Missouri sophomore quarterback Drew Lock is on track to complete 233 of 432 passes for 3,323 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.
Given the offense’s struggles in SEC play, and with only conference games remaining on the docket, it might be a stretch to think Lock actually finishes with those numbers.
Still, among Tigers QBs, Lock is on pace for the most completions since James Franklin’s sophomore season in 2011, the most attempts since Blaine Gabbert’s junior season in 2010, the most passing yards since Gabbert was a sophomore in 2009 and the most passing touchdowns since Chase Daniel’s senior season in 2008.
Those are encouraging numbers and comparisons, especially considering that Lock was 129 of 263 for 1,332 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions last season in eight starts.
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But only one stat matters to Lock — Mizzou’s dismal 2-6 record.
“It’s obviously a whole different ball game (this season), but … we’ve come to realize that it only really matters whether you’re going to win the football game or not, because people can look back at who you are as a quarterback or who you are as a wide receiver and they’re not going to remember you for 3,000 yards in a season,” Lock said. “You could go throw for 1,000 yards and go undefeated and they’re going to remember you went undefeated, not that you threw for 1,000 yards.”
SIZING UP DREW LOCK
While it’s been a frustrating season, there are glimmers of hope between Lock’s performance overall and the “Bone” package — the Tigers’ jumbo backfield set.
With senior defensive tackle Josh Augusta in the backfield, Mizzou has been stellar. It has netted three touchdowns and six other first downs in nine attempts.
Augusta has only 13 yards in eight carries, but two were short touchdowns and freshman running back Damarea Crockett scored on another play with Augusta serving as lead blocker.
“Every time they call the play they named for him to go in, I stand up on the side and grab my helmet,” senior defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. “I’m just looking at him. ... I love seeing him run out there and make plays for us.”
Apparently, Augusta — who has 14 tackles, including three for a loss, with a sack at his natural position — loves it too.
“That’s my roommate,” Hatley said. “That’s all he brags about, ‘I can’t wait to get on the field and get us a first down or a touchdown.’ He jumps over the pile like he’s got a big vertical leap. I just love to see him out there.”
OK, let’s ease into your questions by switching gears to discuss the upcoming basketball season:
Junior swingman Jordan Barnett and, since technically he joined the team last season, freshman shooting guard Frankie Hughes. Barnett is a physical specimen and, based on the Black & Gold Game’s dunk contest, easily the best athlete on Missouri’s roster. He’s big and explosive plus he possesses range beyond the arc. Barnett won’t be eligible until Dec. 17 against Eastern Illinois — the game after Arizona comes to Mizzou Arena and before a trip to St. Louis to battle Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights Game. He could be a game-changer for the Tigers and perhaps will prove to be the most talented player in Kim Anderson’s first three seasons.
Meanwhile, Hughes is a scorer. He’s got a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality, but it’s in a good way. Unlike a few other players Mizzou’s had recently with the same voluminous trigger, Hughes might be able to score enough to justify not being shy in hunting his shot. It may not happen immediately, but I suspect Hughes has the kind of swagger and shot-making ability the Tigers have sorely lacked since Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson roamed Mizzou Arena. Don’t sleep on Hughes’ former Garfield Heights teammate and fellow Cleveland native Willie Jackson either. He’s got a chance to be a special player too, especially with his knack for rebounding and ferocious mentality going toward the rim.
Yes and no. Mizzou fans should get a good read on how college-ready the incoming freshmen, like Hughes and Jackson, are. Is freshman forward Mitchell Smith strong enough to be a factor on the boards or polished enough to be a stretch four with a reliable mid-range jumper? Will freshman center Reed Nikko, who’s coming off surgery on both hips last spring, provide a level of rim protection the Tigers have lacked in recent seasons?
The early-season slate ought to provide a good gauge on the growth of the sophomore class, too. You’d like to see point guard Terrence Phillips score a little more, especially going to rim, and take impeccable care of the basketball. How much more of a force will forward Kevin Puryear be on the boards? Is slashing guard K.J. Walton ready to cash in his potential? Has sharpshooter Cullen VanLeer turned a corner and become a reliable marksman?
That said, Barnett’s presence will shake up the rotation and could affect chemistry. He’s bound to soak up a lot of minutes. That is a potential landmine for Anderson to manage, but it also means the Tigers have a chance to improve massively at midseason if the Texas transfer is the best player on the roster. If Mizzou is 6-3 or better and starting to hit its stride, perhaps Barnett can turn them into a mid-tier SEC team. That’s certainly the hope for Tigers fans.
Coach Bryan Blitz’s squad was ranked No. 41 in the latest RPI and got bounced in the SEC tourney quarterfinals. Had Mizzou knocked off Florida and advanced — technically the Tigers and Gators drew 3-3 — it would have been a nice late-season boost for the resume and probably a shot in the arm for the ol’ strength of schedule. MU’s squarely on the bubble, which cuts off most years in the 40-45 range.
Upsets among automatic qualifiers could affect the Tigers’ chances, but I’ll say Blitz’s crew squeaks in assuming the RPI doesn’t tumble too far. Four of MU’s six losses were 1-0 decisions against ranked teams. The loss at Tennessee was on the road with several key players suspended. The Tigers also drew against the Gators and at Texas A&M. If Mizzou doesn’t make it, blame the fact it only has one win against the top 75 in the RPI (No. 29 Colorado) and lost at home against an Iowa team that checks in 128th early in the season.
I assume you’re referring to the struggles of the football and basketball teams the last few seasons. All I can say isn’t fair; get a helmet. Missouri had a good run in football and can return to the summit within a few seasons. The Tigers benefited from some down years by Florida, Georgia and Tennessee during its back-to-back SEC East division title run. I still think, in time, Barry Odom can return to the program to contention. The roster issues (combined with the odd decision to make wholesale changes to one of the nation’s top defenses) probably were greater than most realized entering the season, especially from a depth perspective. Recruiting, as it is for any program, will be vital for Odom’s hopes of reinvigorating the program. Don’t lose faith.
As for basketball, if your expectations are realistic, it could be a fun season. The sophomores, led by Terrence Phillips and Kevin Puryear, have more experience and should improve year over year. The freshman, most notably Frankie Hughes and Willie Jackson, bring a much-needed infusion of talent. Don’t make plans for an NCAA Tournament trip, but don’t be shocked if the Tigers win 15-plus games either. That’s not a lot to look forward to, perhaps, but it’s better than the last two seasons. Beyond that, pay attention to volleyball and wrestling and softball, which are upper-echelon teams nationally (especially wrestling, which has a shot at an NCAA title, in my opinion).
Or just be this guy …
Are we already firing Barry Odom? That’s lunacy. He’ll get — and deserves — three years at minimum. As for the well-stock cupboard, injuries have taken a toll on some of that talent and, while the results weren’t great before Michael Scherer and Terry Beckner went down, this team didn’t have near the depth of Missouri’s best teams from 2007-14.
They won’t be favored to win any. Missouri is expected to lose 25-17 at South Carolina, according to this model. Of course, it also predicted a 34-17 victory by the Tigers last week, so take it with a grain of salt. The optimist in me still think Odom’s squad has a win left in it this season, but 2-10 wouldn’t completely shock me either.