Heupel’s exit won’t sway Lock’s NFL decision, QB says
COLUMBIA, MO. • Under Josh Heupel’s watch Missouri’s Drew Lock became a record-setting quarterback and — perhaps — an enticing NFL draft prospect. But in his first public comments since his offensive coordinator left for the head-coaching job at Central Florida, Lock played down the notion that Heupel’s departure will expedite his exit for the NFL.
Asked Sunday if Heupel’s loss will impact his decision about next year’s NFL draft, Lock said “Not too much.”
“At the beginning,” Lock added, “it was all coming out, ‘Heupel left, so Drew’s leaving now.’ But really, I’m on the same course as to making a decision. It (won’t be) a huge factor in my decision.”
Lock won’t decide on whether he’ll enter the NFL draft or return to Mizzou for his senior year until he receives his draft grade from the NFL’s Draft Advisory Council in the coming weeks. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to enter the draft.
Until then, Lock will wait to see whom his head coach picks to run the Mizzou offense.
After Sunday’s practice, Missouri coach Barry Odom said he’s still “talking actively” to multiple candidates for the coordinator position. He wants to maintain some continuity with Mizzou’s edition of the spread offense and doesn’t have a set timeframe on when he plans to make a hire.
“It’s got to be the right fit,” Odom said. “It’s got to be what this program needs and what our kids need. I want a guy who wants to be here and I want someone who can take what we’re doing offensively and make us better. That’s our goal. That’s what we’ve got to find a way to get done.”
“When it happens, it happens,” Lock said. “That’s my mindset on it right now. We’ve got a game to go play and win.”
Should Lock return for the 2018 season, he’ll play for a third offensive coordinator and third quarterbacks coach in four college seasons. When he came to Mizzou in 2015 as a freshman, Josh Henson called plays for the Tigers and Andy Hill coached quarterbacks. When Odom replaced Gary Pinkel during the offseason, he fired Henson, reassigned Hill to coach receivers and hired Heupel to run the offense and coach quarterbacks.
Lock blossomed in his second year under Heupel, setting SEC and Mizzou single-season records with 43 passing touchdowns, which leads all FBS quarterbacks heading into bowl season. Last week he became Missouri’s first quarterback since Chase Daniel in 2007 to earn first-team all-conference honors.
While another round of staff turnover might seem like a factor to push Lock closer to the NFL, he believes the experience might help his stock should he stick around for another season.
“It speaks a lot to have a quarterback who comes in and learns three different systems as far as being able to relay that at the next level,” Lock said. “If a guy does come in here with a brand new offense, with the players we have and the mindset I would have going into it, I think we’d be just fine.”
For now, Odom has put Lock in charge of the quarterbacks in practice as the Tigers (7-5) prepare to play Texas (6-6) in the Texas Bowl, set for Dec. 27 in Houston.
“I’ve coached little kids’ camps,” Lock said, “but this is nothing like a kids’ camp out here.”
Tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley has been the most active assistant as far as working with the quarterbacks and running the offense, Lock said. Finley came to Mizzou after the 2015 season because of his relationship with Heupel — Finley played at Oklahoma from 2003-07 when Heupel was an assistant with the Sooners — but indicated after Friday’s practice he plans to stay at Mizzou and not follow Heupel to UCF. Finley is expected to be Odom’s top internal candidate for the coordinator job if he promotes from within the current staff.
“We have a lot of guys who have been around Heup long enough, like Joe Jon,” Lock said. “Joe Jon came into the meetings we’ve been having recently. We’re trying to teach him our language we have with Heup and he’s trying to intertwine his language with us. It’ll be a neat process to see how it all plays out. I know that our room is a confident room.”
Finley is “extremely comfortable with the offense,” backup quarterback Micah Wilson said. “Because he’s always been around running this (system). He’s stepped right in and done a really good job.”
As for Heupel’s departure, Lock wished his former coach well.
“I was upset as a player, being one of his guys,” Lock said. “That’s the business. That’s the game. He always had a desire to be a head coach somewhere. For all the things he did for me I was happy he got that opportunity but at the same time upset that he had to leave us.”
Wide receiver J’Mon Moore was less diplomatic.
“I don’t even want to answer that question,” he said.