The University of Missouri football team will open spring practice next week with a new head coach in Barry Odom and a revamped coaching staff but all eyes will likely be on the quarterback spot.
We’ll open our spring football preview series by looking at that particular position, where the Tigers lost significant experience since last season with Maty Mauk (dismissed), Eddie Printz (transferred) and Corbin Berkstresser (graduated) all moving on from the team.
What Odom, and new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, are left with this spring is a trio of young quarterbacks who will all be sophomores next season: incumbent starter Drew Lock, reserve Marvin Zanders and junior college transfer Jack Lowary.
Lock had some good moments early in his freshman season, but Mauk’s off-the-field troubles pushed him into a more significant role than most true freshmen are ready for. Lock completed just 49 percent of his passes for 1,332 yards, with four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The good news is Lock got the experience of playing in 12 games as a freshman and now has the entire offseason to be prepared for his sophomore season.
The bad news is there are still plenty of questions about the offensive personnel in general — the offensive line, running game and young receiving corps all struggled throughout the 2015 campaign — that will need to be resolved to make Lock’s job easier.
Zanders is a dual-threat quarterback who played sparingly in 2015 after redshirting his first season in 2014. He’ll be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, making him the elder statesmen of the quarterbacks, but has yet to attempt a pass for the Tigers.
Zanders should have plenty of opportunities this spring to show what he is capable of and whether he’s a legitimate option to challenge Lock for the top spot.
The Tigers signed Lowary, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, out of Long Beach (Cali.) City College on the day after National Signing Day after a spot opened up with Mauk’s departure from the team. Lowary had interest from schools but Missouri was the first to extend a scholarship offer, which he quickly accepted.
Lowary, who threw for 3,306 yards and 28 touchdowns with 13 interceptions in 12 games as a freshman at Long Beach last fall, will officially be a sophomore for the 2016 season and could redshirt if he’s not able to challenge Lock or Zanders for playing time.
The Tigers have one more quarterback on their spring roster in Zane Jacoby, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Westran High School who put up crazy numbers playing in Missouri’s smallest high school classification, Class 1.
As a senior, in 2014, Jacoby threw for 2,621 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions and ran for 2,551 yards and 43 more touchdowns.
Lock, Zanders, Lowary and Jacoby will be joined by high school signee Micah Wilson, a three-star quarterback from Tulsa, OK., at some point this summer. Wilson was rated by Scout.com as the 33rd-best quarterback in the Class of 2016.