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Everything Eli Drinkwitz said on Tuesday heading into Week 5 vs. Georgia

Missouri (2-2) will look to rebound from a devastating week four loss against Auburn with a win over No. 1 Georgia (4-0). Head coach Eli Drinkwitz met with local media on Tuesday afternoon in advance of that game. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.

Opening statement

Another week another great opportunity. Second time in our career here in Missouri to host the number one team in the country. The first time of our career was versus Alabama. Obviously, Georgia has a very good football team. They're well coached, they've got a lot of really good football players. You know, offensively, they got a quarterback playing as well as anybody in the country in Stetson Bennett. He's got a tremendous use of resources with the tight end room. There's a lot made about those guys being so deep with that position. They're very deep and running back and also at wide receiver. The offensive line, they're very physical up front are able to run the ball attack edges, and then use play-action shots vertically down the field.

Obviously defensively, they lost a lot of guys from last year but you wouldn't know about the production and the way their defense plays. Coach (Kirby) Smart's DNA and fingerprint were all over that defense with a transition to a new defensive coordinator with Glenn Schumann, who does a really good job. And I know he's got a co-coordinator with Coach (Will) Muschamp. So, on the defensive side of the ball, they're very good. Their front four is big and physical and does a great job of creating disruption at the line of scrimmage, getting the offensive line on different levels and creating havoc for the defensive side of the ball. Their back end it's very productive. I think Chris Smith, obviously the senior safety combined with a true freshman has that veteran presence. Obviously, the corner position is very good.

On special teams last week, they blocked the punt. Obviously, we had that issue with us last year and so going to have to play very well in all three phases. We're going to need to have a great crowd.

Going to need the best home-field advantage in college football. Look forward to getting our fans out here and supporting our program and being loud and proud. I really would love for our student section to be as loud and as awesome as they were versus Louisiana Tech. What a great atmosphere that was and a great way to put on display what the University of Missouri football program is all about.

I've got a few updates from Saturday that are not good. Zeke Powell suffered a season-ending injury in that second drive of the game, and this is his last year of eligibility so he will not be able to participate anymore for Mizzou football and that's a tough one for us to lose. You know, Zeke Powell was a young man who came in here from the junior college right at the start of the 2020 season. Played well this first year. Last year he competed, didn't get to play as much as he would like but came back and did everything that we asked him to do. He's going to get his degree, really proud of him for that growth and maturity that he has shown, and just hate it for him. Football's not fair sometimes, as we learned a lot Saturday. It's hard, but he's a tough young man, and we're going be ing to be here for him. And we're chasing two dreams and we're definitely going to make sure that life outside of the game is taken care of and he's well taken care of for us.

Chad Bailey will be questionable for Saturday. Obviously, he was not able to finish the game in a harness. He'll be questioned. We'll see how the week goes and continue to work on treatment for him. Luther Burden will be questionable for Saturday because he suffered an injury in the second series of the game that kept him out most of the second quarter. Really proud of the toughness he showed in the third and fourth quarter trying to give it a go and doing what he could for our team. In fact, he was not supposed to do anything but fair catch the punts. But in that fourth quarter, he was trying to provide a spark and decided to return that one. But our priority is getting him healthy and doing the very best we can for him. So, I look forward to working with him all week to try to get him back.

That's the update as far as the health status of our team, and I don't think there's anything else roster injury-wise.


I know it's only two kicks but have you spotted anything whether mechanics or confidence-wise, that's any different with Harrison (Mevis) in the last week or two?

No, haven’t spotted anything. We're looking. We've got (special teams) coach (Eric) Link who does a really good job with our kickers and Harrison has his own kicking coach. You know, he gets one shot at it. I’ve stood over many three-foot putts and yanked it, so I have 100% confidence in Harrison Mevis. That young man hit a game-winner 37-yard field goal versus Arkansas in 2020. He had a 54-yard versus Boston College to tie it up and send it to overtime. He's got the career record for 50-yard field goals. And one play is never going to define any one individual. So, we got our confidence in him. And I hate that it gets brought up so much because it means so much to this young man. He is disappointed, but as I told him and like I would tell the team one play is not going to define him. The next time he hits a game-winner I'm going to have a smile on my face knowing that we were a part of that growth that allowed him to do that.

