Eli Drinkwitz wasn’t forced to take the open head coaching job at the University of Missouri. He could have stayed at Appalachian State and maintained the Sun Belt Conference empire Scott Satterfield had established.
By Matt Zemek
Drinkwitz won the Sun Belt last season in his first year as an FBS head coach, powered by the veteran roster Satterfield left behind in Boone, N.C. Drinkwitz could have stayed and continued to win at App State. Yet, he chose to go to Missouri and the SEC.
His reward for that decision in 2020? A schedule with 10 SEC games, including defending national champion LSU and this coming Saturday’s first opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Welcome to the SEC, Eli. Choices have consequences.
Drinkwitz wants to tests himself against the best. He surely came to the right place, then. Let’s see what he and Mizzou can do against the Crimson Tide in Week 1 of the SEC season:
1 – Find the QB rotation which works
Connor Bazelak and TCU transfer Shawn Robinson could both get a look from Drinkwitz this Saturday. The focus should be less on picking one man over the other and more on finding a QB rhythm which works. Obviously, if one of the two plays and gets hot, there’s no need to change anything at all. That’s the easy scenario Drinkwitz will hope for. However, let’s assume that ideal turn of events does not emerge against Nick Saban’s team. That’s when Drinkwitz will have to think on his feet. Does he rotate the two quarterbacks by play? By series of downs? By possession? By quarter? Drinkwitz has to be ready to find a pattern which works for him, because even if Mizzou doesn’t beat Alabama, it has to have something to go on – something it can build from – for the rest of the SEC season.
2 – Double-team Jaylen Waddle
Alabama lost Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy to the NFL this past offseason, but the Tide still have Jaylen Waddle, another ultra-fast receiver who will be extremely difficult to handle. Missouri could try to cover Waddle one-on-one, but that seems unwise. Force other Alabama receivers (less proven, less tested) to make plays. Try to take Waddle out of the game and force the Tide to make other choices.
3 – Pass rush
Mac Jones is good, but he’s no Tua Tagovailoa. Force Jones to make throws under pressure. Missouri has to make Jones uncomfortable enough to toss a few interceptions. It’s hard to see the Tigers winning this game if they don’t get a large number of takeaways from the Alabama offense.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET). Watch on the ESPN Network.