Fans dreaming of a yearlong Mauktober in 2014 probably were disappointed.
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk didn’t deliver as impressive of a season as many expected last year.
There was a particularly bad stretch of play to begin the SEC slate — Mauk went 27 of 73 for 249 yards with no touchdowns, five interceptions and a fumble in games against South Carolina, Georgia and Florida — that colored the entire campaign.
Mauk, of course, was a star before he arrived on campus in Columbia after setting a national high school record for passing yards.
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He handled the collegiate limelight well once he got on the field, going 3-1 as a starter his redshirt freshman season when James Franklin went down and keeping a magical season on track.
Expectations as Mauk inherited the starting role a year later were through the roof and, while his statistics weren’t through the roof, the fact remains that he helped lead the Tigers to 11 wins, a second consecutive appearance in the SEC Championship Game and a victory in the Citrus Bowl.
By any objective measure, that’s a darn fine résumé for any Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback in his first full season as the starter.
Perhaps expectations were too high, but it’s reasonable to expect significant improvement from Mauk in his second full season as the starter.
Expectations still have been tempered after Mauk completed only 53.4 percent of his passes last season, going 221 of 414 with 13 interceptions.
But there were encouraging signs, too.
Mauk’s 2,648 yards were the seventh most in program history and his 25 touchdowns were more than any Tigers quarterback not named Chase Daniel.
Russell Hansbrough, who topped 1,000 yards last season, returns, but there is precious little experience beyond that returning at the skill positions and that makes Mauk’s role even more critical.
It’s clear that Mauk gives Missouri its best hope for an SEC East three-peat, so don’t expect any surprises Sept. 5 against Southeast Missouri unless an injury is involved.
The Tigers’ staff would like to see Mauk boost his completion percentage 8-10 points, getting him into the low or mid-60s. He’ll need to continue improving his footwork and develop more trust in the offensive line for that to happen, especially on short to intermediate throws.
Mauk — a native of Kenton, Ohio, who was one of 30 quarterbacks chosen for the Manning Award preseason watch list — has dedicated the 2015 season to his father and former high school coach, Mike Mauk, who is battling cancer.
Eddie Printz has shown enough that he shouldn’t have trouble hanging onto the backup job unless incoming freshman Drew Lock sets the world on fire during camp.
No one can say with certainty that can’t or won’t happen, but fans shouldn’t expect Lock to be an All-American world-beater two months after stepping on campus. Some will, but his time is probably a year or two down the line.
MISSOURI ROSTER: QUARTERBACKS
Returning players: Corbin Berkstresser, Maty Mauk, Eddie Printz, Marvin Zanders
Incoming players: Drew Lock
Projected starter: Mauk
Analysis: It’s clear that Mauk is the man for Missouri. The 6-foot, 195-pound junior only ranked 75th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 120.8 efficiency rating in 2014, but he still helped lead the Tigers to a second straight SEC East title despite playing the last half of the season with a separated shoulder.
Mauk is 14-4 as a starter at MU, including a 3-1 record in 2013 when he stepped in for four games in place of injured starter James Franklin. Printz is fairly well locked into the backup role, while redshirt freshman Marvin Zanders and fifth-year senior Corbin Berkstresser provide additional depth.
The only intrigue at camp, unless Printz makes an unbelievable push, will be monitoring the development of true freshman Drew Lock, a Lee’s Summit graduate and the reigning Simone Award winner as Kansas City’s top high school football player. If he’s able to push Mauk, Lock might make the depth chart. Otherwise, he probably takes a redshirt season.