How do you approach the mental side of that with him because that's big for kickers to begin with? Do you address it or leave it alone?

We move on. We move on we get back on the horse. I mean, kickers are people too. So, they're just people. We're all human right? To err is human to forgive is divine right? So, we all have air and I personally don't blame any one player on our football team for Saturday's performance. I blame myself. And at the end of the day, it was my job to get us one more play to win that game. So has nothing to do with it.

The last play of the game Nate (Peat) was clearly trying to make a play, but is there a teaching point that you make that you show everybody on ball security there?

We have a point of emphasis within our program. We actually do a presentation on it. And we will continue to do a presentation on it to never extend the ball at the goal line except on fourth down. It's just the risk is not worth the reward. There are multiple clips of players doing it at all levels. And I understand the urgency or the want to make a play but you have to understand that the risk is not worth the reward. I've got to continue to make a bigger emphasis of that and continue to coach it. But that is something that we coach in our program. It just wasn't emphasized enough by me and I've got to do a better job.

Speaking of helping a kid get past it. I mean, obviously, Nate was upset. I mean, how is he handling just moving past that?

Yeah, I mean, I talked to him right after the game. I've talked to him every day since then, and we're going to give him the ball again. That's what we're going to do. There's really no more to say about it. He made his mistake. We all learn from it. We all grow from it. We move on. To err is human. I don't think there's anybody in here that doesn't have something in their past that they wish they could do differently. You can't. All you have to do is learn from it, and those things don't have to define you. They can help shape you and mold you into the person that you want to become. And as a football coach, my job is to win football games, but also to help young men develop to their full potential. And that's what we're going to do.

What are some of the positives you can take from this game even though it's not the result you want it?

Yeah, the number one thing I take away from that game is the fight that our team demonstrated after that second (Auburn) touchdown. We preach all week to start fast and we did not we did the exact opposite of that. But our team ran to the fire. Our defense went out there and held them to 1.8 yards rushing and never flinched. Our offense went on back-to-back drives in the second quarter and scored touchdowns. Our offense laid an egg in the third quarter. Our defense never complained. They never pointed fingers. They were encouraging us the whole time. They knew we were going to put ourselves in a position. On fourth and one, they stuffed them, and our offense went out on the field. We all had confidence we were going to go down. We answered the bell. It didn't work out for us at the end of regulation. Everybody could have hung their head. No, we went out there and stuffed them. We stuffed them. Jump offsides could have hung our heads again. No, the offense went back out there and put themselves in a position to get it done. But we didn't get it done. Got to learn to finish and there are no moral victories. I'm not into moral victories. Okay, but I am proud of the way that our guys fought and answered the bell and that's something that you can build off of.


What was working for the offense on the two drives to score 14 points?

We were ahead of the chains on first down. If you look at it again, the first four drives and the third quarter and fourth quarter. We started with negative yardage plays. Whether that was a sack on first down, a penalty on first down, a bootleg that was a sack on first down or we had a penetration on the outside zone to the left to start the fourth quarter. So, those things you know when we're behind the chains it's really a struggle for us. So, we got to do a better job of staying ahead of the chains.

A lot of formations with two (running) backs on the field and also a lot of times you had six linemen with Armand (Membou) out there. What did you like about what you saw from those adjustments this week?

I’m really proud of Armand, because going into the game, the sixth offensive linemen were going to be Zeke (Powell) and Connor Wood, and Armand was the backup and after the second series, Armand became that six offensive linemen. Really I thought he played and competed very well and the moment wasn't too big for him, and was prepared for his opportunity and really proud of him for that. You know, I thought we were efficient moving the ball. I thought we were able to get what we call dirty runs, which are just moving the chain, moving the ball forward. We had a couple that could have busted out there a little bit more. We had a penalty. You know, but I liked the change-up I thought it gave us some more air to run the football in a different look that we hadn't shown before.

