COLUMBIA — Maty Mauk stood in front of the cameras and microphones and tried hard to hide his frustration and disappointment.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Mauk had just struggled with his accuracy and reads in Missouri’s spring game. He completed only six of 17 passes for 72 yards, threw two interceptions and took several sacks.
As a redshirt freshman, Mauk wasn’t going to beat out an incumbent senior for the starting job playing that way. So in front of those cameras and recorders in April, Mauk vowed to report to preseason camp as a completely different player.
“Oh, I felt really good about myself, right up until the spring game,” he said recently. “I don’t know what it was … I just came out and wasn’t ready. I went through things too quick, got off reads and didn’t play to my ability at all.”
Today, several signs still point to senior James Franklin being chosen as Missouri’s starting quarterback. Coach Gary Pinkel took Franklin to represent the team during Southeastern Conference Media Days, and the team voted him as a captain on the first day of practice Thursday.
Pinkel would later insist, rather adamantly, that none of that matters, that the three-man competition for the starting job among Franklin, Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser is still on.
Mauk, who surpassed Berkstresser for the No. 2 job during the spring despite his rough outing, believes this to be the case.
“A couple of other people have mentioned James as a captain, but he should be the captain,” Mauk said. “He’s a role model, he’s what people should look up to. He always does what’s right on and off the field. He’s good at mentoring people and helping people do what they need to do. But I think it’s still open.”
Mauk should hope so. Otherwise, why did he put in all that hard work in over the summer?
“I saw the kid in here all summer long,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “Whenever I came in the office, he was in here watching film, studying and learning plays and looking at reads and different defenses. So I think the kid really committed himself to the mental part of the game.”
In particular, Henson noticed early in camp that Mauk, a dual-threat quarterback who likest to scramble, has done a better of keeping his eyes in the right places on passing plays.
“There were times (in the spring) you’d see his eyes go in a direction you weren’t thinking he would want them to be going,” quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “He’s been a lot more consistent at that, so that’s where he’s improved. It’s encouraging.”
Hill also said Mauk has matured since his true freshman year, when Mauk lost focus after he was told he would be redshirted. Mauk said it was the first time had been forced to sit and watch as a player since the third grade.
“It was hard at first,” Mauk said, “but then I look back at it and think about how much I learned from just watching and learning from James and Corbin and the coaches just helping me out. It’s completely different right now.”
Indeed. Mauk said Franklin gets about 60-70 percent of the reps with the first team, while he gets the majority of the rest with Berkstresser getting a handful. That tells Mauk the coaches are giving him a chance to win the job.
Mauk can take a big step toward doing so at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, when Missouri holds the first of three preseason scrimmages before its regular-season opener against Murray State on Aug. 31.
“I say practices are like quizzes,” Hill said, “and scrimmages are like tests.”
With memories of his last test still fresh in his mind, Mauk can’t wait to get another crack at the course.
“Especially with how we ended in the spring,” Mauk said. “I know that I worked on a lot of things and got my game to where it should be. I can’t wait to finally be in full pads again and get out there and show what I can do on the field.”