Billy Embody: Drew Lock has come out and been a nice surprise for Missouri at quarterback. What has made him successful so far this season?
Nate Latsch: "There are several factors for Drew Lock’s success through the first four games. He was a talented prospect when he arrived at Missouri and showed some glimpses of his potential early in his freshman season but then was pushed into the starting role with Maty Mauk’s off-the-field issues. With the OL not playing well in front of him and the running game not effective enough to help him, Lock struggled down the stretch as a freshman.
The coaching change from Gary Pinkel to Barry Odom has been a big factor because Odom targeted former Oklahoma quarterback and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to run his offense and mentor the Tigers’ quarterbacks. Since January Missouri has worked to install a new spread offensive attack, similar to what Baylor has been successful with over the years, and Heupel has worked with Lock and the rest of the quarterbacks to get ready. This past offseason was also the first that Lock didn’t play basketball — he was a potential Division I prospect as a shooting guard in high school — and focused solely on being a quarterback.
So Lock’s success so far can be attributed to the experience he got last season, the work he and Heupel have put in this offseason, the new offensive scheme, the new-look offensive line’s early success — they returned just one player with starting experience but have only allowed one sack through four games — and his playmakers making plays for him, particularly junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore."
BE: Missouri dropped a close one to Georgia, but rebounded against a Delaware State team that was inferior. What'd you see differently from Missouri this past weekend?
NL: "Missouri simply overmatched Delaware State like it did against Eastern Michigan two weeks earlier. It’s hard to take much from the Delaware State matchup other than Lock and the offense were once again very good and moved the ball at will. One development was true freshmen running back Damarea Crockett and wide receiver Dimetrios Mason both having breakout performances — which I wrote about here."
BE: Where is Missouri's defense at from a year ago? Where have they shown improvement?
NL: "Missouri’s defense, led by redshirt junior defensive end Charles Harris, was expected to be the strength of the Tigers this season and has only been OK so far through four games. If you take out the two wins against inferior competition, the defense gave up a lot of yardage but stiffened up in the red zone in the season opener against West Virginia and then bottled up Nick Chubb but struggled on third down and defending the pass against Georgia. There have been guys playing well, like senior middle linebacker Michael Scherer and senior cornerback Aarion Penton, but the defense hasn’t been anywhere as good as people expecting with returning seven starters from last year’s impressive group. There are signs of progress, but still work to be done."
BE: Where will Missouri attack LSU's defense and what are their strengths offensively that can give LSU trouble?
NL: "Missouri hasn’t been great on the ground yet this season, possibly in part because graduate transfer running back Alex Ross (Oklahoma) has been limited by an ankle injury, but the Tigers have been able to spread out defenses horizontally and vertically and push the ball down the field. The offensive line has been one of the keys with giving Lock plenty of time to run the offense and make decisions. If Missouri can hold off LSU’s pass rush, Lock and Co. should have some success through the air."
BE: How do you see this game playing out? Got a prediction yet?
NL: "If Missouri can score in the 20s it looks like they will have a chance. They weren’t able to do that in their season-opening loss at West Virginia, which was the Tigers’ lone road game so far this season. Will LSU come out and be inspired after watching Les Miles get fired? I think Missouri can win this game but Barry Odom’s squad will need much better efforts than they showed against West Virginia (one late touchdown) and Georgia (five turnovers). Mizzou has some confidence coming into this matchup."