — well, there’s three coaches in our league that have won a national championship, obviously he’s one of them. Does a great job building a program, tremendous job at running offense. As the play caller and the head football coach, has total control of operating the game and does a really good job. Coaches quarterbacks at a high level as you can see with the way that his quarterback has progressed. Defensively, I’ve never seen so many single digits on one side of the ball before, which, especially when on the d-line, usually is an issue, because that means they’re really good players. Coach (Mike) Elko does a really good job. They've got really good talent on both sides of the ball, and it's been a process for them to get there, and they're capitalizing on it. I know they've had a few injuries, but those guys have now settled into their positions and they're playing at a high level, obviously. That’s what you have to do in order to beat the number one team in the country. Very talented running backs, two guys that have world-class speed, vision. Both guys will be Sunday players. That’s something we're gonna have to contend with. Their tight end is a big man, a big human, who is always open, and they've got some really good wide receivers. So, definitely got our hands full this week. It's a great opportunity for our football team. It's a great opportunity for our football team to see where we're at, to get an opportunity to play this team at home in front of our environment, in front of our fans, with great energy and enthusiasm for the opportunity. So we're going to be ready to play Saturday, and look forward to the challenge that it presents.”
Can you point to, with your own team, how A&M’s season up until last week probably hadn’t been what they wanted, and then that happened. Do you use other teams like that as examples of how much things can change week to week?
“Yes and no. I try not to get into the ebbs and flows or comparisons. Like, again, the process is we've got to try to be 1-0 this week. We have got to try to be 1-0 this week. You can’t get up and down because of every different thing that happens. Obviously our season has had some ups and downs, but we got to try to maintain an even keel. You can't get too high or too low, can't get into those emotional swings. And so I'm not trying to compare ourselves to anybody else or say, well, we could be like them. We just need to be the best version of Mizzou we can be. We're all going to want to win Saturday. Do we want to win today at practice? Do we want to win in meetings today? Do we show the effort that it’s going to take in the meetings and practice in order to execute and play well on Saturday? And that's what we have to control each week, each day, each practice. And that's the message that I've got to continue to preach for this program to continue to lay the foundation for what we're going to be. We may not be there today. We're trying to get there today, but that's what we got to do consistently in order to be that kind of team, to be a contender. I mean, football will humble you. I mean, if you don’t believe me — I’m not going to point anybody else out who’s struggling, but there’s other teams within the state that aren’t exactly playing the way they want to be playing, either, right now. That’s football, that’s life. It’s how you respond to those things, not comparing yourself to other people, how you respond.”
On that subject, how have you seen guys respond in the last week to throwing out the depth chart and the emphasis on competition?
“I think the proof is in the film. Like, how did y’all think they responded? What did you think the vibe was when they played? Like, Tyler Badie’s run in the third quarter was as strong a run as I’ve seen a running back have in a long time. That’s heart. That’s heart. Yes, he's got talent, that's an undeniability, like, I'm not going to be tackled on this play. The second drive of the game, you know, we have a check to an outside zone, and Javon Foster throws the defensive end out of the club, man. Like, he could have worked at Willie’s. Like, it was incredible. Like, that’s undeniable effort. Trajan Jeffcoat on the first interception was trying to get underneath the, we call it the back block. He’s got to be in underneath that, and then he’s got to stick his foot in the ground and go chase the quarterback. Gets a dive on him, the quarterback throws it, (Kris Abrams-Draine) makes the play. Like, that’s effort. That’s all on that person to play that way. And really, you know, the same thing with the interception. Play’s going away, he's still working the tackle upfield, sees the ball up, tips it. Mekhi Wingo, the only reason he gets that pick was because when he sees the ball thrown, our d-line is supposed to turn and chase the football. And he turned and chased the football, and the ball’s up in the air and he catches it. So to me, like, that's the response. That's what you have to have. Was it perfect? No. Believe me, I got plenty of DM’s and all that, mentions, that it's not perfect. I get it, okay. I get it. We all want it to be perfect. We’ll get there. We’ll get there. But what was good was the effort we played with, was the mentality we had. We were ready to go when the ball was kicked. So that’s the start, and we gotta build on that.”
After what happened against Tennessee how much is this group motivated to get another chance against an SEC school?
