Missouri offense locked and loaded

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ATLANTA - Missouri senior quarterback Drew Lock has been through a lot during his three seasons in Columbia.

Lock played for two head coaches, Gary Pinkel and Barry Odom, as well as two offensive coordinators, Josh Henson and Josh Heupel.

The senior from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was forced into action as a freshman and struggled. In limited action while sharing time with Maty Mauk, Lock completed less than half of his passes and his interceptions doubled the touchdowns.

Lock’s yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and quarterback rating increased both as a sophomore and junior, culminating in a SEC record 44 touchdowns in 2017 as he led Missouri to its first winning season since 2014.

Now a senior, all eyes are on the 6-foot-4-inch NFL prospect. Lock has been named to the 2018 Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards watch lists for best offensive player and quarterback in the nation. MU also released a video campaigning for a Heisman invite.

The attention doesn’t seem to bother Lock, who has been through the ringer as a three-year starter.

“It brings pressure, but if you’re playing in the SEC, you’re traveling to Athens and travelling to Georgia,” Lock said. “There’s a lot of pressure regardless.”

Lock, born in Columbia, is a Tiger legacy. His grandfather, Jerry, and his father, Andy, both played for Missouri.

The youngest Lock could have left after his junior season to pursue a life in the NFL, but decided to return.

“Being the face of a program that I grew up loving means the world to me,” Lock said.

The face now finds himself facing a new challenge: learning a new offense.

Odom hired Derek Dooley in January to call the offense, meaning Lock will play for his third offense in four seasons.

Dooley has never called plays for an offense, but has experience as a head coach at Louisiana Tech and Tennessee. His last stop was in the NFL on the Dallas Cowboys’ staff.

Odom has already seen an impact on his quarterback.

“From the time our bowl game was over in December to today, his football IQ is better than maybe the jump he made from his freshman year to now,” Odom said.

“Take that combined with the physical set that he's got, he's got a chance of having a special year.”

Dooley plans to bring some of the pro-style offense he learned to Missouri, which Lock considered when deciding to return for another season.

“We’re building something more,” Lock said. “Coach Dooley knows a lot about the NFL game. He’s definitely bringing more of that into play which I’m really excited about. It really appealed to me and made me want to come back even more.”

“It’s going to be a little bit of a different vibe this year with the Missouri offense, but it’s going to be fun.”

It doesn’t concern Odom that the Sept. 1 kickoff against Tennessee-Martin will be Dooley’s first time calling an offense.

“(Dooley) really hit every checkmark for me on what I wanted in that position,” Odom said. “It's been good for me to be able to bounce some things off of him, just like the rest of my staff. He's been in some of those opportunities to make decisions, learn from some things that he did right, learn from some things that he didn't do right.”

Missouri was picked fourth in the SEC East by the media in the preseason polls, despite having the second-most first-team selections in the conference.

This fuels Lock’s fire to change the narrative surrounding the Tigers.

“I've always been the guy to think that nobody respects me as a quarterback, no one thinks I’m anything,” Lock said. “I think it also comes with the whole University of Missouri thing.”

“When we throw a touchdown, it’s because the guy was wide open. When we bust a run, it’s because the hole was huge and they split the wrong gaps. It’s not because we threw a great ball, have great wide receivers, or our offensive line is great. It’s because the other team did bad. I’m trying to change that.”

Lock could’ve left for the NFL, but he didn’t. He has got a chip. Now, he’ll get the chance to eat.

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