I find the annual spring game to be a great experience, if only because it’s the first chance we get to see how much each player has improved over the off-season. For Mizzou’s offense to be successful this coming season, there will likely need to be some pretty big improvement from the quarterback position. Here’s some observations made on each of the quarterbacks during the spring game.
The biggest improvement it seems Mauk has made is an improved focus on stepping up in the pocket, rather than the running backwards we saw entirely too often last year. On multiple occasions Mauk had no one open with pressure coming to him, and he did a better job of just getting upfield and making plays with his feet. On the topic of feet, his footwork definitely looks improved, though he still is a bit inconsistent with the depth of his dropback. What seemed a bit worrisome was his accuracy on underneath throws. Many times he would target a receiver and either throw it above their head or make it a very tough catch. With better accuracy, the receiver will have more time to make a move to try and gain more yards. With how good Mauk looked running the ball, I would love to see Henson use the zone read much more than he did last year. There’s always something to be said for trying to avoid extra hits on your starting quarterback, but it’s never a bad idea to take advantage of a player’s best skill.
Fundamentally, Printz looks like the best quarterback on the team. His feet are precise and are constantly moving in the pocket. His arm action is quick and tends to be very consistent. Where Printz could stand to improve quite a bit is his arm strength. Because he doesn’t have the natural arm strength a player like Mauk has, it looks as if he attempts to compensate for it by trying to use his arm to put more force on the ball. This leads to inaccuracy downfield. Printz looks to be an extremely safe quarterback. It may have had to do with the fact that he was playing with the second team, but he rarely tried to throw the ball downfield, instead preferring to make quick throws to the flats. These plays obviously don’t gain as many yards as a nice post route, but they’re much less likely to be intercepted.
Zanders is a truly great athlete who looks to have some potential to grow as a quarterback. His ability to extend plays is outstanding, and he does a great job keeping his eyes downfield and finding a receiver getting open late. He and Wingo hooked up a few times in that very situation and moved the ball well with it. However, as an overall passer he has a ways to go. Zanders showed a lack of arm strength when attempting to throw a quick out route. The design of that play is for the QB to throw that route immediately as he finishes his dropback, as opposed to taking an extra hitch step up, which makes it easier to get more zip on the ball. It’s a very difficult throw to make, but it can be made much easier by focusing on transferring his weight during the last two steps of the 3-step drop. He also needs to work on his accuracy when throwing bubble routes. Bubbles are deceptively hard throws, as you have to time and place them perfectly as to make the receiver run forward to get it. This is the case because it gets the player running full speed as soon as he has the ball. With more repetition, Zanders should improve this throw.
What we saw at the spring game was a seemingly improved Berkstresser. While his footwork was still inconsistent, he showed better accuracy on underneath throws, even fitting some throws into tight windows. Arm strength has never been an issue for him, so seeing some accuracy improvement is certainly promising. I can’t imagine he’ll see many reps this year, but if disaster strikes and we do have to go to the fourth QB on the depth chart, things could be much worse.
Eierman is a walk-on who spent a couple years playing minor league baseball before coming back to school. He only got a couple opportunities, so it’s hard to make any real conclusions about his ability. However, he showed a decent amount of quickness escaping the pocket against a pass rush, and kept his eyes downfield looking for someone to throw to.