By The Associated Press
COLUMBIA — Walking to practice one day this spring, Maty Mauk let his mind wander.
The Missouri quarterback thought about the “little things” that have changed in the first few practices of his second season playing with the Tigers, such as throwing a pass before a receiver cuts across the field, rather than after.
“The speed of the game went way down for me and now I can just go out there and be me,” Mauk said.
Even if he wasn’t quite himself last fall, Mauk impressed nearly everyone during his freshman season. He started four games and played in parts of others, helping Missouri finish 12-2 and capture the SEC East.
The 6-foot, 200-pound native of Kenton, Ohio, now sits atop the depth chart, though coach Gary Pinkel has not named him the starter over junior Corbin Berkstresser and freshmen Eddie Printz and Trent Hosick. If Pinkel is hoping to motivate Mauk, he appears to be accomplishing his goal.
“I’m approaching it like I’m No. 5,” Mauk said. “I’m going to bust my butt every second of every day until I am at the top. I’m going to compete every day. I’m going to bring 110 percent so everybody’s got to be ready.”
Offensive coordinator Josh Henson says coaches dialed down the playbook last year for Mauk, who completed 51.1 percent of his passes for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns in relief of James Franklin.
Mauk completed 14 of 23 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but left frustrated because of a sack resulting from waiting too long to throw a pass.
“There’s a few things that we didn’t do with Maty that we did with James,” Henson said. “I think now, he’s really comfortable with everything. He’s going to pick stuff up, and I think our offense will grow with him if he is indeed the guy.”
Mauk has grown off the field, too, at least in terms of facial hair. He currently sports a red beard after consulting with center Evan Boehm about whether various members of the offense should grow mullets and beards.
“He knows when he messes up on the field and he knows when he did well on the field,” Boehm said. “You don’t see a change. He’s a stone-face on the field, but at the same time, he loves to have fun.”
While Printz and Hosick both redshirted in 2013, Berkstresser holds as many career starts (four) as Mauk. A 6-foot-3, 225-pound native of Lee’s Summit, Berkstresser completed 88 of 177 passes for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games in 2012.
He failed to complete his only pass attempt last year, sitting out most of the season recovering from a torn medial meniscus tear in his left knee. Berkstresser said the injury no longer bothers him, and that he’s ready for whatever role the coaches give him.
“You just look at Corbin and he’s the kind of guy that you’d like for your son to be,” Henson said.
Printz arrived at Missouri from Marietta, Ga. Hosick won state titles in high school for both football and wrestling growing up in Kansas City, Mo.
Both players are about 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, with Hosick standing out in practice for consistently running the quickest across the field during warm-ups.
“A lot of teams had guys get dinged up last year, among them the Missouri Tigers,” quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “But I think those guys competing, I think it’s a very healthy competition. Having a backup, having a very prominent backup, is going to be huge for us next year.