Everything Eli Drinkwitz said on Tuesday heading into Week 9 at S. Carolina
Missouri (3-4) will be looking to defeat South Carolina (5-2) in week nine to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since weeks 10 and 11 of last season. Missouri 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.
I want to start by expressing my thoughts and prayers to St. Louis and the St. Louis community and to all those affected by the tragic events of yesterday. Just such a shame for us to continue to have to face these types of stories and issues. For me, it's not political at all. It's about protecting the future of our country and our children are our future. And we cannot continue to live like this. We just can't. I talked to our staff and talked to my wife about it all the time. It's not about who's right. It's about what's right. And we need to get this right. We've got to figure out how we can protect our kids from walking into schools afraid that should be the last thing on their minds when they're walking into a school to learn, grow, mature and become our future.
And so, just asking for all of us to instead of picking sides and picking and pointing out all the issues, and let's find solutions. Let's find real solutions. So we will do something as a team to honor those on Saturday. And again continue to place St. Louis, our community will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
With that, I'll talk about something that really becomes secondary to that which is football. Got a tremendous opportunity this week, got a very difficult challenge, which, with challenges become opportunities with adversity becomes great moments of opportunity. And that's what we really have to face a top 25 team on the road coach (Shane) Beamer has done an excellent job as he continues to build and establish his program. They're playing with great momentum and energy in all three phases.
Obviously, that stadium will be very loud and we will have to do a great job of replicating that noise and having a good practice today. I believe Texas A&M had seven false starts or delay of game penalties that were related to noise. We got to protect the football. We're going to have to play well on special teams. They blocked five punts this season, had multiple returns for touchdowns on kickoffs and obviously started the game versus Texas A&M with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Offensively, they have dynamic weapons. Josh Vann obviously the quarterback is extremely talented. Marshawn Lloyd, Jaheim Bell, transfer tight in Austin Stogner. So they've got a lot of weapons.
Again, consequently, while they're ranked top 25 And will be a challenge for us to do a good job with their schemes. Clayton White defensive coordinator is doing an excellent job. He's a great person was fortunate to work with Clayton for one year at NC State and know that you'll be well prepared and has his guide ready to play obviously Pete Lembo is the special teams coordinator and does a tremendous job. A former head coach at I believe Elon and some other places and has always been regarded as one of the best special teams coaches in the country. So, got a tough challenge ahead of us.
Eli, when you look at just some of the numbers and stuff with South Carolina, it doesn't jump off the page. What are they doing so well to have gotten themselves to 5-2? Are there things that maybe aren't showing up?
They've been very optimistic defensively to create turnovers. I think that's one of the things that maybe you don't see. Good field position and the ability to play with the lead. Creating havoc plays, forcing third and long and then capitalizing on special teams. They've been able to create huge momentum swings in the game on defense and special teams and capitalize on offense.
How does your defense the way it’s playing this year change how you're able to call games or manage games compared to a year ago?
I mean, it's all about complementary football and the objective is to win a game and I think you got to play to your strengths. You got to fortify your weaknesses and work on your weaknesses, but you don't want to put those people and put your strength in a bad situation which in the losses, we've clearly done that on the road. And that's something that we have to change. In our three losses on the road, we've given up a pick-six, an interception return, four turnovers in a row, a punt return for a touchdown and a punt return to the 20 and at that point, you negate any of the strength that you have with your defense.
And so those things have to get corrected. But then in the games that we win or the games that we played well. You know, even on the two road games versus Florida and Auburn, we were able to fight back into contention, but we've had to spend so much energy to get back there that we're not able to get over the hump. So, again, it goes back to our team playing complementary football, I don't necessarily know that it has to be a certain style of play as far as the head coach or the offensive coordinator, but it does have to be understood that we can't put our defense in bad situations and expect them to come through of course.
You mentioned Williams-Brice Stadium. You've had some success there as head coach at two different places. Is there any kind of through line to being successful in that environment because it is a tough place?
I’ve been a part of some really good football teams and had some key guys step up and make plays in key times. I think that's usually the key of any victory. I really coached there three different times once as an assistant at Auburn, but all three of those games came down to the fourth quarter and the ability to make a play in which again, for me, was extremely proud of our team on Saturday. Finding a way to do that. In the previous games, we had not been able to make the play that we needed to win the game and we were able to do that this week. I think that it's kind of interesting to look back, you know, as we review the South Carolina film from last year, we really did the same thing. We got into a very difficult situation we were up 17 point points in the fourth and had a turnover in the red zone similar to last Saturday, threw an interception and then had to run the clock out offensively. So, it's part of that when you're on a little bit of a snag, to gain that confidence and find a way to win and so now we just need to build off that.
