Campus Corner

Ask Tod: Drew Lock, crazy numbers, interceptions and progress

Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock
Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock along@kcstar.com

Quarterback Drew Lock leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks fourth in the nation in passing yards with 1,106 through the season’s first three games.

“I had someone mention that to me today, but I did not realize it,” Lock said.

Well, then he probably also doesn’t know he’s tied for 13th nationally in passing touchdowns with nine, tied for 27th at 8.8 yards per attempt and ranks 39th with a 148.11 efficiency rating.

Lock’s only been sacked one time 127 dropbacks, didn’t throw an interception in his first 119 passing attempts this season and no longer looks shell-shocked.

His completion percentage remains lower than you’d like at 55.6 percent, but it’s still dragged down by the 23-of-51 performance in the season-opener at West Virginia.

The last two games, Lock’s completed 62.7 percent of his passes.

“It’s unreal seeing the transition,” sophomore safety Cam Hilton said. “Coach (Josh) Heupel has done a great job helping him understand being a true quarterback. Drew got lucky that Heupel came in here, because he’s just a great role model. He’s been through it all, so Drew has a guy he can look to and lead him in that same direction.”

Heupel is a former Associated Press national player of the year, Heisman Trophy runner-up and national championship-winning quarterback at Oklahoma.

He’s also got the offense playing at a higher level than at any point last season.

“I can’t lie,” senior defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. “I don’t feel that much stress on my shoulders now, knowing that I can trust the offense to drive the ball. Even if they get a field goal, that’s good with me — just drive the ball and get us a little rest.”

Lock hasn’t been perfect. He threw three interceptions in a span of six pass attempts Saturday during a 28-27 loss against Georgia.

“A couple decisions, man,” Heupel said of the flurry of picks. “It’s not rocket science. It’s eyes being in the right place and understanding leverage and making the right decision with the ball. … I think he knew (the mistakes he’d made) by the time he was off the field.”

Heupel said Lock wasn’t looking where he was supposed to on one interception, predetermined where he’d throw on another and brought the safety into the zone on the third with his eyes.

Regardless, it’s abundantly clear that he’s taken his game to a new level and the success appears to be sustainable.

Teams will catch on to Mizzou’s scheme the more tape becomes available. There still will be rocky moments and bad throws and interceptions, but I’d guess that will be far outweighed by the big plays and long touchdowns and general excitement Lock and the offense generate.

Yes, I do.

Man, I’m baffled by this question. Are you suggesting Mizzou pull Lock? Have you been paying attention? Let’s assume you’re talking about the fourth-quarter drive when the Tigers ran on 14 straight plays. Two things: First, I’m not sure the Tigers expected to run 14 straight plays as the drive started and Lock had been playing really well in the game. Second, the threat of the pass, especially with the way Lock had chewed up and spit out a veteran Bulldogs secondary in the first half, probably contributed to the success of the run.

They’re on Lock, and he’d tell you the same thing. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel would, too.

Guys, I don’t what to tell you about Nate Strong. He wasn’t talked about a lot in fall camp by the coaching staff and wasn’t used last week despite senior running back Alex Ross’ injury. That should tell you everything you need to know.

I’d expect to see Strong get some work against Delaware State, since the game should be fairly one-sided and Barry Odom ought to be able to empty the bench at his leisure. Will he impress enough? Is it even possible to impress enough against the Hornets to merit more carries? The Tigers’ staff stresses the important of practice, which we don’t get to see.

Right now, it’s unclear if he’s having trouble picking up the offense, generally struggling in practice or whether he simply was overrated as a four-star prospect coming out of high school. I wouldn’t expect to see a significant increase in his workload, however, barring injuries.

Mizzou’s staff loves Ish Witter.

He can do what we’re doing,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said Tuesday of Witter. “He’s a versatile back. He understands protections and has got good hands. He consistently moves north in the running game. (We) would like him to press things a little bit more than he has, just press the line of scrimmage, but we’ve got to be better all-around. Obviously, he’s got the bulk of the carries.”

Ross should be healthy enough to play against Delaware State, not that he’ll necessarily be needed. But the cold reality is that players in college football transfer for a reason. This just may be what the Tigers’ running backs are — unspectacular.

Freshman Damarea Crockett probably has the highest upside. He’s got a combination of size, speed and youth that makes him the brightest ray of hope for the future. At the same time, he fumbled against West Virginia and put the ball on the ground again in the Georgia game on a kickoff return. Ultimately, the play was ruled not to be a fumble, so J’Mon Moore took the heat one play later when he did cough up the football, effectively ending the game. Until Ross gets healthy, Crockett hangs onto the ball or Strong steps up, expect more from Witter, who hasn’t demonstrated any of those problems this season.

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