Over the course of his career, Eli Drinkwitz has established himself as one of the game’s best offensive minds during his calling the shots on offensive at Boise State, NC State, Appalachian State, and now at Missouri.
But it was the subject of one of his defensive game plans that was the topic of conversation during an appearance on SiriusXM’s College Sports show yesterday.
“Let me tell you the best story I’ve got for you,” Drinkwitz opens up the the story on SiriusXM with.
“Going into that game, we didn’t really think that they were going to have potentially the best player at their position, on offense, on every side of the ball.
“You could argue Mac Jones was the best quarterback in college football. You could argue Najee Harris with the best running back in college football. You could argue that Landon Dickerson and [Alex] Leatherwood are the best tackle and center combo in college football.”
So heading into that game, which was actually a late addition to the schedule after the SEC decided to go with a 10-game all league schedule for the season, Drink and his staff thought they had a pretty good plan to slow down the Tide offense. That plan centered on keeping the ball out of the hands of Jaylen Waddle, who was coming off a 2019 season where he averaged 17 yards per catch and totaled 6 touchdowns while the focal point of opposing defenses.
Instead of Waddle, Drinkwitz’s plan was to force Devonta Smith to beat them. Smith had recorded 68 catches for nearly 19 yards per game and totaled 14 touchdowns in 2019, and Drink and the Missouri staff decided that for them to have a chance to win, Smith was better off getting the ball than Waddle (who ended up with an unfortunate season-ending injury a few weeks later).
“I was like, ‘Hey look guys, Jalen Waddle is what makes them go, alright? So we got to double Jalen, and make DeVonta Smith beat us. Okay? He’s kind of a nice piece out there, but man, we got to take Jaylen Waddle away.’”
Missouri would go on to lose that opening weekend matchup against Nick Saban and the Tide 38-19, which actually turned out to be one of the closer games of their season before going on to put together an undefeated national title run.
Of course, by season’s end, Smith proved to be the most electric player in college football en route to the Heisman Trophywhile piling up 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and accounting for 23 touchdowns.
“Let me just tell you we were ineffective at doing both of those, and at the end of the year, I’m sitting there watching DeVonta Smith win the Heisman Trophy, and I’m thinking, in my mind, we were gonna force the ball to that guy. That’s how much I thought of Jalen Waddle, and both of them were tremendous players.”
“So yeah, that’s the outstanding defensive contribution I had for the season.”
Hear the full comments from Drink below.
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) March 25, 2021