COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri opened spring football practice Tuesday without several familiar faces.
After winning 12 games and the Cotton Bowl last season, the Tigers are without SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam and quarterback James Franklin. Running back Henry Josey and defensive end Kony Ealy also are gone.
The loss of the key players appears to be even more motivation for Missouri when it comes to replicating last season's success.
"Nobody respects us still," senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. "They still think of us as the little brother in the SEC. It doesn't matter if we won 12 games last year. It's a whole new season."
Much of the preseason attention centers on sophomore Maty Mauk, who played well last season in place of an injured Franklin and figures to have the upper hand for the starting quarterback job.
A 6-foot, 200-pound native of Kenton, Ohio, Mauk is listed atop the depth chart over junior Corbin Berkstresser and passed for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall. Should he start, he'll lead an offense that scored 39.1 points and gained 490.7 yards per game, both of which ranked third in the Southeastern Conference.
"It's all about competition," coach Gary Pinkel said. "He played a third of the season and did very, very well.
"He's the starter right now."
Mauk won't have the benefit of having Franklin on the sidelines, and he won't be able to throw it to L'Damian Washington. Washington, a leader on the field and in the locker room, led the Tigers with 893 yards receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
Senior receiver Bud Sasser said he would like to see Mauk become more consistent throughout games, but that it's a team issue more than an individual one.
"To me, Maty's always been calm and poised in the pocket," senior running back Marcus Murphy said. "Just with the experience and coming out today, he's been looking good."
Mauk will have junior Dorial Green-Beckham, who returns after setting a school record with four touchdown receptions from Mauk against Kentucky. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound native of Springfield, Mo., had a team-high 59 receptions and 12 touchdowns.