Missouri football coach Eliah Drinkwitz met with the local media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s top 25 showdown between Tennessee and Missouri in Columbia.
The Tigers are in the midst of their best season in Drinkwitz’ four-year tenure and enter the divisional matchup 7-2 (3-2 SEC) and ranked in the nation’s top 20.
During his Tuesday press conference, Drinkwitz talked plenty about Tennessee including about the Vols’ pass rush, strong rushing offense and much more.
Here’s everything Drinkwitz said Tennessee.
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In opening statement
“We have a heck of a challenge. I think Coach Heupel has done a tremendous job with his program, developing an identity of what they’re trying to accomplish. Took over in some tough situations and has really done a good job of building and coaching his team in the way he wants to put it together. They’re very sound and physical in all three phases. You think about their offense being dynamic with their tempo and ability to score anywhere on the field. Defense, very aggressive and fast. Can fly to the football and special teams (is) very sound. Very consistent and it looks to me like they’re playing their best ball right now so we’ll have our hands full on Saturday with that.”
On Heupel’s offense being more run heavy this season than in the past
“Well, they have the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC and of course the No. 1 rushing defense in the SEC. I think Josh, much like good offensive coordinators do always, start with trying how to run the football and then if they (opponents) try to take the run away he has answers vertically down the field— throwing the ball. Seems to me that that’s still what he’s doing. Last year, teams weren’t able to defend the pass with the dynamic wide receivers that they had and this year he’s been able to do a really good job of scheming up runs and utilizing the quarterback’s legs. But I think he’s always been able to do that. At least against us he has.”
On Tennessee’s running back trio
“They’re really good at running back and they have really good depth and all three of them are tough runners. They have great speed, good vision. The first guy (Jaylen Wright) especially back end players don’t usually bring him down. So we have to do a good job of maintaining gap control and having overlap players in our defense.”
On the way Tennessee can go on runs against you
“You have to play complimentary football in the sense that when the defense gets stops the offense has to answer. If the defense doesn’t than the offense still has to find ways to answer and I think you’re exactly right. That’s kind of what happened (the last two years). Offensively, we weren’t able to keep the pace and defensively we have to do a consistent job of finding stops in the game. I think they pressure they put on you is that they can score so fast. That’s the challenge. You have to get your cleats in the ground and be able to make routine plays routinely.”
On Tennessee being top 10 nationally in tackles for loss and sacks
“I think it starts with their d-line. They have a really good defensive line. It starts with their defensive line coach Rodney Garner. He’s been in this league for a long time and has done it at a really high level. They recruit at a really high level. They play vertical. I think their scheme matches that type of coaching. They’re similar with our style in that they like to bring pressure, multiple pressures. Not afraid to pressure and vary the pressures or disguise to it. They have some really good players. Tyler Baron has been playing at Tennessee for a really long time. I think he’s a really good player. I think we’ve played against him for four straight years if I’m correct on that. I think James Pearce Jr. is a dynamic player that provides a lot of position flexibility. Can really rush the passer well and the rest of those guys are really good. I feel like we’ve been going against (Omari) Thomas, (Bryson) Eason and Kurott Garland for as long as I’ve been here. Have to play well.”