What is Dominic Lovett doing to continue to improve? And is he becoming the leader of that group?

I mean, a special player with special talent. I think we all knew that. I thought we saw a preview of that in the spring football game. I have known all along that we were very fortunate to get Dominic on our football team. And really just proud of the maturity and growth that he's shown. You know, I said up here a lot last year, I felt like I tried to do too much too soon with him. Moved him around too much and didn't really let him develop and settle in. You got to remember that these young men are 18 years old and the jump from high school to college is a little bit more than what people expect. And so you have to learn to rely on techniques and fundamentals. And we put him in his position that he's a great fit. I mean, he's a great fit in our offensive at the slot. He's got dynamic speed, which gets on safeties and nickels and so I think it's allowed him one to grow and mature to develop as a route runner. It took us a little bit with Brady (Cook) and him to get on the same page but I think that connection is pretty good right now.

And he is leading the league in receiving. Can you point to that as an example of 'hey, this doesn't always happen overnight right away for some guys?

I don't know what in the world you could be referring to. Yeah, I mean, again, I think you got to trust the process. There is a process to be great.

Just because you have the ability doesn't mean it just is going to happen overnight. And so, let's let people grow. Let's not put undue expectations on people let's let people grow. Eighteen-year-old people still have maturing to do and growth to do. Let's just celebrate what they're doing that’s really good. Clearly, we will continue to build but with Dominic Lovett, I screwed that up last year. So, I learned from my mistakes.

Eli what does that process look like getting an 18-year-old ready for the college reps and when do you as coaches know that they are ready like in the cases of Armond Membou and Dominic Lovett?

Well, I think that is just the course of development that they show in the confidence and not trying to put too much on too soon. Not trying to put them in a position where anything that happens is deemed as a failure. I think that's the biggest thing you got to build confidence in your players. There's a lot of pressure on people to perform, and whether it's created through social media or through whatever form there's a lot of pressure and pressure is a hard thing to deal with. I thought there was a really good article about the defensive end from Alabama, you know, working through his feelings of pressure to perform and get as many sacks as he did last year in understanding to clear his headspace. Making sure that he was not pressing. And I think you've seen it. We can talk about it throughout the course of history through sports about players pressing and feeling that pressure. So, we're trying to alleviate pressure, you know, alleviate performance anxiety. And I think the way you do that is to allow people to play free and confident because they know their plays and they know the fundamentals and techniques that they need to do in order to execute.

What have you thought about how Jack Stonehouse has played the last few weeks?

Yeah, so you know Jack got this opportunity against ACU and I think he's a great example of somebody who embraced his role and put the team first. He was very disappointed that he wasn't named the starter coming out of fall camp but didn't hide his head, didn't hang his head he just kept working. Showed up every day, didn't pout, just kept working was absolutely gut function devastated because you work so hard, but you don't get that reward immediately. And sometimes in life, you just got to keep plugging away. You got to keep showing up. You don't want to and he did that. And he got his opportunity. And he's been really good. We got to make sure we don't out-kick our coverage. You know, and so we got to continue to work on some things. But yeah, Saturday he had a really good day.

I think it's his cousin who plays for the Titans. Do you know if they communicate and helps him out?

I haven't dug into that.

What are your thoughts on the game Dameon Wilson played? And how much will you count on him if Chad Bailey can’t go?

I think to get that opportunity to play in that style of game that's going to be a physical game against those running backs, against that quarterback and the quarterback run game that they have, there were several really big plays where his fits were key. And he made some great tackles. Obviously, we got very fortunate on one of the coverage things that he had. But he's continued to grow and learn as a kid who's who's really worked hard to be in the situation that he's in. And his opportunity was called and he answered it. And that (linebacker) room is battling a little bit of injury right now. Obviously, we lost Chuck (Hicks) early. Now, Chad for a little bit. So, we're going to need older veteran guys like Devin Nicholson, Will Norris and Zach Lovett to really continue to come on.

