Mizzou linebacker Nick Bolton (32). Mizzou Tigers vs. Troy Trojans in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Hunter Dyke/Mizzou Athletics
When Gary Pinkel hung up his clipboard in 2015, he left the Missouri program in solid shape, and his right-hand man Barry Odom took the reins with plans to keep the momentum going. After a 1-5 finish to the season in 2019, his four-year stint came to an end, with the pinnacle of his tenure being an 8-5 season in 2018.
The Tiger faithful will now hope that new coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who is fresh off his rookie head-coaching campaign at Appalachian State, is the answer to their problems. Drinkwitz led the Mountaineers to a 12-1 record in his lone season at the helm in Boone, so it’s a big if as to whether or not the offensive-minded coach can cut it in the SEC.
Okwuegbunam, who was one of the best tight ends in the country last season. Virginia Tech transfer Damon Hazelton is one of the hopeful prospects to fill that void, while Barrett Banister has the potential to be dangerous in the slot. While those connections are being established, look for the Tigers to lean hard on running backs Larry Roundtree III and Tyler Badie, who will run behind an offensive line that has been retooled but has experience.
One thing that has been consistent in Columbia since they moved to the SEC is their stingy defense. The Tigers lost a little of their fury when it came to sacking the quarterback last season, finishing with only 19 sacks last season, but they still finished 14th in the nation in yards allowed. With seven starters returning, they should be solid once again, but if the offense can’t sustain drives, talents like Nick Bolton at linebacker and Tyree Gillespie at safety won’t be enough to stop opposing offenses.
The story to follow in Columbia is, without a doubt, Eliah Drinkwitz. Can a calculated risk pay off? Time will tell.