University of Missouri middle linebacker Michael Scherer saw what Drew Lock was capable of when the quarterback arrived on campus last summer as a freshman. He also saw what happened when Lock became the starter last fall and struggled.
After several weeks of spring football practices, which culminated in the Tigers’ Black & Gold Game on Saturday, the quarterback Scherer sees now has grown considerably since those struggles last season.
“He’s just more confident in himself,” Scherer said. “He’s more confident. The kid came in and he could wing the ball a mile. He could hit whoever he wanted to hit. Then as he got in games and had more pressure on him and got less confident, he started not believing in himself. Now he really believes in himself and that kid is really good.”
That’s good news for the Tigers, who need Lock to be better in his sophomore season after his freshman foibles contributed to the offense’s ineffectiveness and a disappointing 5-7 record after winning the SEC East the previous two years.
Had everything gone according to plan, Lock would have backed up Maty Mauk as a freshman and possibly as a sophomore before becoming Missouri’s starting quarterback as a junior in 2017.
Instead, because of Mauk’s off-the-field issues, Lock was called upon to lead the offense as a freshman and struggled. He completed just 49 percent of his passes for 1,332 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Lock’s performance in the Black & Gold Game — he completed nine of 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 11 yards on six carries — showed the kind of growth the Tigers will need going into next season.
“I liked it,” Lock said of his performance. “What we’re going to come out here and obviously do as an offense isn’t everything — that’s what everyone is doing in the country — but as today I’m completely fine.”
Lock earned some positive reviews from his new head coach, Barry Odom, as well as new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and his teammates.
“He is more decisive with the football, better fundamentally and giving himself a chance once he makes a decision to be accurate with the football,” Heupel said. “He still has a long way to go I think in understanding defenses and alignments, but I like the way that he has continued to compete day in and day out and he is taking care of the football in a great way.”
Wide receiver J'Mon Moore said: “I think Drew did pretty well. But that is what I expect from him. Drew isn’t a young guy any more in my eyes. He has to be a leader and he’s been playing like a leader.”
Running back Ish Witter was asked if Lock is a different guy now.
“Definitely. Definitely,” Witter said. “Even when he started his first game last year against South Carolina, you could see he was calm, he wasn’t really scared or nervous. He was into it automatically. He’s gotten better with that. He’s become a better leader and he’ll be awesome this season.”
The overall success of the Tigers in 2016 could depend on how much better Lock is in his sophomore season. That’s a lot to ask, of course, but that’s the reality of the Missouri football team.
Lock passed his first test on Saturday and showed there are reasons for optimism that he will better this fall than he was last year.