After you’ve gotten a chance to watch the tape from the Vandy game what were some of the big differences offensively between first half and second half?
Yeah. A lot of things start with being able to consistently protect the quarterback, being able to consistently establish the run and getting our playmakers involved. But I think if you go back and look at it being critical of myself, ball on the nine-yard line on third down and 10 I should not have been as aggressive and probably should have called a safer play there to just again, put our defense back on the field who would have been punting with the wind and not put ourselves in a bad situation. So, I'll take the blame for that, and I'll take the blame for the performance in the second half. That's on me as the head coach and offensive coordinator to get it corrected.
You mentioned on Saturday that some of the hits Brady is taking, if you were to get in a situation where he would have to miss a play or something who's your next guy up at this point?
Yeah, it all depends on the timing of the situation of the game. We're actively working with all of our quarterbacks in practice to see who can develop depending on the situation of the game and what the injury would be. It would determine who would be the next quarterback in so long and short I’m not going to tell you.
What does Spencer Rattler do that is unique?
Yeah, you know Spencer's a great talented quarterback who's really getting comfortable within his system and leading his team to wins. He does a good job handling their pro-style offense. He's able to create space with his feet and keep his eyes down the field to extend plays. He's able to throw the ball vertically down the field. He's been doing a good job of getting his playmakers the ball.
You see increased production out of DJ Coleman the last couple of weeks, I mean, just throughout the year, how far is he coming? And what did you guys see out of him that made you convinced he could jump up that level?
Yeah. I'm very fortunate to have DJ and he's been playing extremely well and really has earned his opportunity to continue to play at a high level and continue to earn more and more reps in the game. He does a great job of affecting the passer in both the pass phase and also is a really good physical player at the line of scrimmage in the run game.
When he put his name in the portal. He was in there for a while. But as we continued to watch the tape and really tried to measure the games versus Power Five opponents as best we could. We noticed the influx of weight and felt like when he really played well 一 I think it was two years ago against Florida State his weight was up and then last year towards the end of the season his weight really dropped and we just felt like with Coach (Ryan) Russell (Executive Director of Athletic Performance) and Liz Stuart (Director of Performance Nutrition 一 we got him here in June. We really felt like we could get into that to 260 to 265 where he could play very sturdy in the run game and obviously has the length and the quick twitch to affect the passer.
Obviously, you have to have a certain amount of twitch. The conflict becomes do you have enough speed to rush the passer but also enough size to handle the run game? And that's really where the conflict becomes in recruiting at our level. There's that's why there's so many people that can maybe play in other conferences that don't have to face the size that we do on the offensive line in the trenches and in the run game. And so that's that's the great balancing act. Are they long enough and fast enough to play here? Or are they long enough to add the weight, you know Isaiah McGuire is a great example of somebody who has come in, added the weight and the speed, you know, and he's 6-foot-5 and he's able to play it at 270 and rush the passer.
Luther Burden obviously brought a ton of skill but how have you seen him get better in other areas and do you see him applying himself and improving halfway through the season?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for Luther is one understanding that that footfall and life is a process and you're going to have to learn to eliminate the outside noise and clutter and expectations of people and focus on what you can control. I think that has become a process for him of ‘hey, I can't worry about the expectations and the outside noise and all the things that are all the pressure to perform for others. I've got to continue to work on myself.’ And then I think the second thing is and this is really, really important was the ability to get healthy so that he can really play back to his full potential.
In college football when you get nicked up and you're at 80% or 75% playing against great players, you don't look the same you're just not the same. So that bye week, he didn't even practice Sunday last week because we were still like, I mean he was questionable all the way to Wednesday, just getting full speed and I would still say he is probably about 90%. But I think once he was able to get to that 90% in practice and recreate the process because we're not good enough. Nobody's until you get to the NFL, are you ever going to be good enough to just show up and play? And that's really what we were having to do on that three-game stretch after Auburn. We were having to barely get any practice Tuesday, barely get him to practice Wednesday and then trying to show up and affect the game in a manner that everybody's putting pressure on you to do that and it's not realistic. So, I think him embracing that understanding, and being able to practice last week has led to the results. And I saw a stat yesterday where he's one of a couple of players that have had multiple rushing, multiple receiving and a punt return for a touchdown. I think he might be the only one in college football. So, all that other outside noise I don’t know.
