Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s departure from Missouri to Central Florida, where he will become the Knights’ new coach, has presented the Tigers with a new set of questions. It has also put more attention on some ones that have existed for weeks.
Here’s a look at how Heupel’s move could affect Mizzou’s ability to recruit a quarterback, keep its current one and hold its coaching staff together.
Lock’s future with Missouri was already cloudy before Tuesday’s news. A decision wasn’t expected from Lock, the Tigers’ junior quarterback from Lee’s Summit, until after Mizzou’s bowl game against Texas on Dec. 27. Heupel leaving could give Lock another reason to enter the NFL Draft. Missouri coach Barry Odom would likely want Lock to meet with whoever replaces Heupel as offensive coordinator. Should Lock stay for his senior season, he’d be playing for his third offensive coordinator in four seasons and potentially learning a new offense.
“Frankly, this doesn’t really affect Drew’s decision much at all,” the quarterback’s father, Andy Lock, told The Star. “I feel like Drew is going to be successful whatever route he takes and whoever he plays for.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently reported on Twitter that he’s hearing Lock is the first-round pick that no one is talking about yet, which would indicate he has more momentum than was previously thought with NFL scouts. Lock’s stock could be affected by the offense the new coordinator runs.
The Lock family intends to receive a grade from the NFL Draft advisory board before making a decision. The board, which is traditionally conservative, gives players a first- or second-round grade, or it tells them to go back to school.
“We’ve heard a lot of things from a lot of people,” Andy Lock said. “Until you get that grade, you can hear what you want.”
Missouri had Alabama quarterback James Foster committed to the Tigers for most of the year, but he decided to back away from his pledge after the Tigers’ 1-5 start. Foster recently listed the Tigers in his top five on Twitter, but after Heupel’s departure it’s tough to see him giving Missouri a second look. When Foster was committed to Missouri, he seemed tied to Heupel.
California quarterback Adrian Martinez will visit Mizzou next weekend. He is currently committed to Tennessee, which is still searching for its coach after firing Butch Jones. Martinez visits Nebraska this weekend, and it’s tough to gauge Missouri’s chances with him after Heupel’s departure. If Odom hires someone from outside the program to be his next offensive coordinator, that coach could bring along a player he was recruiting at his previous program.
If Missouri is unable to lure a high school quarterback, the Tigers could find someone on the transfer market. Washington quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, the younger brother of Missouri recruiting coordinator Austyn Carta-Samuels, recently got his release from the Huskies as a graduate transfer, and Missouri seems like a possible destination.
Odom already had an opening for a defensive coordinator after he fired DeMontie Cross earlier this season, and now he has to address another huge position on his coaching staff. There’s a chance that he tries to make tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley or offensive line coach Glen Elarbee his new offensive coordinator, but Heupel might also try and bring either coach with him to Orlando.
Finley played under Heupel as a player at Oklahoma and coached with him as a graduate assistant with the Sooners before coming to Missouri, which makes him a name to watch. Heupel already hired former Miami Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon to be his defensive coordinator at Central Florida and said during his introductory news conference he plans to make more hires in the coming days.
Odom has been in talks with Missouri since last week about a contract extension. With Heupel’s departure, the assistant coaches salary pool could be a topic of discussion in the extension talks because Odom would want to give his staff a raise to help keep them from going elsewhere.
According to his contract with MU, Heupel doesn’t owe the school a buyout for terminating his contract early because he didn’t take a coaching job within the Southeastern Conference. The contract ran until Feb. 28, 2019.
The Star’s Aaron Reiss contributed to this report