Maty Mauk is probably the most important, and most polarizing, player Mizzou has on roster this year. Coming off a rough (but ultimately successful) season with a very inexperienced group of receivers, the odds may not seem particularly stacked in Maty’s favor going into 2015. But Mauk has always been a very talented player, and with a few adjustments, he can be very successful this season. He showcased all of his game, both good and bad, in the Citrus Bowl against Minnesota.
(Editors's Note: a special thanks to Nick Mullen for editing these videos. We reached out looking for someone to put together Mizzou football highlight videos and his prompt response facilitated this very post.)
In watching the film, the biggest issue Maty has is with how he uses his lower body. His arm action is solid, and his natural arm strength allows him to make some throws that many quarterbacks are unable to make. However, inconsistency when setting his feet for quick underneath throws and not using enough of his lower body to power throws downfield are the biggest things holding him back as a thrower. Mauk will often rely on just his arm to make the big throws, when your entire body is needed to make a proper throw. More consistent weight transfer on the steps leading into his throw will do nothing but positive things for his game.
As a whole, Mauk simply needs to become more consistent with his fundamentals. On plays where his fundamentals are solid, the throws are much more accurate. While many of Mauk’s interceptions last season came because of a bad read, neither of the two in the bowl game were for that reason.
The first was a bad decision to throw an arm punt downfield with pressure in his face. However, just as much to blame for Mauk’s decision was the fact that Sean Culkin was lined up one-on-one against a Minnesota pass rusher. In most cases, the pass rusher will win that battle.
The second interception was a good decision by Maty, but slightly underthrown (didn’t use enough of his lower body again). Darius White had his defender beat over the top, but after the slight underthrow, White had the ball ripped from his hands by the Minnesota corner. (Sidenote: strong hands may be the most underrated trait a receiver can have, and we see why on this play.)
Lastly, I see times where Mauk appears to need some work with his reads, especially during the pre-snap time period. On a few plays, he went to his pre-snap read, usually a quick fade that was run on both sides, but threw it to the receiver that wasn’t as open. To me, that usually means that he can do a better job identifying matchup advantages that the offense has, throwing it instead to a guy who hasn’t been as consistently open on that route.
But what can the coaching staff do to help Maty have as successful a season as possible?
From a playcalling standpoint, right now anything deep looks like it could be a great chance for Mauk to succeed. He has an absolute cannon for an arm, and between Wesley Leftwich, Keyon Dilosa, and J’Mon Moore, I think we’ll have some opportunities to take the top off a defense this season.
These throws combine relatively simple reads for the quarterback, which giving a massive advantage to a QB that has a strong arm, as they tend to be longer throws that put the defense in a tough position. I would also suggest running more crossing routes with the top couple of receivers. If Mauk is able to work on those routes enough to get the timing on point, it becomes a potential big play, as you can have your best receivers running downfield against slower linebackers, as opposed to cornerbacks.
The most important thing, however, I feel the coaches should do to let Mauk be successful is to let him run the ball.
While he certainly picked up (and lost) many yards on scrambles, he is such a talented runner that I believe he should have designed run plays for him. If not those, at least let him truly run the read option game to the best of his capabilities. Reports of his running a 4.4 are probably about as accurate as reports that Shane Ray did the same, Mauk is blessed with great speed for the quarterback position and he shows a natural feel for influencing runners before making another cut. As we see in his touchdown run against Minnesota, he has the capability to run hard enough to do some damage to defenders.
Quarterback injuries are always a concern (especially trying to run hard like that) and it’s understandable to see a coordinator hesitant to expose his starter to any more hits than he needs to. However, I feel that his skillset lends itself extremely well to becoming an explosive player in the zone read game, and with the concern we may have throwing the ball this year, we may need everything positive we can get offensively.