Over the course of the next five weeks what's most fixable on offense?
Turnovers. I mean don't turn the ball over. We got a great defense. So, it starts with turnovers. And then the second thing is being able to consistently protect the quarterback. We have to protect our quarterback. We've got good players on the perimeter who demand a certain type of attention. And if they get one on one, we got an opportunity to win but it doesn't matter if we can't protect the quarterback so it starts with turnovers and then it goes to protecting our quarterback.
You have your two running backs have kind of flip flop the last few weeks as far as who's had the big game at what point in the game can you guys kind of identify the hot hand and is that kind of the process of we're gonna give both an opportunity and whoever's having a better day at that point.
I think there'll be a more defined role moving forward with Cody (Schrader) taking the lion's share of the reps. Cody's consistency in production, consistency in ball security, consistency in protection. But yeah, we felt really good about both of them. Just seeing who maybe was seeing the game the best or whatnot. But I do think that moving forward it will be Cody and then however the rest of that plays out will be based on practices week.
Coach, your last offensive drive versus Vandy, you guys started with a QB draw similar to what you did against Florida. Is that something where you kind of take what the defense gives you or is that part of a game script for the last four minutes or so?
Yeah, it was really a quarterback counter scheme. Unbalanced to the left. We knew what their unbalanced adjustment was and we allowed the tailback to be the lead blocker on the corner. If we got the correct double team we would be able to get the tackle to the MIKE and pull for the safety and the quarterback would be a free runner. So, it was more of a number scheme designed play that we felt like in a four-minute offense, use your quarterback as the extra runner. We have not been running the outside zone particularly well. And so it was kind of like at this point in this situation, what can we execute? I think the next play was inside zone which went from minus one and the third play was a shot down the field to Dominic Lovett. So, not a very good drive.
How did Cody get on your radar?
I had gotten word that he was in the portal and that he had always wanted to be a Missouri Tiger. And so we watched the tape and said yeah, sure. That's something that he's always wanted to do. We'd love for him to walk on here. He showed up in January and didn't really think much of it to be honest. And then consistently worked out, consistently was doing really good things in our morning mat drills, the way he carried himself, the leadership, the intangibles, the work ethic, showing up for two a days, and then has just consistently showed up and done everything we ask every day.
And it's amazing that if you're consistent in your discipline, and you're consistent in who you are with character. Good things seem to happen and that's really what happened with him and the lines dwindled. Loss of availability, injuries and whatnot. He was just consistently there. And then he outplayed everybody in fall camp. And we felt like maybe it was because of injuries and whatnot. So, we tried to give other people a chance but he's taken advantage of every opportunity and runs incredibly hard.
How difficult is what he's achieved playing from that level this time of year a year ago now to an SEC team?
It's difficult. But it just goes to show you that college football is not a perfect system as far as identifying and acquiring talent and neither is the NFL. It's people's ability to maintain discipline, believe in themselves and work to achieve their dreams. That's the American story.
You alluded last week to Hyrin White, maybe kind of getting closer. I mean, do you have a chance to get him back this year and how does that play into whether he might want to come back and get a waiver for what would be a seventh year?
Yeah, that's really a decision that he and his parents have to continue to weigh and factor in. What our responsibility is. is to try to get him healthy as quickly as we can and put him in a situation where he can feel confident to play and then we want what's best for everybody on our team, whatever their future might be. If that's for him to play this year, and then pursue his dream of playing in the NFL then we will support him 100%. If he's not quite ready and we need to file a waiver then we will do that. Those conversations haven't happened. I think we all know what the possibilities are it’s one of those two. But we're not trying to put any undue pressure or timeline on him.
Do you ever see yourself being a head coach and not calling plays?
Yeah, I dream about it all the time usually on third downs. I'm not opposed to that in any realm at all. Again, as you continue to grow and develop as a head coach, you look back and see the things that you're doing well and the things that you got to improve on. Okay, maybe there's a weakness here or a blind spot there that I'm continuing to grow at. So, absolutely, I could see myself doing that if the timing was right with the right people in the right scenario and situation.
