Mizzou DB coach Charlie Harbison to step down
Eli Drinkwitz will have another assistant coach opening to fill. Missouri announced Wednesday afternoon that defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison is stepping down from his role. He will remain with the program in a currently undefined role.
“Charlie Harbison is stepping away from his position as safeties coach to allow him more flexibility in handling personal family matters in North Carolina,” Drinkwitz said in a release. “Coach Cheese will remain a valued member of our program moving forward and we appreciate his commitment to Mizzou football.”
Harbison has spent nearly three decades coaching in pro and college football. He worked under Drinkwitz during his lone season at Appalachian State and was the first assistant hire Drinkwitz announced after accepting the head coaching job at Missouri.
Harbison signed a two-year contract with Missouri last spring worth $415,000 annually.
Harbison was one of three coaches on the Tiger staff who worked with the defensive backfield. Aaron Fletcher is listed as the secondary coach, while defensive coordinator Steve Wilks works closely with the cornerbacks.
Harbison primarily coached Missouri's safeties. Jaylon Carlies had a breakout season at free safety in 2021, recording 67 tackles and four interceptions during his first season at the position. Two-year starter Martez Manuel recently announced he will return to school in 2021, and Missouri also added another safety in Clemson transfer Joseph Charleston. Earlier Wednesday, safety Shawn Robinson entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Harbison's coaching career included two stints at Clemson, two stints at Alabama and time at LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State. He also spent 2018 coaching defensive backs for the Arizona Cardinals while Wilks served as head coach. Harbison is listed as Missouri's associate head coach in addition to its defensive backs coach.
Drinkwitz now has two assistant coach openings to fill on the Missouri staff. Tight ends coach Casey Woods left to become the offensive coordinator at SMU on Dec. 2, and a hire has not been made to replace him. While Drinkwitz is expected to hire a new tight ends coach, he could have some flexibility in how he opts to replace Harbison. Wilks and Fletcher could conceivably split coaching duties in the defensive backfield, allowing Drinkwitz to hire an assistant that focuses his time elsewhere.
Harbison is the sixth full-time assistant to leave the Missouri staff or be fired in the past 13 months and the third since the start of the 2021 season. Earlier this year, Drinkwitz fired defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. Missouri is expected to promote interim Al Davis to the full-time role to replace Franklin, although the move has not yet been officially announced.
Another staff change occurred Wednesday, as well. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Zac Woodfin, the director of athletic performance for the Missouri football team, will not have his contract renewed. Drinkwitz hired Woodfin away from Kansas shortly after arriving at Missouri. Last February, Missouri hired executive director of athletic performance Ryan Russell from Auburn. Russell worked with Drinkwitz both at Auburn and Arkansas State.