Lock's return key to Tigers' offense

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is tackled by Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris during a game Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is tackled by Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris during a game Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Fayetteville.

ATLANTA -- Missouri quarterback Drew Lock thought long and hard about entering the NFL Draft after last year and a junior season in which he earned All-SEC first-team honors.

"I'd say I came pretty close," Lock said at SEC football media days earlier this week. "One of the huge things that brought me back to the university was knowing we have all those guys back on offense.

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Missouri glance

Sept. 1;Tennessee-Martin

Sept. 8;Wyoming

Sept. 15;at Purdue

Sept. 22;Georgia*

Oct. 6;at South Carolina*

Oct. 13;at Alabama*

Oct. 20;Memphis

Oct. 27;Kentucky*

Nov. 3;at Florida*

Nov. 10;Vanderbilt*

Nov. 17;at Tennessee*

Nov. 23;Arkansas*

*SEC game

MISSOURI GLANCE

LAST SEASON 7-6, 4-4 (tied for third in SEC East)

COACH Barry Odom (11-14 in two seasons at Missouri)

RETURNING STARTERS (18): Offense 9, Defense 9

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS QB Drew Lock, RB Damarea Crockett, RB Larry Rountree, WR Emanuel Hall, TE Albert Okwuegbunan, DE Terry Beckner, LB Terez Hall, LB Cale Garrett

SEC TITLE SCENARIO Missouri figures to put up a lot of points with Lock leading the offense. The key for challenging Georgia in the SEC East will be whether the Tigers can play tougher on defense. The early-season schedule is particularly challenging with a four-game stretch in which the Tigers have road games at Purdue, Alabama and South Carolina, along with a home game against Georgia.

SEC FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Fifth in a series previewing the 2018 SEC football season

"Without that, I think my decision might have been different."

Lock, one of nine returning starters on offense for the Tigers, said he also was influenced by Missouri Coach Barry Odom adding Derek Dooley to the staff.

SEC fans -- particularly those at Tennessee -- might be surprised to hear Lock's enthusiasm about the hire considering Dooley's 15-21 record as the Vols' coach from 2010-12.

But Lock spoke glowingly of Dooley, who was the Dallas Cowboys receivers coach the previous five seasons, and the NFL experience he brings to Missouri.

Odom hired Dooley as offensive coordinator after Josh Heupel left to replace Scott Frost as the University of Central Florida coach.

"Coach Dooley knows a lot about the NFL game, and he's definitely bringing that into play, which I'm really excited about," Lock said of the revamped offense. "It's one of those things he talked to me about before we hired him and before I made my decision to come back to the university.

"It really appealed to me and made me want to come back even more."

Lock, 6-4 and 225 pounds, completed 242 of 419 passes (57.8 percent) for 3,944 yards and an SEC-record 44 touchdowns with 13 interceptions last season.

"Drew's physically as talented a quarterback as there is in the country," Odom said. "I'm really happy he's our quarterback."

Odom said Lock is even better now after working with Dooley on his footwork, timing with the receivers and reading defenses.

"He's grown so much with his football IQ since January," Dooley said. "Things have slowed down for him a great deal."

Lock said he had some apprehension when Heupel left Missouri, considering he would be working with a third offensive coordinator in four seasons.

"But after talking to coach Dooley a couple times, I knew it was going to be a good fit," Lock said. "He's transitioned us well. His whole idea was to throw a lot at us right when spring started so we could see what sticks with us, what really clicks in our brain, how we run it, what we're doing well.

"With that, I think he has a pretty good game plan right now and is going to do that again during camp. Just to put in some things that we didn't run well, but that he really wants us to have."

Lock said the perspective Dooley brings from the NFL has expanded his thought process about playing quarterback.

"I think it comes from Coach Dooley teaching me some things about the game that I wouldn't have necessarily thought about," Lock said. "Some intricate stuff that he's gotten from the NFL since he's been there.

"It's been a blast being able to work with coach Dooley. He's taught me so much compared to what I thought I knew, and we've only been together in the spring."

Lock said he's confident Dooley will help him become better prepared to play in the NFL, but his addition will be beneficial to all of the Tigers on offense.

"I think we're going to put a lot of NFL stuff on film this year," Lock said. "It's going to be good for all of us -- not just myself -- to be able to do that. I also think it's going to help us win games. We'll be able to control games better.

"I think we'll be a team that puts together four quarters rather than a good quarter here and there."

Lock helped Missouri beat the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 28-25 and 48-45 the previous two seasons when he combined to complete 41 of 68 passes for 736 yards and 7 touchdowns.

"If you don't get pressure on him, it's going to turn into that 7-on-7 game, and you don't want that with Drew Lock because he's going to air that ball out," Razorbacks senior safety Santos Ramirez said. "We've got to make sure we keep him on his toes. We can't let him sit back there and pick us apart because he'll do a great job with that."

Ramirez said what impresses him the most about Lock is his poise and the improvement he's made since becoming a starter in 2016.

"He's got a cannon on him, and he's very accurate," Ramirez said. "I feel like he's a prototypical NFL quarterback. He's got the size, and he can sit back there and make those throws. He can command his offense. I really respect him."

Lock said he's excited to get the season started.

"I'm ready to show the country the new offense and get things rolling," he said. "It's going to be a fun year."

Missouri is mounting a Heisman Trophy campaign for Lock, including the production of a bobblehead with his likeness.

"I appreciate the school doing the campaign for me," Lock said. "People have asked me all day if it adds more pressure for this season. I'd say if you're not built for pressure, you shouldn't be playing football in this league.

"Bottom line, I appreciate them putting the campaign on. It's really cool. But I'm definitely focusing on just playing ball."

Sports on 07/21/2018

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