I think one of the things that I have accepted the challenge right now is that this is a situation that I've created and I need to fix it. It's not somebody else's responsibility. I can't walk out of that room right now because it's not working. I got to dive in there with everybody and say, ‘Okay, what can we do? How can I help these guys?’ And so, whatever the future might hold as far as that will decide at the end of the season. But I'm not opposed to it. What I want to do is win football games. I believe there's a certain style that we want to have offensively, which is rhythm, attack and execute right now we don't play with rhythm. When we attack we're having trouble protecting ourselves. We're not really attacking the way we want to in the red zone and run game. So, whether that's bringing back the wishbone next year, doing those three things or whatever, that doesn't phase me.
I really feel strongly about the way we've handled and approached and been able to improve the defense and now I've got to continue to do that. I think when I look back on where we're at now, we've improved in recruiting. We've improved in our strength and conditioning, we’ve improved in nutrition, we've improved in defensive football, we've improved in fan attendance, we've approved in facilities 一 we've got a new indoor facility that will be open up in June.
And now it's about some other things that are lacking and what is going to be the best approach to approve them. But there's nothing within me that said ‘Man if I'm not calling plays.’ I mean there's not enough ego there for me.
How many head coaches call plays in the Power Five?
I have no idea. You know, it's really popular in the NFL, but I do think the past two years of college football's changed quite a bit and my job descriptions changed quite a bit with full-time recruiting as far as now your own team, the portal, high school and NIL. So, you know, there are some responsibilities that led me to say, ‘Okay, I wasn't going to be able to continue to coach the quarterbacks at the level that they needed to be coached.’ And so, I'll just have to reevaluate at the end of the year and say the same thing there. Not saying it is, or it isn't, but I'm also not going to say that just because you're struggling now doesn't mean that your entire past track record you’ve been off too. It just means you got to evaluate why, and what are the reasonable solutions and fixes.
So can you give people an idea of what that process is like? I think some people think, well, the offensive coordinator just decides everything. Obviously, I'm sure Bush Hamdan is involved in helping you up top. Can you give people an idea of what that process is like play-to-play?
So, the process really starts on Sunday as soon as we're done putting our film away, we self-scout. What are the things that we do well? What are the things we got to really work on? Then we begin watching our opponent and decide what are plays we feel can be successful. What are the plays that we do well? Where are the number advantages? Where are the schematic advantages? How do we take advantage of what they're doing? How to take advantage of what we do and that continues all the way until I was just watching third down and red zone. We'll continue that tonight.
Then you go into practice and said, ‘Okay, we practiced it. Is this going to be good or does it not look good? That goes all the way until Friday. We have everything kind of compartmentalized into this is run downs, which is first, second down, second and six or less, run down, run down passes, second and seven plus, runs and passes, shots and special, screens, red zone, third downs.
Then we have what's considered openers or packages. There are conversations in between series about this is what we thought, this is what they did. Okay, it was an execution issue. Was it a scheme issue? Was this a bad play? You know, the second series of the game. We went 3x1 to the field, they brought a corner cat condensed as minus one. Next series, we'd open up 3x1 to the boundary to prevent the cat and we get a plus five. So, those are kinds of game plan changes that we understand. ‘Hey, 3x1, they're going to bring a cat. Let's flip the formation to alleviate that issue.’ So, that's kind of the back and forth. A lot of times when you're really struggling like in the second half, it's kind of crickets on there and you got to dig deep and figure out what can you do and what gives you guys the best chance.
Football is a game of confidence. And our confidence got shaken. We got to continue to build confidence. We got to remind our guys what we are capable of and what we're capable of doing. And then, you know, showing the to the where we have to improve starting with me.
Coach with Sam Horn, being to be told that he was going to play and then didn’t. How did he respond to that? And did you have any conversations with them after the game?
Yeah. Sam was clearly told that we would like to get into the game, depending on how the game played out. And that was the plan. best laid plans of mice of men. I wasn't planning on being up 17-0 and the game going the way it did in the second half, so you know, things adjust. And as we all know, we all got to adjust. I don't think it really bothered Sam at all.
Is there a scenario where he gets in on Saturday?
There are probably 100 scenarios to this game. So yes. Will I tell him that he's for sure going to play? No. Could he play? Absolutely.