HOOVER — Three or four warmup passes, no air in his helmet and his chinstraps loose, Maty Mauk was thrown to the wolves in the fourth quarter against Georgia last season.
With then-Missouri starter James Franklin sidelined with a shoulder injury, Mauk had his number called.
“That was crazy,” Mauk said Wednesday during SEC Media Days. “I remember James going down, and (teammate) Henry Josey coming up to me and saying ‘Hey, just be you, kid.’ That stuck with me ‘til this day.”
So Mauk is anything but a new quarterback, and the Tigers’ success this season largely hinges on his development as a player. Yes, technically this will be Mauk’s first year as the full-time starter, but the redshirt sophomore from Kent, Ohio, ended up starting four games when Franklin went down.
In those four starts, Mauk led the Tigers to a 3-1 record, keeping the season on the right track until Franklin returned. Mauk completed 51 percent of his passes (68 of 133) for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also rushed for 229 yards and a score.
That experience has given Mauk confidence in himself and his entire team.
“It did a lot (to help me), especially from the standpoint of slowing the game down,” Mauk said. “I’m not going out there and managing the game anymore. I’m going out there with an explosive offense and putting points on the board. It really slowed the game down. It’s like I’m in high school and just having fun.”
Mauk said he learned the most in the Florida game, which was his first start. That Saturday afternoon, Mauk threw for 295 yards and one touchdown and also rushed for a touchdown. It was also the first of three times he earned SEC Freshman Player of the Week honors.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Mauk’s performance didn’t surprise him.
“He was a great player in high school, highly recruited player,” Pinkel said. “He’s just got the 'it' factor. Obviously you have to block and give him time to throw the football, establish our running game, make plays. It’s not all Maty Mauk, but I think he’s a player that has great, great potential.”
Mauk’s goal is to build off last season and prove doubters wrong. Most experts have Georgia or South Carolina winning the SEC East Division, even though the Tigers won it last season.
“It doesn’t bother us at all,” Mauk said. “People can say and do what they want. … What people say has no effect on what we do. We’re just going to go out and try to win every single game.”