Trust can be a fragile thing.
And it might be an issue at the moment for the Missouri offense.
Quarterback Maty Mauk insists that he still has unyielding faith in the Tigers’ offensive line.
“I trust them all 100 percent,” Mauk said. “Those guys are my brothers and I’m going to fight for them just like they’re going to fight for me.”
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Still, actions speak louder than words and Mauk seems to be bailing from the pocket early and often in recent games.
He’s come by some of that honestly. There have been several times when Missouri’s line allowed pressure in his face virtually unblocked, but it’s also a two-way street.
“There’s been times when (the protection) is fine and he’s not hanging in there and there’s been times when, man, we’re letting guys go free so fast right in his face that I’d be skittish if I was the quarterback too,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “It’s both of those things together. It’s not one thing or the other.”
Scrambling is a big part of Mauk’s game, so the Tigers’ staff doesn’t want to shackle him and demand that he stay in the pocket at all times.
“Guys like that, you don’t want to say, ‘Stay here; don’t move,’” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “You don’t want to do that, because it takes away his creativity, so there’s a really fine line there. If you let people go up front, all the sudden he doesn’t have the confidence to stay in there as much as he should.”
Mauk worked hard in the spring and summer on improving his accuracy from the pocket and developing more of a presence between the tackles, but freelancing remains a default setting for him.
“I need to stay in there,” Mauk said. “The main thing is staying there and, yeah, you’re going to take hits, but just get the ball off and be prepared for those hits. That’s what I’m going to have to start doing a little more of.”
While Mauk refused to acknowledge any lack of trust, first-year offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said he wouldn’t blame him if trust issues had arisen in recent weeks.
“Knowing Maty, he’ll probably say no, but, me being the O-line coach, I would think so,” Ricker said. “We gave up a lot of pressure on him early in the game. I’ve never played quarterback, but obviously, if I played, it would be hard when I’ve got guys coming up, especially inside, free. I’d be thinking about. That’s what I challenged our guys: We’ve got to get that trust back, where Maty can step up and deliver the ball and do those things.”
Missouri’s receivers also need to do a better job in some instances of getting open, giving Mauk targets when he is in the pocket.
“We’ve got to protect him better, he’s got to hang in there, we’ve got to get open — it’s all those things working in combination together,” Henson said.