Mizzou spring football 2013: QB race steals headlines

Bill Carter

The quarterback race heats up, young players in the back seven step up, and the new center keeps the snaps up.

MUtigers.com: Tigers Hold First Spring Football Scrimmage

The offense got four touchdowns overall Saturday, including a pair from redshirt freshman QB Maty Mauk, as he scrambled for a 13-yard score midway through the day, and he capped the scrimmage with a 30-yard scoring strike to reserve TB Miles Drummond in two-minute drill work. Mauk led the way statistically Saturday, as he threw for a team-best 140 yards (11-of-19 passing) and also had a scrimmage-high 81 yards rushing (on 8 attempts).

Senior QB James Franklin completed 13-of-22 passes on the day for 115 yards and a touchdown of his own, on a nicely-thrown 25-yard strike to sophomore WR Dorial Green-Beckham. Beckham would lead all Tiger receivers with 7 receptions Saturday for 82 yards and the score.

A pair of defenders named Michael had big days, and led the highlight reel for the Mizzou defense. Senior DE Michael Sam was his disruptive self as he had 1-1/2 sacks, and another tackle for loss. His sack of sophomore QB Corbin Berkstresser late in the scrimmage ended a drive near midfield, as he knocked the ball loose, and fell on it for the recovery.

Scherer, making his first scrimmage appearance after sitting out most of last season with a leg injury, added a pair of interceptions, including one which ended the first drive of the day. On the play, redshirt freshman CB John Gibson got his hand on a pass over the middle, tipping the ball high in the air. Scherer grabbed it for the pickoff to end the threat near the defense's 30-yardline. Gibson also had a nice day, as he broke up two other passes.

The Trib (Dave Matter): Saturday's Scrimmage Stats

The Trib (Dave Matter): Mauk has his moments in first spring scrimmage

This didn't show up on the stat sheet, but by my count center Evan Boehm had zero bad snaps. It's safe to say he is Missouri's starting center — and maybe already the leader of the offensive line. "He's a perfect guy to have in that spot now," Gary Pinkel said.

Boehm beat himself up after a couple poor snaps on Thursday. By Saturday, he was firing back strikes to the quarterbacks.

The Trib (Dave Matter): Answering the Twitter Mailbag

@rmotigers who do you think will lead #Mizzou in rushing this upcoming season?

Good question. I wouldn't be surprised to see Russell Hansbrough become the closest thing MU has to a lead back, at least initially. Marcus Murphy will get carries, but he's too valuable in the return game to see the bulk of the action at tailback. Henry Josey looks like he'll figure into the rotation, but I want to see how he plays in the scrimmages before forming any expectations for his role.

The Trib: Mauk's funky delivery is no impediment

While Franklin and Mauk both led two scoring drives and each mixed an interception with a touchdown pass, Berkstresser struggled in most of his appearances, completing 8 of 22 passes for 52 yards. Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel has said his staff could readjust the race if a couple of contenders pull away in the scrimmages.

Among the three, Mauk was the most effective passer, completing 11 of 19 passes for 140 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on a swing pass to tailback Miles Drummond on the scrimmage's final play. Franklin completed 13 of 22 throws for 115 yards and followed his interception — a red-zone toss to linebacker Michael Scherer — with a 25-yard touchdown to Dorial Green-Beckham on the next play.

"The O-line, after" the interception "happened, they were like, 'Hey, James, don't worry about it,' " Franklin said. "I took about three or four seconds I was upset about it. But I was like, I shouldn't be mad about it, because it's going to affect how I play after that. So, the next thing you know, here comes a touchdown."

"The guys who are the coolest under pressure, they may make a mistake or they may throw an 80-yard touchdown, but the next play should have nothing to do with what just happened," quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. "I was really pleased with that" touchdown pass.

PowerMizzou: TEN SCRIMMAGE THOUGHTS

I was really impressed with the play of David Johnson at cornerback. Johnson, a rising redshirt sophomore, has been talked about the last few years as a guy to watch, but his development has been slow. That may be because he was known more for track (a nationally-ranked hurdler) in high school than football. But on Saturday, he worked with the first-team defense with Randy Ponder out, and he showed how much he's improved. What jumped out to me was how fast he closed on passes to his side of the field. It looked like there would be separation for a pass, but Johnson made a few quick comebacks to either deflect passes or separate a receiver from the ball. Now, I don't know enough about cornerbacks to say he's going to breakout this year, but he looks like he'll be a big part of the rotation and that bodes well for depth.

