Missouri opens its fall football camp on Thursday, which technically is in the middle of the summer, but I digress.
The Star will take a detailed look at each position group and what to watch for as camp unfolds during the next month before the Tigers open the Barry Odom era Sept. 3 at West Virginia.
We’ll start with the quarterback situation:
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Returning starters: Drew Lock, sophomore.
Other returning contributors: Marvin Zanders, sophomore.
Newcomers: Jack Lowary, sophomore; Micah Wilson, freshman.
Projected 2016 starter: Lock
Outlook: Lock and Maty Mauk, who was suspended several times before being dismissed and landing at Eastern Kentucky, were the only players to attempt a pass last season for Mizzou. That fact alone probably gives Lock an edge as camp opens in the quest to start at quarterback this season.
Lock went 2-6 as a starter last season, helping lead the Tigers to wins against moribund South Carolina and BYU in a game that capped a bonkers week for the program — the boycott and former coach Gary Pinkel resigned in the days before the game — with an uplifting victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
The final numbers for Lock last season — 129 of 263 passes completed (49 percent) for 1,332 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions — hardly inspire confidence. Despite that, there’s little doubt that Drew, the Lee’s Summit graduate and four-star recruit, has the tools to be a quality player and NFL-caliber prospect. Improved offensive-line play, better routes/separation by Mizzou’s wide receivers and a running game, even the mere semblance of one, should help.
During the offseason, Lock put on 20 pounds of muscle while digging into a new playbook (brought by first-year Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Heupel) and film study. He’s transformed and took the bulk of the first-team reps in the spring game. Lock’s confidence has mended, his throwing shoulder has too, and he’s picked apart last season’s struggles in charting a path toward a better future on the field. Lock probably has the inside track for the starting job.
It’s not a lock, though, as redshirt sophomore Marvin Zanders has stepped up his game immensely as well. Zanders is faster and certainly has value for the Tigers as a run threat, especially in option situations that will be unfamiliar to Lock. Beyond that, Zanders has become a more accurate passer and has grown under Heupel’s tutelage into a potentially serviceable SEC quarterback.
Don’t be surprised if Zanders leads a few series beginning with the game in Morgantown, W.V. For starters, it would behoove Missouri to have two quarterbacks with game experience, but Zanders appears well on his way to earning those reps on merit.
Transfer Jack Lowary, a sophomore from Long Beach (Calif.) City College, and true freshman Micah Wilson, a Tulsa native and one-time Boise State commit, provide depth at the position, but neither is nipping at the heels of Lock and Zanders. An injury is the most likely scenario for Lowary or Wilson to see the field in 2016. Odom and his staff may, in fact, try to redshirt both players if Lock and Zanders remain healthy throughout the season.