“Drew Lock wasn’t ready.”
That’s a common statement you’ll hear in and around the Mizzou football program if you ask about the Tigers’ true sophomore quarterback. Lock, a former four-star recruit and a Mizzou legacy, was thrust into the starting role in Game Five against South Carolina.
You probably remember that week. It was the week that began the #DrewLockHypeTrain. Lock was 21-of-28 and threw two TDs in a 24-10 win that lifted the Tigers to 4-1, and he seemed to be on his way to a great freshman season.
And then the train went off the rails.
Lock finished the year completing less than 50 percent of his pass attempt. He threw twice as many interceptions (eight) as he did touchdowns (four). Mizzou went just 1-6 in Lock's final seven games as the starter.
Despite the struggles, I'm here to tell you that I'm still on the #DrewLockHypeTrain. In fact, I'm more than willing to serve as the conductor.
Lock has all of the necessary qualities to be a successful college quarterback. Athleticism? Check. Cannon arm? Check. Leadership? Check.
It's all there. Heck, it was all there last season; it just wasn't packaged correctly. Lock came in as a true freshman and wasn't prepared for the college game mentally or physically. His reads were more difficult, the playbook was more complex and the defensive players he saw were every bit as physically gifted as he was.
That's why this offseason was so important.
All of the reports out of Columbia indicate Lock and new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel have been connected at the hip this summer. Heupel's number one priority has been to make sure Lock is mentally prepared for the grind of an SEC schedule. Based on Lock's recent comments to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it seems like that task has been accomplished.
There was "a lot of grind, a lot of late nights, a lot of struggles, a lot of frustrating moments," Lock said. "But we got through it."
Lock was not the first freshman quarterback to go through the struggles of picking up an offense. Here is a comparison of three freshman quarterbacks in the SEC in recent seasons:
QB1: 135/256 (52%), 1,749 passing yards, 7 TD, 13 INT
QB2: 129/263 (49%), 1,332 passing yards, 4 TD, 8 INT
QB3: 103/212 (48%), 1,433 passing yards, 10 TD, 9 INT
"QB1" was Matt Stafford at Georgia in 2006. "QB2" was Lock last season. "QB3" was Jay Cutler as a Vanderbilt freshman in 2002. Not as different as you may have expected, are they?
Lock did not play well as a true freshman. But after an offseason of improvement both physically and mentally, I have no reason to believe he can't reach the potential that so many saw in him after his first start against South Carolina.
The #DrewLockHypeTrain is ready to leave the station once again. It's time to jump back on board.
(You can follow Brandon Kiley on Twitter @BKSportsTalk)
© 2016, Brandon Kiley. All rights reserved.
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