“Yeah, I don't talk about that previous game. Like, I ain’t worried about that previous game. Like, that's in the past, I can't do anything about that. All I can control is the future, and all I can control is today's practice. How are we going to practice today? What is your desire to practice today? What's your standard? Like, what, are you willing to live with? When you look yourself in the mirror tonight, when you lay yourself down in bed, what's your standard? What are you okay with? And that’s what we’re asking ourselves right now. I’m not bringing up the past. It happened, we move on. You can’t keep crying over spilled milk.”
At the halfway point of the season, is there anything you can touch on and say, okay, these are this team’s strengths?
“Yeah, I think there's some strengths on the football team. Really next week in the bye week is when you're gonna have a chance to really self-scout and see, but from us schematically, I think I know what our strengths are. I think, as a football team, I know what we need to play to. I think there's a few things that we're still trying to decide, is that really what we're good at, or not? But I think we're working towards it,.”
As you go through a season, does that help you decide who you want to be?
“Well it helps you strategize how you win each game. That's why I'm trying to be coy about it, because I think you have to figure out what your strengths are and then play to it each game so that you give yourself the best chance to win. You can’t be somebody you’re not.”
You mentioned Tyler Badie. Do you hope his production can help open up other parts of the offense?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think you have to prepare in a way that allows him to do what he does best, find creative ways to get him the ball so that he can make plays. He’s part of the football team, but then also take advantage of, with all the eyes on him, how do we do something else to attack a defense?”
You touched on Texas A&M’s defensive front. What kind of a challenge do they pose?
“Wow. They're big. They've got experience. I think, you know, if I'm right, the only one that's fairly new is Micheal Clemons, number 2. But, I mean, all of them played last year a significant amount of time. They all are physical and big. They all have quick twitch, can bull rush, can throw people off. They keep their linebackers clean, they allow their safeties to play deep so that they don't have to be fitting in the run. You know, coach Elko does a really good job of creating one-on-one matchups in his pressures. It's not so much overload pressures, it's the ability to create, put people on islands and make those rushes one-on-one, and that becomes a challenge. So each player is going to have to really work hard this week on their technique and fundamentals and have a great focus, and trust the scheme and be able to play fast.”
Kind of as a follow up on that, what have you seen from your own offensive line the past couple weeks?
“Yeah, I mean, I think we've kind of had some rotational stuff that's maybe thrown off a little bit of our chemistry and communication and some of our protections. But I think from a mentality standpoint, we've had the right mentality. We're trying to play physical. I think there's always things in the game that you go back and say, this is something we’ve got to improve on. And I think there was a couple of runs there in the third quarter that we’re disappointed that we're not executing better versus movement. But, you know, again, we're going to continue to be a work in progress, and those guys are working really hard.”
With the position group dinners you had last week was that something special and how did that help recharge everyone?
“It’s not necessarily something special, it’s just something intentional. It’s just something that we’ve got to continue to do to build that connection and camaraderie amongst our football team to make sure that we understand the importance of playing for each other and not necessarily just with each other.”
Was that something you had been doing previously?
“We’ve been doing it. I think sometimes you get into a season and you forget some of the things that you need to be doing and so it was just a reminder of sometimes you’ve got to get back to the basics.”
You mentioned perimeter blocking as being an issue against Tennessee. With some of the screens and jet sweeps, do you feel like you’re close to breaking those and has the blocking on the perimeter been an issue beyond that one game?
“Honestly it was an issue a couple weeks ago because of the holding penalties. Last week we had a jet that would have scored but it was an illegal motion. We’ve got to make sure the formation’s set. That’s a presnap penalty on the quarterback. Even on Dawson Downing’s long run and on Tyler Badie’s first long run, Tauskie (Dove) and Mookie Cooper had blocks on safeties and corners that freed everybody. The willingness to do it is there, it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re consistent in it.”
Has there been a renewed confidence on the defensive line since Al Davis has taken over?
“I think D-linemen are naturally confident so I don’t think there was a renewed sense of confidence. I just think there’s a connection.”
This league has always been good. Do you see more parity with the super seniors and the transfer portal that has led to more really good teams?
“I think this league’s always been really good, it’s been fairly competitive. Top to bottom I think it’s a competitive league. We all recruit at a really high level and we recruit good players and we got coaches who develop. I think when you look at what coach Stoops has done this year at Kentucky and been able to get, I don’t know the number off the top of my head, four or five starters, legit contributors that are helping his team win games, that’s a difference because normally you’re developing somebody and seeing if those guys can plug holes and they plugged in five guys who are legitimate starters who were starters or significant contributors at their previous schools. I think number one was obviously a very good player at his previous school, the left tackle was a very good player at his previous school, the linebacker was a very good player at his previous school. So that’s a significant push, which is gonna make parity a lot more interesting moving forward.”
