Missouri’s backup quarterback battle remains too close to call

08/07/2014 4:05 PM

08/07/2014 4:10 PM

Sophomore Maty Mauk laid to rest any thoughts about a quarterback controversy during spring football.

Mauk had the edge entering the spring after leading Missouri to a 3-1 record when James Franklin injured a shoulder last season, but he left no doubt with a dominant spring performance.

Mauk easily was the Tigers’ best quarterback and grew into a leadership position as well, but the race to be his backup isn’t nearly as clear-cut.

Junior Corbin Berkstresser, a Lee’s Summit graduate, and redshirt freshman Eddie Printz are locked in a battle to be Missouri’s No. 2 quarterback.

“I’d say it’s been pretty even, truthfully,” associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said Thursday after the Tigers’ morning practice. “I’ve been impressed with both guys.”

Berkstresser has a slight edge in experience after playing 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, including four starts.

He went 2-2 as a starter, but Berkstresser also completed fewer than half of his passes and finished with only five touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Printz has never played in a college game, but he was roughly on par with Berkstresser in the spring.

It’s a razor-thin position battle made even tighter by the quarterbacks’ similar playing styles.

“They’re pretty similar,” Hill said. “They’re both not super-fast guys, but they’re very mobile in the pocket. They can take care of it in the pocket and get away from people, but we’re counting on them to win with their arms and their decision-making. In that respect, they’re very similar. We’re not going to be out there running a lot of read-option if those two guys are in the game, so they’re different than Maty in that respect.”

Real evaluations start

Missouri’s coaching staff seemed pleased with the first four days of training camp, but the real evaluations begin Friday as the Tigers begin full-padded practice for the first time.

By NCAA rule, the first two days of practice are without pads and the next two days feature only shoulder pads.

Safety coach Alex Grinch smiled when asked if he was looking forward to full pads.

“I am,” he said. “Now, you’re playing the game. In the end, that’s a major component of it, especially in this conference at this level — can you hold up physically?”

Wide receivers coach Pat Washington said it will provide the first true opportunity to see which, if any, of the freshmen wide receivers — DeSean Blair, Nate Brown, Keyon Dilosa, Lawrence Lee and Thomas Richard — can contribute immediately.

“At this point, I want to wait until we get full pads,” Washington said. “Anyone can run out there and catch a ball, knowing that they’re not going to get tackled. I want to see what’s going to happen when the thunder is coming and the lightning is flying across. … When we go full pads and people are tackling, not tagging off, then I’ll see who’s going to be able to help us.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @todpalmer.

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