Missouri’s 26-11 loss to West Virginia last Saturday was filled with negative signs.
The famed Mizzou defensive line was miserable, not registering a sack all game. The defense as a whole struggled, allowing West Virginia to mount six scoring drives, all of 60 yards or more. On the day, the Mountaineers gained 494 yards, the most a Missouri defense has allowed since the Southeastern Conference championship game against Alabama, all the way back in 2013. The offense only scored 11 points, with the only touchdown coming in garbage time. Freshman kicker Tucker McCann missed two out of his three field goal attempts.
Considering all of this, it would be easy for Tiger fans to be pessimistic. But I’m here to tell you they should actually be hopeful solely because of one man: sophomore quarterback Drew Lock.
Drew Lock played the best game of his short college career in Morgantown, passing for a career-high 280 yards and completing 23 of his 51 passes. Lock benefited from new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense, a huge contrast from last season when Mizzou ranked 126th out of 128 teams in adjusted pace. Heupel’s up-tempo offense featured many more short passes, which seemed to help and establish a rhythm for Lock early in the game.
Lock struggled mightily last year after being thrown into the fire midseason as a true freshman when quarterback Maty Mauk was suspended from the team. Lock looked much more comfortable Saturday, showing the arm talent and poise you would expect from a four-star recruit who was ranked the sixth-best quarterback in the class of 2015.
Detractors would point to Lock’s poor completion percentage as a sign he has not improved much, but anyone who watched the game would have seen the unusually high number of drops committed by Mizzou wide receivers. These incompletions were not the fault of the sophomore quarterback.
Now all of this sounds great, but it will mean nothing if head coach Barry Odom continues trying out a two-quarterback system. Odom seems committed to using redshirt sophomore quarterback Marvin Zanders along with Drew Lock in the offense. Zanders is a talented player who can provide a spark on offense with his legs. But Lock, the most talented player on Mizzou’s offense, needs to be on the field at all times if Mizzou wants to be successful.
This was best displayed during a drive midway through the second quarter. Lock started on the Mizzou 13-yard line and was in a rhythm, leading the Tigers all the way to West Virginia’s 41-yard line before the Mountaineers took a timeout. After the timeout, Odom put in Zanders, who gained four yards on two plays, forcing a Missouri punt. This mid-drive switching of quarterbacks was impossible to explain, with Odom even admitting as much after the game.
I’m not a firm believer that having two quarterbacks means you have no quarterbacks, but that drive clearly illustrates one of the problems with a two-quarterback system. Having two quarterbacks makes it hard for either guy to establish a rhythm with the offense. During that drive, Lock was on a roll, and substituting in Zanders killed it.
Quarterback is a position that requires a lot of leadership and confidence; switching quarterbacks throughout the game undermines that. Having two quarterbacks can lead to diminished confidence from the quarterbacks and divisions in the team over who should be the man under center. The most recent example of this was Iowa in 2015 with the quarterback controversy between Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard.
Quarterbacks need prolonged time in games in order to establish chemistry with the offense and to understand the different looks the defense is throwing at them. Changing quarterbacks constantly does not allow for that. The best teams in the country understand this.
Coming off a 2015 national championship, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had two talented quarterbacks in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones competing for playing time, but Meyer never even considered the notion of playing two quarterbacks, always committing to picking one.
Neither of the guys on Mizzou’s roster compares to the talent of those two quarterbacks. If one of those quarterbacks can be benched, why can’t Zanders?
A quarterback has to be the leader of your football team, and Drew Lock should be that guy for Mizzou. Lock is young and the future of Mizzou football. His play on Saturday proved that he was a four-star quarterback for a reason, he has the talent to lead Mizzou’s offense back to respectability. Lock, given the right environment, has the potential to really grow into a top-level quarterback in the SEC.
Zanders is talented, and there should be packages in the playbook for him, maybe to be utilized in the red zone or at a position other than quarterback.
But at Mizzou, when it comes to the quarterback position, there is only one man for the job, and his name is Drew Lock.
Edited by Theo DeRosa | firstname.lastname@example.org