After joining the Missouri coaching staff this spring, new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel made it very clear that while Drew Lock was the main man under center in 2015, the quarterback position would be up for grabs this season.
While many assumed that his statement was just a ploy to light a fire under the current starter, it appears that Mizzou has a real quarterback competition on its hands, as Marvin Zanders has risen to the occasion and staked his claim for the title of QB1.
With the ascension of Zanders, Missouri has been placed in an interesting position. The Tigers now have two quarterbacks who are capable of successfully running the Missouri attack. Which brings up the age old saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” But does this have to be the case?
Over the years, for every Chris Leak and Tim Tebow success story, there are a million quarterback duos that have failed. But with Huepel, there is reason to believe that Missouri could have success with a two quarterback system.
During the 2013 season, while at Oklahoma, Coach Heupel ran a successful two-quarterback offense with Trevor Knight and Blake Bell at the helm. In this system, Heupel allowed the scenario to determine which quarterback wound up under center. Knight and Bell led the Sooners to an impressive 11-2 season that ended with a 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The fact that he was willing to adjust the personnel and scheme in order to place his team in a position to win should be a nice change of pace from last season.
“At the end of the day, it's our job to find guys who can play at a championship level, find roles for them that can grow and compete for a championship,” said Heupel.
Lock and Zanders both bring different playing styles, similar to that of Knight and Bell at Oklahoma. Lock remains the more prototypical drop-back quarterback, while Zanders provides extra mobility at the position. Head coach Barry Odom expressed this quality as a necessity for Mizzou’s run game to improve.
"For us to be a really good running football team, the quarterback run game is going to have to be a part of that,” said Odom. “Whether it's Drew or Marvin, whoever is playing quarterback at that time, they've got to have the ability that we're able to get some running yards out of the quarterback.”
If Mizzou does choose to utilize a two-headed passing game, the team’s success will depend on each quarterback’s ability to command the offense and ultimately assert himself as the leader when under center.
“For the guys inside the locker room, you've got to have the trust, they've got to have the faith of those guys,” said Coach Heupel.
Both quarterbacks have made becoming a leader a major focal point this offseason. This was evident during practice as Lock encouraged his teammates to keep their foot on the gas against the tiring defense.
“It was kind of a big moment for me to actually get up in front of our whole offense and demand something rather than let someone else say something,” explained Lock.
Zanders, on the other hand, has tried to display his leadership through his actions. Whether it’s showing up early to practice or ensuring that guys are in the right spots, Zanders has tried to lead by example.
“I’m vocal at times, but I’m not really too outspoken; I just like to show it,” said Zanders. “A lot of people do talking, but I’m just about that action.”
In my opinion, Mizzou will indeed go with a two quarterback approach. If their two-quarterback system is going to work, there has to be an alpha quarterback. Lock will most likely be that guy. While Odom has stressed the importance of a quarterback with mobility, at the end of the day a quarterback’s main job is to pass.
Even with Zanders’ remarkable improvement as a passer, Lock is still the more polished quarterback. Look for Lock to receive about 70 percent of the snaps, although Zanders will definitely have a consistent role in this offense.
Zanders should receive a majority of his snaps in short-yardage situations, fourth downs and in the red zone. The combination of Zanders’ exceptional mobility and his improved passing will place opposing defenses in a difficult position, unlike previous seasons when he was primarily viewed as a rusher only. This versatility should allow Zanders to stay engaged on offense instead of carrying a clipboard.
Zanders should receive entire drives from time to time as a change-of-pace player if the offense becomes stagnant.