Spring is a time of renewal and replenishment and that’s very much true for a college football team, too.
Missouri is counting on sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk to emerge as a leader, the new face of a team trying to build of a breakthrough SEC East division title in its second season in the nation’s baddest football conference and a rallying force in the chase for a repeat.
However, more changes are afoot for Mauk, who has something of a gunslinger’s reputation after displaying a flair for improvisation during a four-game audition when James Franklin was out because of a shoulder injury last fall.
Mauk said scrambling was a means of survival against Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. He was the backup. He had logged a backup’s reps for six weeks. He didn’t want his play to derail the Tigers’ magical season.
Now solidified as the starter, though, Mauk wants to command the offense more than stun the defense.
“I want to stay in the pocket more,” Mauk said. “Last year, I didn’t get thrown in because I knew I was going in there when James got hurt, but I wasn’t as ready as I am now.”
It’s been a primary focus for Mauk during the spring and the results have been encouraging.
“Last year, I was probably a little quick on some games to pull the trigger to get out there and go,” Missouri associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “You can see he has confidence that he can make something happen with his feet, but I think you’ve seen — in practices anyway — he’s doing a nice job of staying back in there (the pocket) and trying to find somebody down the field.”
Mauk is 30 of 48 for 317 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in two public spring scrimmages.
“Everything has slowed down so much, so I can go through my reads and I’m not hanging on things,” Mauk said.
Of course, Mauk’s ability to freelance, to break containment and extend plays, certainly will remain part of his game. It also goes hand-in-hand with his off-the-cuff leadership style, which he admitted to borrowing, in part, from former offensive lineman Max Copeland.
“Maty’s a helluva of player,” senior wide receiver Darius White said. “He’s one of those kids you don’t come around too often. Maty’s going to be Maty. Regardless.”
His teammates are just excited to see what Maty Mauk 2.0 can do.
“We saw Maty and what he can do this last year,” Morse said. “We’re confident in what he can do and he’s confident in us, which is fantastic. There’s no step off from his progression last year. He’s taking leaps and bounds every day.”