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Arkansas 2019 Coaching Search: Making the case for, against Eliah Drinkwitz

Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz is an Arkansas native.
Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz is an Arkansas native. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

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Arkansas' search to replace Chad Morris seems to be nearing an end, as athletics director Hunter Yurachek has conducted several interviews in the past week.

One name that has been on the HawgBeat Hot Board since the day Morris was fired and has picked up steam in recent days is Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Could the Razorbacks do something they haven’t done in football since Frank Broyles and take a risk on a coach with only one year of head coaching experience?

“Order… Order in the court. We’ll now hear the case of Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz…”

Case for Drinkwitz

- Extremely successful in Year 1 at Appalachian State

It would be hard to draw up a better first season as a head coach than the one Drinkwitz is currently experiencing at Appalachian State. He has the Mountaineers 11-1 and playing in the Sun Belt championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN. They are ranked No. 20 in the AP and Coaches Polls and No. 21 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The only blemish on Drinkwitz’s record is a 24-21 loss to Georgia Southern - which runs the triple-option - on a cold, rainy, windy Thursday night on Halloween. Even then, Appalachian State nearly rallied from the 17-point deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and two other possessions that ended at midfield. Included in its victories are a 34-31 win at North Carolina and 20-15 win at South Carolina, giving him a pair of Power Five wins. It would take quite a bit of help, but there’s an outside chance the Mountaineers earn the Group of Five’s bid to the Cotton Bowl.

- Comes from solid coaching tree

Over the last decade, Drinkwitz has worked under a handful of highly regarded head coaches. The name that will jump out to most fans is Gus Malzahn, who he worked for briefly at Springdale High and again in the collegiate ranks. His first college job was actually as a quality control coach at Auburn from 2010-11, when Malzahn was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. He followed his mentor to Arkansas State as a running backs coach in 2012, but then opted to remain in Jonesboro on Bryan Harsin’s staff when Malzahn went back to Auburn. He added co-offensive coordinator duties under Harsin in 2013 and then followed him to Boise State, where he was a tight ends coach in 2014 and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2015. Drinkwitz’s only other stop before becoming a head coach was as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three seasons under Dave Doeren at North Carolina State. In nine seasons as a quality control and full-time assistant coach, he’s been a part of teams that have gone 86-33 (.723) and won at least seven games each year.

- Bright offensive mind

Drinkwitz developed a reputation as an excellent offensive play caller during his rise through the ranks. As Boise State’s offensive coordinator in 2015, he led a unit that ranked 15th nationally in scoring (39.1 ppg) and total offense (501.3 ypg). With North Carolina State, Drinkwitz’s offenses improved from 27.0 to 32.2 to 33.8 points per game and 439.0 to 451.8 to 456.1 yards per game. Entering championship weekend, Appalachian State ranks 11th nationally at 38.9 points per game, doing so with a 1,250-yard rusher and three different players with between 560 and 673 receiving yards. With the Wolfpack, he had fourth-round NFL Draft pick Ryan Finley at quarterback and a different 1,000-yard rusher in all three seasons. It’s likely that his style would be able to take advantage of some of the pieces left behind by Morris, such as KJ Jefferson, Treylon Burks, Trey Knox, Hudson Henry and others.

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