Note: All Aggies' "Around the SEC" series will feature stories on all 14 programs in preparation for the 2021 season.
In movies, there's a leading character, a talented supporting cast star, and a scene-stealer. Alabama's Nick Saban is the one fans line up for outside the theatre to see.
Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin was the supporting actor, talking up his Twitter game and begging media members to shut the heck up when the Crimson Tide take on the Rebels.
But if you were to bet that Missouri's Eli Drinkwitz would be the one the steal the show at SEC Media Days, cash in the check now before doubling down.
From his custom made Air Jordan 3's donned in big cat colors, to his one liners that had media members in tears, Drinkwitz made his mark at his first time in Hoover, Ala. No one was safe from witty remarks and quick banter on rivals in the conference.
Being the final day at the Hyatt Regency, Drinkwitz was asked about what he thought of the addition of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. His answer; Sure, why not?
"If you’d have told me flying down here that OU and Texas were thinking about joining the SEC, I just went whatever," Drinkwitz said. "I mean, come on, nothing really surprises you anymore."
Alright, let's get this show on the road.
As one of two teams who understands what it's like to leave the Big 12, Missouri fans could see why adding Texas and Oklahoma is a problem. During the final 10 games of their rivalry with the Sooners, the Tigers were 2-8.
Since 2000, they've beat Texas once, and that came in their final season in the Big 12 with perhaps the worst Longhorns team this century.
Drinkwitz is different cat — literally. A&M boosters and fans are clamoring for the Longhorns to say away. Drinkwitz is ready to go to war.
"I’ve been trying to tell people everybody wants to play in the SEC, man," Drinkwitz muttered. "If you can attract a couple of really good schools to come play, that’s great."
For someone known for their small-school background at Appalachian State, Drinkwitz carries a big stick. He was the head coach for the Mountaineers just one year before the Tigers came calling.
Maybe that's why he keeps swinging for the fences? What's he have to lose entering Year 2?
Calling out Dan Mullen?
“I’m praying for snow," said Drinkwitz about Florida coming to Columbia, Mo in November. "Dan (Mullen) is going to complain about everything anyway.”
Going after Arkansas?
"I kind of like the rivalry we’ve got with Arkansas," he said. "I don’t remember the last time they beat us, so I kind of like that one."
Looks like Rugrat from 'The Wolf of Wall Street', talks like Jordan Belfort; Is Mizzou supposed to be this fun?
Absolutely bleeping not.
Drinkwitz is as smart as he is cunning. Don't let the thinning hair fool you, he's wiser than he looks. He's also a character the SEC needs as a rival to Kiffin. One will handle the SEC East, the other takes the SEC West.
Imagine if the two were to meet in Atlanta? The soundbites alone would be worth the price of admission.
In 30 minutes, Drinkwitz did exactly what he wanted to do: put Mizzou back on the map. Gary Pinkel had the winning ways but was quiet. Barry Odom tried his best, but his personality didn't match for a team that should be on the rise.
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In short, the Tigers mean business in 2021. Drinkwitz is just the mouthpiece for perhaps the conference's most improved roster.
“I’m a brand ambassador for the University of Missouri, so any time we get a chance to push our brand and push Mizzou football, that's my job,” Drinkwitz said. “And they pay me a whole hell of a lot of money to do my job, so I embrace it with everything that I have."
The Tigers are coming off a season in which they finished 5-5. The offense had its bumps and bruises, but everyone gets a mulligan due to COVID taking away the offseason.
The good news is Missouri won't have to worry about the quarterback. Connor Bazelak returns after being named the co-SEC freshman of the year. On top of that, the Tigers will return eight total starters, with Bazelak being the face.
"He’s a maverick," Drinkwitz said of his quarterback. "He went out there and went into really difficult situations and gave him an opportunity to play the game. Obviously, there’s areas he needs to improve on, deep ball accuracy, red zone completion percentage, and touchdowns."
Larry Borom heads to the Bears following his time at right tackle for the Tigers. Besides that, the remainder of the line returns. Given another year under Marcus Johnson, senior Case Cook believes they should be even better.
"I think we're a lot more comfortable in the scheme," Cook said. "We've had a year with Coach Johnson. I think we know what he expects from us and what we expect from him, so moving forward I don't think anything can hold us back besides ourselves."
Defensively, they'll need the secondary to step up by season's end. Tyree Gillespie is gone. So is Joshuah Bledsoe. Nick Bolton is close, just now playing in Kansas City with the Chiefs.
The good news? The 4-2-5 front is returning four players in the trenches.
They also added a pair of junior college transfers. Incoming freshman Mekhi Wingo also is expected to see significant snaps by midseason. So is Blaze Alldredge, the All-Conference USA linebacker from Rice.
"We were able to bring guys back with the COVID year. So really the defensive line should be a strength for us on the defensive side of the ball."
Maybe Missouri is full of surprises come 2021. After all, for a team that finished third in the SEC East and beat a national champion after being projected to finish sixth, no one can count them out for long.
The Tigers have a newfound life as they enter August. A plethora of starters return, and a full offseason should make for cleaner play in the scheme.
They'll be going for gold against Kentucky for the title of surprise SEC club. Why doubt them again, right?
When the presser began, Drinkwitz applauded the writers who remained late into Thursday afternoon. He also commented on Paul Finebaum, the Czar of SEC sports talk, for his new contract extension.
According to the Mizzou coach, no one "steals the show" like Finebaum.
Well, that is except for Eli. Eliah? You know what, just ask him yourself.
"I sign E and a bunch of squiggly lines and see who can figure it out," Drinkwitz said. "I go with Eliah and then go from there."
CONTINUE READING: Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller Named Doak Walker Award Preseason Candidate
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