Missouri junior quarterback Drew Lock finally has some stability.
Lock, a Lee’s Summit graduate, was thrown into the fire as a starter before he was ready in 2015 when Maty Mauk’s suspension elevated him to the top of the depth chart for the season’s final eight games.
Last spring, Lock was adjusting to a new offense after Gary Pinkel retired and new coach Barry Odom brought in offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who installed an air-raid style passing attack.
It was all overwhelming for Lock, who coasted to four-star status as one of the top prospects in the 2015 recruiting class on little more than raw athletic talent.
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Lock grew up as a quarterback last season under Heupel’s tutelage.
He soaked up knowledge of the position from Heupel — a former Heisman Trophy runner-up who coached Sam Bradford to the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2008 — but there’s plenty more room for growth understanding the intricacies and nuance of playing major-college quarterback.
Lock truly feels like he’s settling in coming out of his second spring in Heupel’s system.
“I’ve got my feet on the ground,” Lock said. “I’m not up floating around, thinking about things that I shouldn’t be as far as our game plan and whatnot. I’ve got a good grasp on everything, and think that will help me come out and dig deeper into things throughout the season. It will make it a lot easier.”
Lock also spent last season locked in a position battle with Marvin Zanders, who since has transferred to Virginia, for the starting quarterback job, but he’s entrenched now as the Tigers’ gun-slinging leader on offense.
“He’s understanding that he’s the guy,” senior wide receiver J’Mon Moore said. “He’s the quarterback and this is his team. I’m seeing him grow in all levels.”
Lock has started 20 consecutive games.
He’ll enter next fall as the SEC’s most-experienced quarterback, having completed 237 of 434 passes for 3,399 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
Nobody other quarterback on the Tigers’ roster will have played a single down at the NCAA Division I level, so Lock also has to morph into a mentor role now for sophomore Jack Lowary, redshirt freshman Micah Wilson and eventually incoming freshman Taylor Powell.
“Jack and Micah both come out and compete every single day and push me,” Lock said. “They both bring something a little different. Jack’s a great mind guy, who helps me out whenever I need it, and Micah physically out here on the field pushes me to be my best as well. It’s a good combination with both of them.”
Of course, Lock, who finished the spring game 8 of 14 for 63 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, has what those guys want — a starting quarterback job in the SEC.
Lowary started the spring second on the depth chart and had the best spring game performance, completing 7 of 11 passes with game-highs of 113 yards and two touchdowns.
He also threw an interception and was sacked twice.
Wilson went 7 of 15 for 68 yards with no touchdowns, while throwing an interception and getting sacked three times.
But spring is marked by progress and no perfection.
“The spring has definitely slowed everything down,” Wilson said. “It’s been great for me to learn the offense at a deeper level than during the season.”
He feels confident he could step into a game if he had to when Mizzou’s second season under Odom begins Sept. 2 against Missouri State at Memorial Stadium.
“The way I see it, I’m just competing with myself every day,” Wilson said, “because I believe in myself and I believe I can be a great quarterback. If I keep getting better every day and putting myself in great situations, I can do whatever I want.”
Mizzou spring depth chart
Project depth (string): (1) Drew Lock, junior; (2) Jack Lowary, sophomore; (3) Micah Wilson, redshirt freshman.
Potential impact addition: Taylor Powell, freshman.
Analysis: With 20 consecutive starts under his belt, the Tigers have the most seasoned returning quarterback in the SEC in Lock, who finished second last season among conference QBs with 3,399 yards and an average of 283.3 yards per game. He tied for third with Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, tossing 23 touchdowns last season, but he needs to boost a 54.6 completion percentage and improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 23:10 last season to emerge as an elite quarterback next season. Lowary and Wilson have yet to take a snap for Missouri, so depth is an issue if Lock suffered an injury. Powell projects as a redshirt candidate, but he could push his way up the depth chart by next spring.
Overall grade: C+ Lock is an established starter and should enter the season as one of the SEC’s best at the game’s most important position, but the lack of experience from a depth perspective — nobody else has stepped on the field in a Division I game — is potentially troublesome.