Everything Eli Drinkwitz said on Sunday

Missouri opens the 2022 season against Louisiana Tech on Thursday night. Head coach Eli Drinkwitz met with local media on Sunday afternoon in advance of that game. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.

Opening Statement

“I definitely appreciate everybody being here today. Obviously excited for game week and awesome opportunities presents us to play the game that we love and work so hard for, you know, you work 365 days a year in college football and can only guarantee one opportunity at a time. And so our entire focus and energy, really for the last seven days has been on Louisiana Tech. And so now it’s our opportunity to preview that obviously with the game being here in four days, it’s gonna be a very difficult challenge just because of the nature of the of the game.

You know, obviously when you take a team that you haven’t ever played before, or when they have a new coaching staff, you’re not seeing any of their players in the new schemes that they’re going to be running, have a lot of respect for their head coach and Sonny Cumbie obviously did a heck of a job last year in very difficult circumstances at Texas Tech. He’s going to provide a spark not only with his energy and personality into that football team but also interject that but also with his offensive acumen he’s had great offensive and lead great offenses and so we know that they’re going to be dynamic on offense.

They’ve got six returning starters, obviously their transfer quarterback Matthew Downing has spent years underneath coach Cumbie in that offensive system. So he comes in, ready to go. They have a dynamic slot receiver named Smoke Harris who also handles the return duties. There’s going to be a very difficult challenge for us in our scheme. On the defensive side of the ball, Scott Power is their defensive coordinator came from Stephen F. Austin. I’ve watched a lot of the film from last season does a tremendous job with both his first and second downs pressures and base defense and then has a unique third down pressure package. He has a lot of variety and does a really nice job of mixing up his calls. And so you know, we’re gonna have to execute at a high level have a chance. Special teams coordinator came from TCU. And so again, you’re having to try to filter through what your best guess is. So for us, it’s going to be a matter of us executing what we do best at a high level, really tapping into our DNA and then reacting to what their changes are to us.

Released the depth chart today ? should give us a better feel. You know our goal going into camp was to establish the 22 deep and we felt like we’ve done that so, wanted to release that today. As we get started. So with that, I think I have no other major announcements. I’ll open up for questions.”

With Sonny (Cumbie) obviously the background being (Louisiana) Tech in that that kind of air raid system. I mean how how much of that does he do and how much difference you know, how much harder is it when he’s doing it at a new school with different personnel to know exactly what to prepare for?

Sonny Cumbie will coach his first game at Louisiana Tech on Thursday (USA Today Sports Images)

“Yeah, I mean, that’s a tremendous challenge for the defensive side of the ball. Last year they were more of a 12 personnel air raid style system and he had put a unique spin on it based off the talents they had and what they were recruiting towards and we’re unsure of what Louisiana Tech has. We do know they have good players. You know, the record last year wasn’t indicative of how close they were. I mean, they were a one point game Mississippi State one possession game versus North Carolina State (and) got beat on a Hail Mary by SMU which totally changes that season for them. They’re not going to be intimidated place. They’re not going to think they don’t belong on this football field. And so for us, it’s a little bit we’re a little bit on our heels as far as trying to figure out what they are going to try to accomplish against us.”

Eli actually there was a change in the schedule. How important was it to get away from playing a road game to start the year and then to make this a Thursday night home game having a unique platform?

“Yeah, first just thank the administration for understanding that this season ? was going to be is a challenge regardless, but you know, had we not moved this game we were fixing to have three of our first full on the road and four of our first six which I think would have been very unique for an SEC team to have that type of schedule. You know scheduling should be an advantage you should use scheduling as an advantage. Whether that advantage is to help you. Whatever advantage you can to win games or advantage and recruiting. And so being able to have our own platform on Thursday night to be one of whatever seven to eight games that are our Thursday night. We’re going to be able to have a focal point on us now it’s up to us in our program to take advantage of that and to present who we want to be what our identity for the 2022 Mizzou Tigers is going to be so we’re gonna have to be ready and prepared in the moment.”

Do air raid systems like they are gonna run can that help mass sort of a talent deficit sort of in the way like a triple option does?

“Yeah, I mean, I guess it could. I think the assumption is it’s I think what it does is it puts your talent in space and creates one on one matchups. I don’t necessarily think it covers any deficit up. I think that’s the misnomer about that scheme. I mean, there’s really talented players to play in the air raid schemes. But again, I think it just it creates space and they utilize all 53 and a third yards wide, and they’re trying to win in a different manner. The one misnomer about what Coach Cumbie does offensively is he has a quarterback driven run game that he’s involved that they used last year didn’t use 12 personnel quite a bit to create matchups and mismatches in the run game and a quarterback runs and still has the RPO game.”

