Missouri hasn’t ushered in the Drew Lock era yet, but it’s only one injury away.
Lock, a true freshman from Lee’s Summit and the reigning Simone Award winner, enters the 2015 season second behind junior Maty Mauk in the Tigers’ pecking order at quarterback.
“Both (redshirt freshman) Marvin (Zanders) and (sophomore) Eddie (Printz), I think that they improved,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “They did very good, but at the end of the day (Lock) played better. He deserved that spot. … I’m pretty sure he’s pretty excited about it.”
Pinkel wouldn’t go into specifics, but he acknowledged that he has a history of giving precocious backup quarterbacks pre-planned reps during backup seasons behind a veteran starter.
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The Tigers did it with Chase Daniel when Brad Smith was the starter, with Blaine Gabbert during Daniel’s senior season and with James Franklin before Gabbert left for the NFL.
Mauk even got similar treatment, though it was scaled back a bit, before he was thrust into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2013 when Franklin suffered a separated throwing shoulder.
That means Lock could be in for significant playing time behind Mauk as the season unfolds.
“I’ve done that often ...,” Pinkel said. “First of all, a player has to earn that with how he practices. If he practices a high level, then what you like to do is get in some playing time. That’s going to be up to him and how hard is working. He’s working very hard, but time will tell that.”
Printz, who will serve as MU’s holder on field goals, and Zanders are both designated as the No. 3 quarterback, joined by an “or” on the depth chart.
Lock is one of eight true freshmen to make the depth chart for Missouri, which has only played 15 true freshmen in the last five seasons combined.
“Anybody that can help the team, we are not going to redshirt,” Pinkel said. “Team is the No. 1 priority obviously at every position.”
Wide receiver Emanuel Hall, who is J’Mon Moore’s backup at the X receiver, also made it for the offense, while punter Corey Fatony won the starting job over junior-college transfer Dayton Balvanz.
Defensively, tackles Terry Beckner Jr. and Josh Moore, an Olathe North graduate, made the depth chart behind junior Josh Augusta along with end Nate Howard, linebacker Terez Hall and safety Cam Hilton.
Beckner was considered the prize recruit of the Tigers’ most recent class along with Lock.
“He’s very talented,” junior middle linebacker Michael Scherer said of Beckner. “It’s almost looks like the offensive linemen are trying to block a ghost and he’s not even there, which is hard for a 315-pound kid to act like a ghost, but he seems to do it. I think he’s going to make a lot of plays for us this year. He’s going to be really good.”
Howard is listed second behind sophomore Charles Harris.
“Nate can fly off the edge,” Scherer said. “He can get in the backfield and wreak a lot of havoc back there. He’s got long arms and is going to knock down a lot of balls.”
Terez Hall is third at strong-side linebacker behind junior Donavin Newsom and senior Clarence Green.
“The kid’s a psycho,” Scherer said. “He runs around and hits everything. He’s going to be very good on some special teams, and hopefully we can get him in on defense a little bit and get him some experience. He’s going to be a really good player.”
Hilton is third at strong safety behind sophomore Anthony Sherrils and Thomas Wilson.
“Those guys are guys we think are playing in a very high level ...,” Pinkel said. “You look at the depth, you look at the guy’s ability to learn, are they physically ready to play, are they mature enough to play in front of 70,000 people on national TV — there's a lot of components you look at.”
Two of the Tigers’ three junior-college transfers from February — sophomore starting defensive end Marcell Frazier and backup right tackle Malik Cuellar — also made the initial depth chart of the season.