When Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock committed to Missouri last April, he instantly became the face of the program’s future.
That status was cemented when Lock, a 6-foot-4 gunslinger who completed nearly 63 percent of his passes and threw for 5,779 yards with 63 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions the last two seasons, drew raves for his performance in July at the Nike Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.
The question now is how soon that future will arrive.
“I get asked that a lot,” Lock said.
Even during a visit to a local middle school a day before national signing day, Lock was bombarded with questions from fellow teenagers about when he expects to start for Missouri.
It’s become an inescapable question for Lock, who signed a national letter of intent Wednesday with MU.
“Drew will decide that when he gets here, and that’s what we do with all of our players,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “The best player’s going to play, so it’s going to be a competition. Every guy at that position knows that, and every guy at every other position knows that. Whoever’s playing the best are going to be the guys that get on the field and play. That’s the integrity of your program.”
Lock won’t get to campus until June after he chose to play his final season of high school basketball rather than enroll for the spring semester in Columbia.
For most players, that decision, which means Lock won’t participate in spring football, would signal a looming redshirt season is all but assured.
Lock isn’t willing to concede anything.
“The person I’ve been all my life, I’m going to come in and try to compete,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to settle and have the mindset going in that I’m going to be a guaranteed redshirt. That’s just not the person that I am. I’m going to go in there and fight for what I’ve been working for my whole life from day one.”
Count Missouri coach Gary Pinkel among those who appreciates that attitude and, quite frankly, expects his recruits to have it.
“He’s going to come in and compete,” Pinkel said. “I want everybody, even him, to come in and do whatever he can. That’s what we want him to do. That’s what everybody does.”
Lock acknowledged that he’ll be a bit behind the curve without the study time and reps he’d get during the spring had he enrolled early.
But Lock also ran a similar spread offense at Lee’s Summit and has a reputation as an unflappable competitor.
“Just because I am going in there, and I’ll be 18 years old with a little less knowledge of their playbook and won’t have digested as much of that, doesn’t mean much to me,” Lock said. “I’m going to go in there and try to get things done.”
Missouri believes it have a gem in Lock, who possesses great intangibles and measurables for the quarterback position.
“He’s a very confident guy, but he’s very humble about it, and he’s a good team player,” said associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill, who spearheaded Lock’s recruitment. “It’s really special. He’s got good size. He’s got good athletic ability, but his decision-making, his accuracy and things are pretty special.”
Lock’s ability to read defenses and understand route combinations also is advanced for an incoming freshman.
“When you watch him play, he’s one of those guys from a quarterback standpoint that you … have that sense that he has a great feel for where everybody’s at on the field,” Henson said. “It’s almost like he can picture the routes in his mind, and he’s looking over here, but he knows that guy’s open and he turns and finds him really quick.”
Missouri returns its starting quarterback, Maty Mauk, a junior who is 14-4 as a starter during the last two seasons.
Despite some midseason struggles, Mauk finished with 2,648 yards passing, the seventh-most in MU history, and 25 touchdowns against 13 interceptions last season.
Only Chiefs backup Chase Daniel has ever thrown more touchdowns in a season than Mauk at MU.
Unseating Mauk won’t be easy, but Lock isn’t trying to ruffle feathers. He just wants an opportunity to compete and is confident he’ll get that.
“I’m trusting the coaching and coach Pinkel and coach Hill with my next four, maybe five years, depending on what happens,” Lock said. “I trust them to make the best decision for me, whether that means playing me first year, second year, third year or waiting all the way to my fifth year.”