Eli your running game ? what’s the health area in your backfield and the clarity on how you’re going to use guys or what your approach is going to be more of a committee approach but it’s supposed to be?

“Yeah, I mean, fall camp Nate (Peat) has been dealing with a couple of soft tissue injuries and we’re hopeful that we’re past it but don’t know that he would be available for 100% of the carries. Cody Schrader has been the most consistent player for us throughout camp. You know when Elijah Young is proven that he can do it on this stage so those three guys will be our three primary backs, whoever I guess so to speak. It’s the hot hands or hot legs, I guess, would be the guy that’s gonna continue on. You know, each have their own strengths and things that they do well and so we’ll play to those strengths until we feel like one has kind of shown that they can handle the whole full load. Doesn’t mean that the other guys on the depth chart won’t get in it’s just those will be the three primary as we get going.”

Peat, a transfer from Stanford, should see some carries on Thursday (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)

In a perfect world, how much of the playbook do you want to put on tape this week?

“One-hundred percent. Whatever it takes to win I have no other concept. Other than being 1-0 this week. Again, I said you only are guaranteed one opportunity. Whether you’re a coach or a flyer, you have no idea. Your next game, you’re only as good as this next performance and so we ain’t worried about anything past Thursday night. Our sole focus, energy concentration. Everything we got ready to roll and the best thing we’ve been able to do through fall camp is prepare in that manner. But have all of our game ending scenarios ready to go. Gotta have it calls. You know, what’s our gotta have it call here? What’s our end of game call here? What’s so we’re prepared for those situations. They’re all up. Everything’s up they’re a really good football team. A really tough football team to prepare for. I don’t know how good any football teams are right now. But they’re a very difficult challenge for us to prepare for because again, we don’t know what kind of schemes they’re really going to utilize. We have no film. Their defensive coordinator ? the only positive we had is that their two starting corners transferred from Stephen F. Austin so we can watch Stephen F. Austin tape it’s okay these are the two corners but other than that, I mean, it’s hard to know.”

I think you talked before about the kind of the unknown of week one for everybody. But how long does that element of surprise or unknown last in a game before both sides kind of settle in and say, ‘okay, we have a feel for what’s happened?’

“First quarter. I think you kind of go in with a game plan in the first quarter and then you figure out what the game is going to settle into the second and third quarter. The fourth quarter is a standalone, you got to figure out how you’re going to win the game in the fourth quarter. It always takes a life of its own but the first quarter is really where you figure out what your gameplan for is what really is. If it is great. If it’s not then throw it out the window and let’s go second, third quarter. I think you saw it yesterday in college football. You know, there were several games, you know, UConn was up 14-0 on Utah State and it took them a little bit to settle in and pulled away. Wyoming and Illinois, was there tight for a little bit and Illinois was able to exert themselves. That Northwestern and Nebraska game was kind of a Nebraska tilt until the third, fourth quarter. So, I mean, that’s the nature of college football. I think we all have to understand that when you’re playing an opponent. You know, how everybody used it’s gonna go on their mind may not be how it goes in the game. So as a player, we got to focus on the only thing that we can control, which is to be 1-0 and focus on this play mentality. The only thing that matters is not the final score of the previous play. It’s this one. What do I do on this play? How did that play on this play? How do I perform on this play, and go from there?”

A lot of OR’s at all three receiver positions you guys have listed at multiple spots. How have those guys been? Looking in camp and how you think how much you think you can rotate them?

“Yeah, I feel very good about our top six wide receivers. I really do. I really don’t think there’s like a set starter and any of those. I think any one of those six can go in and win their matchup and execute the offense at a high level. I think Brady’s got a lot of confidence throwing to all six of those guys. And so I think it’s, again since I’ve been here, it’s as deep and as consistent a group as we’ve had. And it’s as reliable a group from knowing the offense, being able to win, and then being able to finish the play. And so very excited about that room and quite honestly, we’re gonna have to lean on that.”

Eli you touched on this a little bit last time we talked to you about the preparation going into Thursday night games. Just wondering, let me expand on that just what what how different it looks going into that Thursday night game instead of a Saturday?

“Um, you think it’s Sunday? I think it’s Tuesday. So it’s not that different for us. Today’s a Tuesday for us. Tomorrow’s a Wednesday, and it’s Thursday, and it’s Friday and Saturday. And so, when our guys walk in today, they’re thinking we’re talking this Tuesday they know what to expect from what’s going in today what we’re practicing, what’s the team meeting going to be like they’re in a routine. So that’s that’s the differences and you know, we count backwards. So instead of it being a Saturday, it’s Thursday, we’ll be in the hotel a little bit longer than normal. But it’ll be like a Saturday night game for us. So we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

The tight end room looks a lot different this year, obviously. What have you seen from Tyler Stephens since he came in and kind of earned that starting role?

