The 2016 season is over, and SEC football rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but the conference has starters coming back 12 of the 14 schools. The turnaround should be immediate. The Missouri Tigers saw improved quarterback play in their first season with an air raid offense. Things should only get better with a year of experience.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Key returners: Drew Lock (junior)
Key departures: Marvin Zanders (transfer)
Key additions: Micah Wilson (redshirt), Jack Lowary (redshirt sophomore)
Returning production: 237-434 for 3,399 yards, 23 TDs, 10 INTs
Departing production: 32-48 for 277 yards, 2 TDs; 19 carries for 99 yards, TD
It wasn’t long ago that Missouri was a destination for solid collegiate quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert and Chase Daniel are still holding on in the NFL. For however badly his career ended, Maty Mauk was a promising quarterback for the Tigers.
Missouri thought it landed its quarterback of the future in 2015. Drew Lock was the No. 96 overall player and a consensus top 100 recruit. After Mauk was suspended for good, Lock took over and struggled in Gary Pinkel’s final season. However, new coach Barry Odom brought in offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to run an air raid offense, and returns were immediate.
Lock led the SEC in regular season passing yards, and finished one of only two players with more than 3,000 passing yards. He threw for more than 300 yards 5 times, and 400 yards twice. Ultimately, Lock averaged 283 passing yards per game. Austin Allen of Arkansas had more passing yards, but his totals included yards from a bowl game.
However, Lock is still tremendously inconsistent. He completed 50 percent or fewer of his passes five times. Over a period of two weeks against the top defenses of LSU and Florida, Lock completed a forgettable 38.2 percent of his passes, with 3.7 yards per pass attempt, 3 interceptions and no touchdowns.
And really, Lock’s splits between good and bad teams are incredible. Against Power 5 teams, Lock completed just 52 percent of his passes and had 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Against all other teams, Lock completed 62 percent of his passes for 378 yards per game, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
It’s natural for players to beat up lesser competition, but those are absurd differences.
While he was inconsistent in 2016, Lock’s talent is obvious. It’s tough enough to be handed the offense as a true freshman. Having to learn an offensive system and be the leader at a rebuilding institution (not just football program) is heavy pressure.
However, Lock should see improvement just moving from sophomore to junior years. Gaining experience within the system is a big deal.
Additionally, Mizzou’s skill talent should bolster Lock’s growth. Wide receiver J’Mon Moore led the SEC regular season with 1,012 receiving yards. Moore returns for his senior year. Mizzou’s next two leading receivers, Dimetrios Mason (587 yards) and Johnathon Johnson (435 yards) were freshmen in 2016.
Running back Damarea Crockett topped 1,000 yards rushing despite fielding just 153 carries. Only Damien Harris had 1,000 yards on fewer carries — and Harris had the benefit of running behind Alabama’s line.
While Lock should improve, the rest of the position is in a tough spot. Backup Marvin Zanders will transfer. The Tigers also lost a commitment from quarterback recruit Reyondous Estes this week to Minnesota. With Feb. 1’s National Signing Day approaching, Missouri doesn’t have another quarterback committed in the class of 2017.
At this point, Lock is the only quarterback who has taken an FBS snap on the roster. The Tigers also have former junior college transfer Jack Lowary on the roster. Redshirt freshman Micah Wilson was an unheralded prospect out of Tulsa, Okla., but he gives the Tigers a dual-threat look. Neither player saw the field last season.
Lock should be good, but the rest of the position is worrisome. Barry Odom will pray that Lock doesn’t get hurt.