“Run when needed,” he said.
A 5-7 2015 record, coupled with a bit of experience and age, has transformed MU’s first starting true freshman quarterback since 1995 into a different type of player. So what, then, is his motto for the upcoming football season?
“Run because you can,” Lock said following this year’s Black & Gold spring scrimmage.
The Tigers that’ll take the field Sept. 3 at West Virginia for the first time will be a fundamentally different squad than last year’s. Huge coaching changes and graduated core players is one thing, but the quarterback corps will shift dramatically as well.
No more Maty Mauk — the dismissed former starter’s No. 7 will be worn by freshly-added junior college transfer Jack Lowary — and no more Eddie Printz, the backup who transferred to Texas State. Along with Marvin Zanders and the improved Lock, as well as a new quarterbacks coach in Josh Heupel, this season is likely set for a different outcome than last.
"(I’m) really excited about the way our kids have continued to develop,” Heupel said after April 16’s spring scrimmage. “We have gotten better physically. They completely changed their bodies in January and February. We have started to develop some toughness that Coach (Barry) Odom keeps preaching.”
That “toughness” and competition for Lock must be, in part, his running game, in hopes to become a more double-edged field general.
In last year’s game against BYU at Arrowhead Stadium, Lock proved that running was never out of the question when he ran for 23 yards on a third-and-19 in the fourth quarter to boost his Tigers towards victory. Though he only ran three times for 17 yards during this year’s Black & Gold game, his shift in mentality is unmistakable.
“I’m more comfortable now,” he said of rushing. “I feel like having to scramble a little bit last year helped me get a feel for the field and how fast guys are flying around.”
As Lock’s learned from last season’s experiences, so has the rest of his offense. With junior wide receivers Nate Brown and J'Mon Moore, as well as an aged tight end squad and an improved running back in Ish Witter, these are not the same players as last year. And nothing boosts a young quarterback’s confidence like a solid group of guys lining up with him.
Lock threw for 134 yards on nine attempts for two touchdowns in the Tigers’ scrimmage earlier this month. His arm certainly hasn’t decreased in firepower since last year, and with a bettered decision-making process and more comfort with his run game, this team seems to have found itself the leader it needs.
“(Lock’s) more confident in himself,” senior linebacker Michael Scherer said. “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, he got less confident and started not believing in himself.
“Now he really believes in himself and that kid is really good. I thought he was really good last fall when he came in for fall camp — he was dicing us up — and now that he’s got his confidence back and he knows what he’s doing, he’s something to mess with.”