Mizzou football announces four new staff members ahead of spring practice

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz looks on from the sideline during a game against LSU last season at Faurot Field.

Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz announced four additions to his staff Tuesday.

Drinkwitz hired Aaron Fletcher, Tulsa's defensive backs coach for the past six seasons, to his full-time defensive coaching staff. 

Fletcher has strong ties to Texas, having played college football and coached at multiple levels in the state. He's expected to help Missouri's recruiting efforts in the Lone Star State, just as his predecessor did.

David Gibbs departed the Tigers' staff last week to become the co-defensive coordinator at Central Florida. Gibbs was the last remaining holdover from Barry Odom's 2019 staff in Columbia. 

While Fletcher's coaching assignments won't be finalized until he's situated in Columbia, Drinkwitz announced new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will coach the cornerbacks.

Fletcher's arrival to Missouri is expected before the start of spring practice Friday. 

"He's got extensive connections in the (Dallas-Fort Worth) area, which is a primary recruiting ground for us, and we're excited to bring him and his wife and their three children to our campus," Drinkwitz said of Fletcher. "And he'll be joining us by the end of this week, ready in time for spring ball. Nothing like a quick hire and getting ready to coach some football."

Missouri wide receiver L'Damian Washington (2) celebrates a 41-31 victory against Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3, 2014, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Drinkwitz also formally introduced Missouri football alum L'Damian Washington to his staff as director of player development. His hiring was first announced in January.

The role will allow Washington "to work with Mizzou players to develop and cultivate their life skills as they chase two dreams, football and a career beyond football, at Mizzou," per the MU athletics website. 

Washington played for Missouri from 2010-13 and was a captain on the 2013 squad that reached the Southeastern Conference championship game. 

After graduating from MU, Washington spent time with several NFL teams and announced his retirement from professional football last year after one season with the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks. 

"Just been impressed with the relationships that he's been able to forge with our players," Drinkwitz said of Washington. "Just a great man of character that can really benefit our players on a day-to-day basis and he's doing a great job with character development, real-world experiences."

Also announced on Tuesday were the additions of Ryan Russell and Brett Whiteside, who have been named to newly created positions on the football staff.

Russell, who served as Auburn’s director of strength and conditioning for football under former head coach Gus Malzahn, will serve as Missouri's director of performance. 

In Russell's new position, he will "provide leadership and administrative oversight of all areas with the football program that directly impact the Tigers’ development on the field, including the areas of nutrition, strength and conditioning, equipment and athletic medicine," the program announced.

Whiteside, who was Malzahn’s director of football operations from 2013 until his dismissal in December, will be the Tigers’ chief recruiting officer.

Whiteside will provide leadership and oversight of Missouri's recruiting operations while serving as the program’s liaison to several athletics and university areas. 

“Ryan Russell and Brett Whiteside are two of the most respected individuals within their respective areas in all of college football, and I am thrilled that they are joining our staff,” Drinkwitz said in a statement. “Having worked in the SEC for nearly two decades, they know what it takes to compete and win at the highest level in this conference, and they will make an immediate impact in every area of our program.”

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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