“Yeah, I think it’s Tyler or Kibet (Chepyator). But you know, I think Tyler came in in the spring. He’s got an established, he’s played college football quite a bit. He was a little bit slowed up in the spring because of high ankle sprain and I think only got to practice about four times. So his consistency over the summer. He was a little bit slow in the development process. Maybe the first five practices but really turned it on. And you can tell he’s just more and more comfortable not only in what we’re asking him to do in the blocking scheme, but also in the route running. Him and Kibet have different strengths, but both of them have great length, as far as creating matchups for us in the pass game and we look forward to utilizing those things.”

Chepyator, a walk-on, should see significant action (Cheyenne Thurman)

These spots where you do have the “or” (on the depth chart) is it something that you’re evaluating next few days in practice, or do you have a pretty good idea of what you’ll do Thursday night and then what happens Thursday effects weeks, two, three, all that.

“I mean, I feel like we have a pretty good idea of how it’s gonna go for Thursday. I think we’ve settled that into practice. There’s always opportunities for people to continue to improve and put that on display. But, you know, the game of college football very rarely plays 11 guys on either side of the ball until it’s to make sure that they understand ?You may not go out there first. But you’re gonna play and you need to know and have your responsibilities and I mean, this day and age with the transfer portal. More is better, you know, and so you just want to make sure everybody feels like and knows that they’re a part of what we’re trying to accomplish. everybody on our team has a role. You know, there’s guys that aren’t listed on that depth chart that have just as important role in today’s practice for us winning Thursday night than Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat. I mean, we’ve got to get a great look down there and scout team and so MaKyi Lee and Trent Sederwall… and Tristan (Wilson), I mean, they’ve got down there and they gotta go down there and give us a great look. Otherwise, we’re not going to be prepared. Same thing on the defensive side of the ball. You know, like, Serrano, Jack Meyer. I mean, those guys come in there with a whole bunch of attitude about ‘man, I’m on scout team,’ man bullcrap. And your role is vital to us. And everybody has a role to play and that’s winning and losing the game. And that’s whether it’s Molly or myself, we’re all going to have to do our part in order for us to play at the best level that we can.”

When you mentioned the portal in that answer. I mean, obviously the best guy plays, but How different is it like does that factor into ‘hey, we got to make sure to give this guy a little bit of time?’

“No, because at the end of the day, I don’t think I’ve got to get anybody in. If you give something that they haven’t earned it cheapens them. They got to earn, okay, they got to earn it. And at the end of the day, I gotta lay my head on the pillow at night, knowing how it turned out ? I’m comfortable with it. And I wouldn’t be comfortable if I just gave somebody something that they hadn’t earned. And I don’t think our brotherhood would be comfortable with that either. You know, we all understand that the number one core value is always competing to be better today than we were yesterday and always competing to the better than we’ve done before. So we’re not happiness camp. This ain’t everybody gets a trophy, this college football in the SEC. The best of the best. If you earn it, you’re gonna get an opportunity to play and sometimes you earn it and you’re not the star but you’ve earned an opportunity to play and get out there.”

With all the experience and veterans on the dense, does this group have the opportunity be a lot better on defense and help you guys out?

“What we did last year wasn’t clearly good enough. So it’s an opportunity for us to define who we want to be moving forward. You know, so whether or not we have experience or not really doesn’t matter. We have a chance Thursday to set our identity and there’s I don’t have a good feeling that says okay, this is what’s gonna be on either side of the ball like this is a clean slate. And it’s a great opportunity for us to go paint that canvas and whatever happened last year happened last year on both sides of the ball. And what you did last year doesn’t earn you anything this year. LA Tech don’t care, you know. And so I really don’t care either. I, I hope that they can, but let them paint that picture on Thursday.”

We hear you say all the time that the play doesn’t care who makes it, but when you look at Luther and what have you seen from him, what kind of impact is he capable of having early?

Tiger fans get their first peek at Luther Burden on Thursday (Rivals.com)

“I think again, we’ve got to be careful how much expectation we put, hype we put on this young man. He’s incredibly talented, God’s given him an ability to play the game at a high level, he’s got a great competitive spirit. But if there’s too much pressure on him or too much pressure to get the ball and the quarterback’s forcing the ball in places that it shouldn’t go, I go back to what you said the played on here makes it. Quarterback’s got to distribute the ball. And the great thing about the way we’re wired right now offensively, I have confidence in all five skill positions that they can win their matchup. If the play call is designed in such a way and they play the defense in such a way the ball goes to Luther, very confident he’s going to make a play, But I’m just as confident that Tauskei Dove Chance Luper, Mookie Cooper, Barrett Bannister and Dominic Lpvett can make the play to when It’s their opportunity. So the quarterback doesn’t have to go out there and say, I gotta get the ball to Luther. You’ve got to make the right play with the ball based on what he’s either attacking or the weakness of the quarterback how you can play this in certain situations, a lot of wars on that table.

