By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State University has officially announced the hiring of Eliah (Eli) Drinkwitz as its new head football coach.
The 35-year-old Drinkwitz has been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for record-setting NC State teams the past three seasons, as he joined the Wolfpack after excelling in a similar role at Group of Five conference power Boise State.
His five-year contract, which runs through the 2023 season, was approved Thursday morning by Chancellor Sheri Everts and the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees and is subject to North Carolina Board of Governors approval.
Drinkwitz will take over the program from Scott Satterfield, who was hired by Louisville after six seasons at Appalachian State.
Drinkwitz will be introduced as the 21st head football coach in Appalachian State history on Monday in the Mark E. Ricks Athletics Complex in Boone. The Mountaineers play Middle Tennessee on Saturday night in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
“I’m excited to welcome Eliah and his family to App Nation,” Appalachian State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said. “The App State football program is in great position to continue its championship ways. Eliah is committed to excellence academically, competitively, socially and to the well-being of our student-athletes. There was significant interest in our process throughout a national search. Eliah has great character and a clear vision for the future of Mountaineer football. I’m excited about the future of our football program.”
In Drinkwitz, Appalachian State is hiring one of the most highly-regarded young coaches in the college ranks and he will be taking over a program that has won or shared three consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships and has won three straight bowl games.
Drinkwitz will inherit the third-youngest team in the nation that’s loaded with talent. In fact, the Mountaineers will lose only four full-time starters heading into the 2019 season and will be heavy favorites to claim a fourth straight league title. They also could be ranked in the pre-season Top 25. Appalachian State’s leading passer (Zac Thomas, 1,862 yards and 18 touchdowns), leading rusher (Darrynton Evans, 1,709 yards and seven touchdowns) and leading receiver (Corey Sutton, 695 yards and eight touchdowns) are all just sophomores this year. Additionally, the Mountaineers will return the leading tackle from this season, linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (95 tackles heading into Saturday’s bowl game) and standout defensive backs Clifton Duck and Desmond Franklin. All three are juniors. Duck is tied for No. 1 nationally with 12 interceptions during the last three years.
Drinkwitz has succeeded while running an offense similar to what Appalachian State has used in its recent championship run.
“My family and I are excited to embrace and build upon the proud tradition of Appalachian State Football,” Drinkwitz said. “I am thankful to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Everts, Doug Gillin and the entire App Nation for the opportunity to be the head coach at this great university. This is a special time for App Nation, and we will work tirelessly to uphold the championship tradition.”
Drinkwitz graduated magna cum laude and served as the student body president at Arkansas Tech before beginning his coaching career in 2005 as a high school assistant at Alma, AR. He then coached the next four years (2006-2009) at Springdale, AR High, before entering the college ranks. He was a quality control assistant at Auburn in 2010 and 2011, and the Tigers won the 2010 national championship the first year he was on its staff behind quarterback Cam Newton, who is currently with the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL).
Drinkwitz was a key figure in back-to-back Sun Belt championships in 2012-13 as a running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, and he coached tight ends at Boise State in 2014 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach there in 2015.
He helped Boise State go 12-2 in 2014 en route to a Mountain West Championship and a No. 16 final national ranking. As quarterbacks coach the next year, Drinkwitz helped the Bronco offense rank in the top 15 nationally in points per game (39.1) and yards per game (501.3), setting the stage for him to become NC State’s offensive coordinator.
Following a 9-4 season in 2017 with a 9-3 mark going into this year’s bowl game, NC State has posted back-to-back seasons of nine wins for the first time since 1991-92. Averaging 35.6 points per game this year, the Wolfpack has a 1,000-yard rusher for the third straight year, two 1,000-yard receivers and a quarterback with nearly 3,800 passing yards.
Under Drinkwitz’s direction, the Wolfpack offense rose from 63rd nationally in total offense in his first season to 25th in 2017 and 16th this season.
Appalachian State has increased its total to seven straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, and NC State has had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of Drinkwitz’s three seasons after going without one since 2002. The Wolfpack’s offense had three players taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.
A Norman, Oklahoma native, Drinkwitz and his wife, Lindsey, have three daughters: Addison, Emerson and Ella.
Drinkwitz’s Coaching Career:
2005 – Alma (Ark.) HS – Assistant Coach
2006-09 – Springdale (Ark.) HS – Offensive Coordinator
2010-11 – Auburn – Quality Control Assistant
2012 – Arkansas State – Running Backs
2013 – Arkansas State – Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs
2014 – Boise State – Tight Ends
2015 – Boise State – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2016-18 – NC State – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Drinkwitz’s Impact as OC (national ranks in parentheses):
Boise State (2015) – Total Offense (15), Scoring Offense (15)
NC State (2016) – Total Offense (63), Scoring Offense (75)
NC State (2017) – Total Offense (25), Scoring Offense (40)
NC State (2018) – Total Offense (16), Scoring Offense (22)
What They’re Saying about Drinkwitz:
Auburn head coach
“Appalachian State is not only getting a great coach, but an even better person. Eliah has a true gift to get the most out of his players on and off the field and will lead his team with great character and integrity. I’m very proud of him and excited to see the great things to come for Appalachian State Football.”
Former head coach, Iowa State and Auburn
2010 National Champion
“Eliah is a rising star in this profession. He is a great football coach, a great family man and will be a great mentor and role model for young people. He is a great offensive mind, very creative, innovative, detailed and thorough in his approach. He uses his personnel as effectively as anybody in the country. Appalachian State just hired a great leader of men!”
South Carolina head coach
“Eliah is an outstanding person and football coach. He creates major issues for you as a play caller. He has done a great job at NC State. Appalachian State is getting a great one.”
Wake Forest head coach
“Eliah Drinkwitz is one of the coordinators that I had the most respect for in the ACC. He has a proven ability to develop QB’s, and I always felt his game plans were creative and innovative. I believe Appalachian State University has made a great hire to lead its football program.”
Missouri head coach
“I’ve gotten to know Eliah over the past few years and am so impressed by his vision, work ethic and ability to relate to all. His abilities show through in the ways his team plays. He sees the big picture and will put his kids in a position to be successful in every area of their lives.”