PowerMizzou: Roles changing for Tiger tight ends

Culkin said he put the year to use in the weight room in particular, putting on size and muscle. That will be particularly important as Henson asks the tight ends to get down in a three-point stance more often and play a bigger role in the running game than they have in the past.

"The thing I think a tight end or a bigger guy can bring an advantage to is if he has the ability like Eric Waters and Sean Culkin do to split out and make some plays in the passing game from a split receiver standpoint," Henson said. "They also bring a certain versatility to your offense when they do attach."

PowerMizzou: Etched in stone

There were no obvious miscues with snaps on Saturday, although Boehm did recall two or three snaps that caused his quarterbacks to reach.

"Talking to James (Franklin), I think had a couple," Boehm said. "They weren't on the ground, but they were a little low left or low right. Corbin said I had one up right.

"I think I did a better job of letting it go today than I did on Thursday."

That's the crux of the issue for Boehm. He was a recruit who was physically and fundamentally ready to play out of high school, and he started every game as a true freshman. But now, even bigger and stronger than he was less than a year ago, Boehm's issue is getting the mental part of his new position down.

KC Star: Mauk makes move at Mizzou scrimmage as QB competition intensifies

Pinkel added that Mauk has a tendency to always want to make the big play, which sometimes leads to mistakes. But quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said there’s a fine line between helping a player and stifling his creativity, and the staff is conscious of that with Mauk.

"He’s smart enough to know if it’s there or not," Hill said. "I think when you do have a good set of legs as a quarterback, you do have a tendency to want to get out quicker than normal. But I think he stays in the pocket pretty well."

KBIA Sports: Mizzou football holds first extended scrimmage of the spring

The Tigers may not have a settled situation at quarterback, but the rushing attack is rounding into form. Henry Josey opened up the scrimmage with a 17-yard run as, he works his way back from a knee injury that has kept him out of games since 2011.

"Today was a big step for me," Josey said.

PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Meet Darius White
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Meet Mitch Hall
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Pinkel talks scrimmage
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Spring Scrimmage
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Evan Boehm
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Franklin talks scrimmage

Five reactions to Scrimmage No. 1

1. It took about five seconds of reading about Maty Mauk's elusiveness to realize that people were going to start making (completely unfair) Johnny Manziel comparisons, and judging by how Pete Scantlebury opened a paragraph in his 10 Thoughts piece ("Now, the Johnny Manziel comparisons probably need to stop at this point..."), it's fair to say they have already begun. Because it wasn't enough to assume a redshirt freshman would win the starting job ... now we have to compare him to a Heisman winner.

That said ... he sounds like a pretty damn exciting quarterback, doesn't he? His quotes suggest the game has begun to slow down for him, and that's fantastic. Like I said at the start of spring, I'm not going to predict that Mauk wins the job (yet, anyway), but if he does indeed beat out a healthy James Franklin, that's a very, very good thing for Missouri. Because Healthy Franklin is pretty solid.

2. James Franklin's clearly got his hands full if he wants to be a starter in his senior season, but you have to love that he shook off an interception with an immediate touchdown pass. Shaking off mistakes was his single biggest problem in 2011, and while injuries clouded everything about his performance in 2012, you can certainly find evidence to suggest this problem hadn't abated last fall -- following up a Jarvis Jones interception by holding onto the ball too long and getting stripped (by Jones), making one terribly inaccurate pass against Florida and following with about 11 more, etc. If he does hold off Mauk in the No. 1 role, he'll have to be able to move on from mistakes ... otherwise, the buzzards (both of the online-crazies and reality-based varieties) will start to circle pretty quickly.

3. I love hearing that David Johnson is doing well. You could do worse than Randy Ponder at cornerback, but it's probably fair to assume that most of us would appreciate an athletic upgrade opposite E.J. Gaines, whether it comes from Johnson, John Gibson, Xavier Smith, or somebody else. There was a rumor flying around that Johnson had left the program a few months ago; hopefully it turns out that we're very lucky he did not.

4. It's really, really easy to root for Michael Scherer. A True Son through and through, he started showing some play-making ability on Saturday. And he's still a pretty funny guy, as evidenced by his "Two picks and they think I'm Ray Lewis!" quote when the media wanted to talk to him after the scrimmage.

5. My biggest concerns heading into spring ball were at offensive line and defensive line. That makes it very difficult to know how to react to practice reports. If the offensive line looks good, it's to the detriment of the defensive line, and vice versa. When you have known quantities at certain units, you know how to react -- like, if a receiver beats E.J. Gaines, you know it's a good thing. But there are almost no known quantities on either line right now.

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