In terms of the transfer portal and Chuck Hicks being eligible, what’s your plan on integrating him?
“He’s been integrated with the team, he’s just been taking a lot of scout team reps because we weren’t sure, but now he’s, again there’s no depth chart, it’s who produces the best in practice. We’re going to get him up to speed as quick as we can. He’s been getting reps with the threes in some special teams phases and now whatever opportunities he can earn for himself, just cause he transferred here doesn’t mean he’s gonna play, it’s what opportunities can he earn for himself with his production, his practice habits, his technique, his detail, his effort. And that’s really what we’re going to ask of everybody in all three phases every day. What do you earn? What do you provide our football team with a chance to win on Saturday?”
What have you thought of how he has looked with the scout team?
“He was scout team player of the week two weeks ago. He’s got good movement skills, but now we’ll get to see him when he actually has to execute a call, not reading the card, he’s having to execute a call based off knowing the defense.”
Going back to the preseason everybody talked about the hope that you would be able to hit more downfield passes this year. What’s been your assessment of that halfway through the season?
“I think we’ve had opportunities in every game except for maybe Kentucky just based on the style of defense that they played. We still took a couple of shots at the top and missed, had one late in the game there. I think we’ve tried. I think we’ve got to continue to take what the defense gives us if they allow that opportunity. I don’t think it’s a scheme issue or necessarily a player issue, I think we’ve just got to continue to execute. Obviously we hit JJ (Hester) last week. Tennessee, we really didn’t hit any explosive plays and missed in the pass game, but the previous week I thought we did against BC, was a little bit different style of defense similar to Kentucky. I think we’ve hit deep balls. I haven’t gone into it and said we’re just not an explosive enough offense.”
As an offensive coordinator, do you have a number of shots you want to take or big plays you want to hit in every game or is that a little bit dependent on the defense you’re facing?
“We have a specific category that we carry into each game that we’re trying to get. We’re trying to create ten explosives a game and some of those create naturally through run game, but some of them are created through whatever schematics you may be able to try to create.”
What’s explosive? How do you define that?
“Twelve plus run, 16 plus pass. So we’re trying to create ten of those a game. It’s not an analytics deal, but the number one indicator in wins and losses in my opinion is actually not turnovers, it’s explosive plays. Whoever wins the explosive play battle wins the game usually. In the upper 70s, low 80 percent, depending on what statistics you use. In Division One football, that’s actually number one; number two is turnovers and then you get into sacks, negative yardage plays.”
When you look at Tyler Badie and how he’s been able to take his game up a level, how much of that is embracing the role with nobody else in front of him and being the guy?
“I think Tyler Badie is an extremely competitive person and he just has been really working hard to capitalize on his opportunity. I think it’s just a different mindset when you know somebody else is going to get this rep and you might get these reps, but now they’re all yours and he has changed his body, he’s put in extra effort, he is taking care of his body, he recovers, he studies tape, he minds his business on and off the football field. He’s an incredible student athlete so I think he’s a great representation of what a student athlete should be and when you’re given an opportunity how you take advantage of it.”
What did you see from BJ Harris to give him a larger role last week and how did you assess his performance?
“Mike (Cox) actually tweaked his hamstring. We were gonna go into the game with a little bit more Michael Cox rotation, but just didn’t feel like that was fair to him. So BJ’s been a guy that we’ve been playing a little bit, he’s been continually impressing in practice and so we needed somebody else to take some of that load and I though he ran really well. Thought he had some really good short area, some burst, did a nice job covering the football and opportunities to continue to grow. We’ve got to improve in our protection pickups. That’s really for him something that he’s got to work on to make sure that we protect the quarterback and face up blitzes and know who he has to pick up, but that’s why you play the game so you can make mistakes and correct them and learn.”
After watching the game did you think playing Chad Bailey more was a positive?
“I thought it was a big positive. I thought he played well, answered the bell. Again, not perfect, had a couple of MA’s (missed assignments), had a couple of things that got to improve on, but I thought he was more downhill, I thought he was physical, I thought he was trying to take away yardage from the offense. When you play at a linebacker depth at five yards, you cannot be making contact with blocks at five yards. You have to be constantly taking ground from the offense and he was able to do that and, again, some of his angles on his fits and some of the angles are going to have to continue to improve and be tighter, but I thought he played well. I think he’s got room for growth, but I was pleased with his performance.”
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