Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — When you’re coming off consecutive division championships, experience is always a plus. The Missouri football team returns 13 starters on offense and defense, and a handful of positions such as offensive line, secondary and quarterback are particularly experienced.
Still, it never hurts to have new guys.
One of the new additions to Missouri’s depth chart might be the most talked-about Tiger of late: freshman quarterback Drew Lock. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound product of Lee’s Summit High School earned a spot as the Tigers’ backup quarterback with his strong showing in fall camp.
Lock beat out last year’s backup, Eddie Printz, and redshirt freshman Marvin Zanders, who will share third-string duties with Printz.
“Both Marvin and Eddie, I think they improved, they did very, very good, but at the end of the day, (Lock) played better,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “So he deserved that spot, and now he gets to work hard, and I’m pretty sure he’s pretty excited about it.”
Lock threw for 484 yards in three scrimmages, completing 38-of-51 passes for four touchdowns and an interception.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Mauk said. “He knows what’s going on. … He knows the progressions. He’s got a good grasp of the offense already, and now you’ve just got to give him a chance to throw him in the game and see what he can do, and just have him ready to go at all times.”
Pinkel insisted that choosing not to redshirt Lock was unrelated to the performance of Mauk, who completed just 48.9 percent of passes in Southeastern Conference play last season.
“This has nothing to do with Maty,” Pinkel said. “This is all about if something happens to Maty, that’s the first thing you ask yourself: Who do we think is the best player to bring in for our team? … It’s the right thing to do for our football team. That’s what it’s about. Don’t confuse it.”
Pinkel has experience using backup quarterbacks on certain series, even when the starter was healthy. Chase Daniel did it under Brad Smith before he took over as starter, as did James Franklin under Blaine Gabbert. Even Mauk took over from Franklin for two series in the 2014 Cotton Bowl.
“We’ve had some success doing that here,” Pinkel said. “It’s ideal to do that. … It’s been good because it’s something that allows your backup player if he’s a good player to play at that position. A lot of things go into that, in terms of how the game’s going, and do you want to interrupt that in the second half.”
With an Football Championship Subdivision team on the docket for Saturday’s opener (3 p.m. against Southeast Missouri State) there’s a chance Lock might see some snaps early in the year.
Center Evan Boehm, who is also from Lee’s Summit, said he had to calm Lock down before the freshman’s first scrimmage last month. The team captain is impressed with what he’s seen from Lock thus far.
“He’s a player, man, and he knows how to compete,” Boehm said. “It was pretty cool to see, he got a couple snaps in there with the 1s (Sunday) and this week, and it was cool to see him go out there and just control the game like he knows how to. He looked like a little savvy vet out there doing his own thing, even though it was his first real practice leading up to a game.”
Pinkel also commented on Lock’s composure.
“He handled pressure well,” Pinkel said, “although that’s the biggest thing that any young quarterback’s got to deal with, getting rid of the ball, those type things. He’ll get a lot of work with that. … But he’s an extremely accurate thrower. I mean, really accurate. And also, I think he’s got a lot of poise. He’s got a lot of intangibles, and the consistency of how he played, only being here 20 practices. If he had 20 more practices, he’ll keep getting better and better as we go also.”
Lock is one of eight true freshmen listed on Missouri’s depth chart for Saturday.
“Anybody that can help the team, we’re not going to redshirt,” Pinkel said. “So that’s pretty simple. Team’s the No. 1 priority, obviously, at every position. That’s it.”
That includes another blue-chip recruit in defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. of East St. Louis (Ill.). Beckner drew positive reviews from teammates in camp and worked his way into the backup defensive tackle spot.
“I watch some things Terry does, and I just look at him like, ‘How do you… What are you doing?’” linebacker Michael Scherer said. “It’s just he’s that good. I don’t know how he does half the things he does, but he makes it to the ball like every play. He’s very talented. It almost looks like offensive linemen are trying to block a ghost. He’s just not even there. Which is hard for a 315-pound kid to act like a ghost, but he seems to do it.”
Boehm got a chance to see Beckner from the other side of the ball.
“The kid’s going to be a stud, man,” Boehm said. “The kid’s good. The kid’s really good. He’s got quick hands, great feet and he’s going to be a special player for us this year. He’s going to be a special player for for Missouri here in the next couple years.”
Five of the true freshmen listed on the depth chart are on the defensive end. The defensive line, which replaces all four starters, is chock full of first-year contributors. Starting at one of the defensive end spots is junior-college transfer Marcell Frazier.
“He came on really quick,” Scherer said. “He’s a very talented D end. He’s very good at what he does, and he’s smart. Some guys like to be hard-headed and think they know everything, but he’s not that way. Every play, he’ll ask me a question, and I know that I’ve got to answer to him, and that helps him play a little better.”
Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski added: “He wants to be a great football player. He’s going to do what it takes to be a great football player. He hasn’t made a play in a game yet, but so far he’s really had a good camp, been pleasantly surprised. That’s a big area of need for us, obviously, and it’s great that he came in here and was able to get a starting role and maintain it for a couple scrimmages.”
At backup defensive end is freshman Nate Howard out of Ladue Horton Watkins.
“We’ve got a lot of guys down there that have some real big competition, I would say, and Nate has really steadily improved,” Kuligowski said. “The thing that he does best is he plays physical, and he plays with a lot of excitement. So his energy makes plays. And I think that, if he continues to develop this way, he can have a really good year.”
Behind Beckner as the fifth inside lineman is Josh Moore of Olathe North, Kan.
“He’s really a good player, and we liked him for a long time,” Kuligowski said. “I was really excited when he signed with us on signing day. I think that he’s got loads of potential. For a guy as big as he is, his change of direction is pretty effortless.”
Alos in the mix as freshmen on defense are strong-side linebacker Terez Hall and safety Cam Hilton. Scherer got an up-close look at Hall in fall camp.
“The kid’s a psycho,” Scherer said. “He runs around and hits everything. No, he’s going to be very good on some special teams and hopefully we can get him in on defense a little bit, get him some experience.”