Eli, can you take us through a little bit of Mitchell Walters 一 I think he injured his leg (last season) and just kind of his path back to where he is now?

Mitch is a young man that we recruited. Well, he was already committed when I got here and re-recruited him, and he was always a guy that had great size and strength and just needs to continue to develop. It means a lot to me. I thought last season, he was an absolute monster on the scout team and would give great reps every single day and worked really hard. He actually started at right guard in the first scrimmage of the season this year and had shown a lot of improvement, but wasn't quite as consistent as we needed him to be. Now, it just felt like he had earned his opportunity to get a chance to play and use his size. So, that's kind of what went into it. Really proud of him and he's got a long way to go, as we all do. But now, with Zeke's injury and Woody sliding over to the right tackle with Armand. Mitch is going to have an opportunity to really establish himself as that guard.

His size traditionally might be a tackle is he a guy that can kind of play multiple places if you need them to?

We played him at tackle a little bit but we just feel like, with his size and thickness, that guard is probably more his position without getting into his deficiencies. I think that's just something that we feel more confident about.

How do you feel like Connor Wood played when he was moved over to right tackle after Zeke's injury?

Connor actually played quite a bit of tackle for us when you go back to last year and Hyrin (White) getting injured in the Georgia game. In the next two games, which I believe were the South Carolina and Florida games, where he played both those games at tackle and actually played tackle at his previous school. So, it's a position he's familiar with, he's really comfortable with.

Kirby always has good defenses, but just since you've been playing them how have they evolved offensively since they’re a juggernaut now on that side it seems?

They’re pretty good. Todd Monken, their offensive coordinator, was a tremendous head football coach. Was an offensive coordinator at Ohio State first and then a tremendous head football coach at Southern Miss before deciding to get back into the NFL. And coached some really high-powered offense in the NFL. He is a guy that I think really knows how to use all of his resources. And I think that's really probably what makes him so difficult as a coordinator is that he's got experiences in blended offensively. He knows how to use his quarterbacks in the run game. He knows how to use the tight ends in the passing game. He knows how to use wide or spread formations. He's got all the passes. He's got all the runs. He's got all the tight-end stuff. So, he's got a really big toolbox. And then obviously he's got some really talented players. His biggest challenge with keeping everybody happy.

Coach What can we expect from Georgia defensively scheme-wise?

Well, hopefully, y'all get to go to their press conference and ask Kirby that. I mean, traditionally they are a three-down movement front which means they started in odd and will slide to a four-down front. They've added some variety in their third-down package. There is some three safety defense that looks a little bit similar to Kansas State. There's 4-2-5, which is similar to what we do. And then there's some traditional 3-4 Kirby Smart DNA-style defense. So I think when you combine a guy like Coach Schumann, who's done a lot of really good schemes, and learn from coach Smart and coach Muschamp there's just a lot of variety of what they can do on defense combined with really good players.

Speaking of three safeties, there were a few plays where it looked like Daylan (Carnell) was kind of moving back at a deep safety. I mean, what kind of versatility does that give you still to be able to do that even though he's he's kind of moved to another position?

Daylan is a very talented player. I thought he had some really big plays and really key tackles. He had a great pass break up there in overtime. So, he provides a lot of versatility and can play safety and I think Coach Baker's done a tremendous job with our defensive scheme of providing a lot of disguises. I think our third down package is very difficult to go against. We've been going against it for a while. But it has the ability to pressure, has the ability to drop eight, and play free safety and all look very similar.

Any update on Elijah Young?

Elijah was hurt in the ACU game, and just it's a soft tissue injury. So, it's all going to be about how that thing comes back. I don't have an update today. I don't anticipate him practicing today. We'll see what tomorrow brings. But no, not really anything definitive.

How close is Tavorus Jones to getting on the field?

You know, we really had anticipation to play him in the game versus Auburn and just didn't get it done. So I say he's really close. Just needs another good week of practice. And just be ready when his numbers call, but he's close.

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