Last season, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk found himself as the distant underdog in his position battle with James Franklin. This season, the position is his to lose.
Sophomore Mauk still faces competition in spring practice from redshirt freshman Eddie Printz, but the job is all but Mauk's. With that, Mauk plans on stepping up his leadership abilities along with his game.
“He recognizes the competition, of course,” coach Gary Pinkel said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “But he’s dying to be a great player.”
Mauk said his role as a leader sticks out as the main difference between spring 2013 and spring 2014.
“(I am) definitely just being more of a vocal leader,” Mauk said after the scrimmage. “I’m trying to step up a little bit and give these guys something that maybe we haven’t had for a while, and that’s just somebody out there that’s always wanting to get people going. That’s me, and I show my personality.”
Mauk gained experience last season when Franklin went down with a shoulder injury. He started four games in Franklin’s absence, going 3-1 over a difficult stretch, which included games against Florida and South Carolina.
In his final two games as a starter, Mauk showed off both his legs and his arm. Against Tennessee, Mauk rushed for 114 yards. A week later, he tied a school record, throwing five touchdowns.
After his performance last season, the eyes of the entire fan base rest on Mauk this spring, which is something he didn’t have to deal with a year ago.
“I don’t feel the pressure,” Mauk said. “Maybe a little bit, but I build off pressure. I love pressure. It’s just something I love, and it’s just going to give me that extra step that I need to make it like a game situation.”
That wouldn’t surprise his coach. Pinkel said Mauk rarely gets down on himself, which reminds him of former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.
“He’s always carried himself with a lot of confidence,” Pinkel said. “It’s just his personality, the guy’s never lacked any confidence. I guarantee you that.”
Mauk’s speed brings a different element to the position, Pinkel said.
“He brings the intangibles, and he brings the ability to run a 4.5,” Pinkel said of Mauk’s speed in the 40-yard dash.
Mauk ran six times for a total of 20 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of the spring. But both Pinkel and current-sophomore center Evan Boehm think the scrimmage format, which deemed quarterbacks down once the had been touched, didn’t provide an accurate reflection of Mauk’s scrambling abilities.
“When Brad (Smith) was here, we’d do scrimmages, and they’d tag him, he’s down, tag him, he’s down,” Pinkel said. “We’ll go play against Illinois, zoom, zoom, zoom. So all of those tags aren’t necessarily going down.”
Mauk knows what the quarterbacks behind him are going through, having experienced it himself just last year. He talks with the backups all the time, he said.
“When you’re going threes or twos, you’re going against the ones, so it’s hard to do,” he said. “Maybe there are times at the end, ‘I don’t want to be out here, it’s too hard.’ That’s where the mental stuff comes in. Eddie’s doing a great job. As long as he keeps it up, he’s a great quarterback.”
The Ohio native will get two more chances to prove himself on Faurot Field before the season opener in August. The Tigers will scrimmage Saturday before holding their annual Black & Gold Game, which is open to the public April 19.
“He wants to become a consistently high-level performer now,” Pinkel said. “That’s what he wants to do.”