Does that does that or kind of approach apply to the rest of the attraction kind of playing guys, we’re, um, I mean, it could potentially like the offensive line. You know, we’ve got force behind it, but really, you know, we have a plan in place really, for both tackle positions. You know, it’s not necessarily about the next guy up. It’s about putting the next best player in place. And so there really could be some musical chairs on the offensive line should somebody go down as far as sliding some people here or there and we’ve done that throughout fall camp.”

What makes Smoke Harris so dangerous and someone you point out in yr weekly press conference.

“I mean, he’s dynamic, got short area quickness, he’s got a great competitive spirit time, he makes people miss both in the return game and at the slot receiver. You just have to anticipate that the way the air raid system works and they’re able to get guys touches that they’re going to utilize him whether or not it’s choice routes or vertical routes or across the middle. They’re going to try to match them up against linebackers to get him the ball in space. And we got to do a good job of denying. They’re also going to use in the RPO game to try to replace linebackers behind them. So we got to have great eye discipline and make sure our third level’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.”

With Tavorus Jones not being listed at running back is he not healthy yet or just hasn’t been healthy enough to really give himself a chance?

“Tavorus got back last week. Was really his first practice since his soft tissue injury. He’s doing everything he can to get caught up; doesn’t mean he wouldn’t play but right now he’s not factored into the first set of the game plan. Again, really, really talented and disappointed that that happened. And he’s going to be a factor at some point. We just gotta get used to the speed. He’s never had a carry, live carry. He’s had one live arrow pulled his hamstring. So we’re gonna have to get into the live carriers for trust the football.”

A lot freshmen, a lot of transfers entering their first game at Faurot. Whats the excitement in the locker room, any nerves there?

“I’m sure there are. Yeah, I’m sure there are, hadn’t really addressed it yet. We’ll address it Wednesday night. You know, I think the transfers they’ve played a lot of college football. It’ll be a different experience for them obviously running out of Faurot and being in front of our fans, but you know, once the ball is kicked, I think they’ll settle in now. You know, the good thing about our starting quarterback is he’s played, you know, got the blow start played against Georgia, played against South Carolina. So I think he’ll have confidence but you know, it’s gonna be different than 60,000 fans knowing that they have your your Twitter handle, so it’ll be an interesting deal. We all going to have to deal with it.”

You mentioned 60,000. I know you’ve got way more concerns at this point, but, are you paying attention to what that crowd will look like?

“If I’m being honest, we’ve done a lot. I mean, I spoke with the IFC this morning, you know, to all the brand new Greek Life members to try to rile them up to be here. Went to a ResLife pep rally on Friday night. We’re doing everything we can to start fast and it starts with our students,. We have 7500 student tickets, and for me, you know, I’ve shot my mouth off a lot in the last two years. But for me, it’s really about let’s have the student section first. If we can get, you know, we have 30,000 or 25,000 students that go to school here. If we get all 25,000 coming to a game, we’ll have great atmosphere and then it’ll spread from there. So, for me, that’s my focus is how do we get our students here? How do we make sure that they have a great experience and want to come and create an unbelievable atmosphere on a Thursday night and our team will do its part to continue that momentum. But I mean, once we get here on Thursday, I’m not going to worry about it at all. You’ve got to kind of eliminate that factor. But I am trying to partner with our athletic department to do our very best to get our fans engaged.”

It looks like you named a starting punter.

Sean Koetting will punt and kick off (Jordan Kodner)

“Yeah, I did it Friday on radio on accident. Yeah, Sean Koetting. You know, it was really close. And you know, we have a lot of confidence in Jack Stonehouse, it just, the consistency when we said the last four days we’re going to determine it Sean, had had the better most consistent of those four days and he had earned it. Right now he’s our starting punter, have all the comfidence he’s gonna go out there and perform at a high level but, you know, just like at the quarterback position, feel comfortable if it’s not going the way it needs to go, we’ve got somebody there who’s very good.”

Do you expect to give Luther (Burden) and Kris (Abrams-Draine) both a chance on returns?

“I mean, I think we’ll trot Kris out there first. But yeah, if the game presents itself I anticipate Luther getting a chance at one too.”

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