After a season like No. 20 Appalachian State has had, employment inquires about Eli Drinkwitz naturally would follow.
The first-year head coach helped steer the Mountaineers to a 12-1 season, making them the highest-ranked Sun Belt Conference program ever on their way to another conference championship.
And now, the program is looking for a new head coach for the second straight season. Drinkwitz is set to become the next head coach at Missouri, according to multiple national reports. A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the news with the Journal on Sunday night.
Drinkwitz takes over a Missouri program that finished 6-6 this season but was banned from postseason play because of academic misconduct.
App State beat Louisiana 45-38 Saturday to win a second straight Sun Belt championship. The Mountaineers for a fourth consecutive season have held at least a share of the crown.
After the game, Drinkwitz was asked about navigating the coaching rumors that come at the end of a successful season.
“My family and I love it here; we’re very excited about what we’re doing here at App State,” Drinkwitz said. “But at the same time, every opportunity, I owe it to the family, to my family, to see if that’s something we’re interested in.”
The first three Sun Belt titles were won by the previous coaching staff, led by alumnus Scott Satterfield. Satterfield helped App State win the inaugural Sun Belt title game in 2018 before he was hired by Louisville, where he was named ACC coach of the year this season.
Drinkwitz was hired just ahead of App State’s 2018 win in the New Orleans Bowl. A year later, before the program returns to the New Orleans Bowl, he's on his way to an SEC job.
In one year at App State, Drinkwitz inherited a strong program, kept it on course and took it further. The Mountaineers' 12 wins were the most since App State moved from FCS to FBS in 2014.
On top of that, he provided two of the most memorable wins of recent history. App State beat North Carolina 34-31 on Sept. 21, its first win against a Power Five program since the 2007 victory against Michigan.
The Mountaineers followed roughly two months later by taking down South Carolina 20-15 on Nov. 9. Both wins were on the road, helping to thrust App State into the top Group of Five team conversation.
Drinkwitz, a 36-year-old who grew up in Arkansas, brought an offense that benefited all of App State’s skill positions. Darrynton Evans, the Mountaineers' speedy star running back, ran for 1,323 yards and scored 22 offensive touchdowns (17 rushing) to become the Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the year. At least five Mountaineers caught more than four touchdown passes, and the passing attack allowed Thomas Hennigan, Malik Williams and Corey Sutton to thrive.
Hennigan led the team with 58 receptions and 723 yards to go with four touchdowns. Sutton had a team-high seven scores, combined with 41 receptions and 601 yards, in nine games. And Williams, the steady slot receiver, had 52 receptions, 570 yards and four touchdowns.
Before joining the App State program, Drinkwitz served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at N.C. State. He served in a similar capacity at App State along with his head coaching duties.