James Franklin will be Missouri's starting quarterback against Murray State on Saturday, but if everything goes according to plan, his backup — Maty Mauk — will soon find out what kind of role he will play, as well.
When coach Gary Pinkel picked Franklin to lead this year's team over Mauk last Thursday, he left a carrot in front of the talented redshirt freshman, repeatedly saying he could still earn a few planned series per game, something Pinkel has done with several backups who later blossomed into starters, including Franklin and Chase Daniel.
Pinkel said Monday he would make a final decision about Mauk's role for the opener on Thursday. Mauk, however, said he had been told few details about the potential setup.
"They just said it will be random, so come the first quarter through the fourth, I've got to be focused and ready to go," Mauk said.
Mauk struggled collectively in Missouri's three open scrimmages this preseason, though to be fair, he was primarily pitted against the No. 1 defense and did seem to improve in each scrimmage. In all, he completed 28-of-53 passes (52.8 percent) for 386 yards, three touchdown and three interceptions in the three scrimmages.
"The big thing right now is you don't know what you can do because we're in green," Mauk said, referring the non-contact jersey all quarterbacks wear.
Mauk, a dual-threat quarterback who also has a tendency to flee the pocket, took a healthy number of sacks in the preseason as he attempted to stick with his reads a little longer, but doesn't think that will be a probably come gametime due to his running ability.
"To be honest, I know they wouldn't be sacks" in a game, "so that's just something we're going to find out come Saturday," Mauk said. "We're going to be ready to go."
Sounds like Franklin will, too. When asked if the staff had communicated its plans for Mauk with him, Missouri's amiable and polite starter seemed rather unaffected.
"It's whatever," Franklin said. "I mean, we definitely talk. Maty and I talk all the time. It's not like we're keeping secrets…It doesn't really matter what they tell me. I'm going to go out there and do my best and help the team win."
Chances are he will do just that Saturday against the Racers, who play in Division I-AA, and his backup just wants a chance to play a part in it. It's been nearly two years since Mauk, who redshirted last season, played in an actual game, and he's been chomping at the bit.
"I'm ready to actually get out of the green and be able to (take) some hits again," Mauk said.