Mizzou’s new coaching staff titles bring about more questions than answers

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Being unorthodox isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Patrick Mahomes has an unorthodox way of playing football. There was once a time when paying your bills online was the unorthodox way of doing your own accounting.

That doesn’t make it the wrong way of doing things. It’s just different. And with different comes the fear of the unknown.

And over the next few weeks (or at least until we get some sort of clarity), we’re about to enter the realm of the unknown for this new Mizzou coaching staff.

Mizzou officially announced on Tuesday its new coaching staff and the titles each member of the staff will hold for the 2020 season. Most of it was as expected. But some of it was a bit surprising.

The first surprise – for some – is the lack of an offensive coordinator.

If you remember back to Eli Drinkwitz’s first press conference, he made it abundantly clear he plans to fill the role of offensive coordinator and calling plays. Drinkwitz served as the OC and play-caller at Appalachian State last season and did so with a high degree of success. It should go without saying the degree of difficulty in serving as both the head coach and OC at App State is a bit different than doing so at Mizzou against SEC opponents.

I cannot pretend that I don’t have a fair amount of skepticism about a 36-year old head coach with one year of experience on the job at App serving in so many roles. But I do respect a man who is willing to bet on himself. And more specifically, betting on the skills that got him the job he currently holds.

Drinkwitz is the head coach at Mizzou for a very simple reason. He’s seen as one of best young offensive minds in the country. Full stop. That’s why he got the job at Appalachian State, and it’s why Jim Sterk hired him to be the next football coach at Missouri. His success (or lack thereof) at Mizzou will largely be determined by his success on that side of the football. So if Drinkwitz believes his best chance at building a successful offense is with him serving as the OC and calling plays, more power to him. It’s bold. It’s unorthodox.

And I’m open to the idea that it just might work.

But that wasn’t the biggest revelation from Drinkwitz’s staff announcement. The titles for the staff on the defensive side of the ball are even more interesting to me.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Appalachian State at Penn State

D.J. Smith and Eli Drinkwitz during their time at Appalachian State.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brick Haley’s job is abundantly clear. He’ll coach the defensive line as he did for the Tigers each of the past three seasons. There’s also plenty of clarity in the role of Mizzou’s new linebackers coach, D.J. Smith. He and he alone will work with the linebackers.

The rest of the defensive staff is anything but clear.

Ryan Walters is the defensive coordinator, and he’s also in charge of the safeties. Charlie Harbison is slated to coach the “defensive backs.” And David Gibbs is going to coach… the secondary?

If your mind just exploded, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m officially lost, too.

Maybe there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this and there aren’t three coaches essentially cross-training the same 20 players. Maybe it’s as simple as Walters coaching the safeties, Harbison coaching the sub-package linebacker/safety hybrids and Gibbs coaching the cornerbacks. That’s entirely plausible. But the labels certainly don’t make it crystal clear.

Does it matter in the long run? Probably not. I’m sure there’s some sort of explanation that clears all of this up. Hopefully we’ll hear said explanation in the days or weeks to come.

But for now an announcement that typically results in clarity on which coaches will be coaching what positions resulted in more confusion and questions than it did answers.

It’s certainly unorthodox. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing.

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Brandon Kiley


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