HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Missouri made a surprising run to the top of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division in just its second year in the league.
Staying on top might be even more of a challenge.
The Tigers lost a huge chunk of their team after finishing 12-2 last season, including 7-1 in the SEC. Only nine starters return, including just four on offense.
But new starting quarterback Maty Mauk was confident during Missouri's appearance at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. In his mind, this is no rebuilding year for the Tigers.
"People can say and do what they want, but we know what we have," Mauk said. "We have playmakers. We have an offensive line that is healthy coming back. We have a quarterback with experience and we have a defense that — people think we lost Kony (Ealy) and (Michael Sam) — but they obviously haven't watched Shane (Ray) and Markus Golden and Charles Harris."
Mauk earned quite a bit of experience last season as a redshirt freshman when starter James Franklin went down with an injury, making four starts and throwing for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he wasn't surprised Mauk played so well in difficult SEC environments last season and expects rapid improvement this fall. He'll have three experienced lineman blocking for him, which should help.
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