COLUMBIA, Mo. - New Missouri football coach Eliah Drinkwitz promised Tuesday make special teams the "heartbeat of the program" and that he plans to hire a special teams coordinator to exclusively coach the kicking game units. That coach will be Erik Link, Yahoo! Sports college football writer Pete Thamel first reported Wednesday. Link held that same role at Appalachian State this season. He was Louisiana Tech's special teams coordinator in 2018.
The two coaches previously worked together at Auburn as quality control assistants in 2010. After a stop at Montana State to coach special teams and tight ends, Link served as a special teams/offensive analyst at Auburn in 2013, the year Missouri lost to Auburn in the SEC championship game. The
The Des Moines, Iowa, native played along the offensive line at Drake and later coached there as an assistant, then spent three years at Iowa State in a variety of roles. He's also coached at the high school level in Iowa.
Longtime Missouri assistant Andy Hill has been MU's special teams coordinator each of the last two seasons. Hill, a former Mizzou wide receiver, is one of the longest tenured assistant coaches in Mizzou history, serving under three different head coaches since 1996. It's uncertain if he'll return to MU in another capacity under Drinkwitz.
On Tuesday, FootballScoop.com reported that defensive assistants Ryan Walters, Brick Haley and David Gibbs will stay at MU under Drinkwitz, though the team has not confirmed any staff news since Drinkwitz was introduced as head coach Tuesday. Haley was with Drinkwitz in Knoxville, Tenn., earlier on Wednesday visiting with running back recruit Elijah Young.
Under Link's watch, App State is tied for second nationally with five blocked kicks and punts and returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this season. Link's kickoff return unit ranked No. 16 nationally in average return. The Mountaineers' punt coverage unit ranked No. 15 in average yards allowed
"He's not going to have split loyalties or divided duties," Drinkwitz said of his special teams coordinator. "He's going to be in charge of all six units making sure that he lays the foundation for those units and is in charge of the execution of their game plans each week.
"The best players play on special teams. That's my commitment to it. There are no, 'Well, he can't play.' No, every able-bodied player can play on special teams. ... Usually, a big play on special teams will swing the momentum in your favor."
Only one of Mizzou's former assistants under Barry Odom has officially landed a job at another school: Offensive line coach Brad Davis will have the same role on Arkansas' rebuilt staff. He'll make $550,000 at Arkansas, according to multiple reports, up from $510,000 at Missouri this past season.
RECRUIT FLIPS TO ILLINI
Cooper Davis, a three-star defensive end prospect from Florida, changed his verbal commitment from Missouri to Illinois on Wednesday. The 6-5, 245-pound edge rusher from Melbourne, Fla., first committed to Mizzou in June after visiting campus. He grew up in Lee's Summit, Mo., and at the time of his commitment called Mizzou his dream school.
His defection leaves Mizzou with 13 commitments for the 2020 class, though more could have wandering eyes in light of MU's head-coaching change. High school seniors and junior college prospects can first sign national letters of intent next Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA's three-day early signing period.