Now that the college football season is officially over, we can start to turn our attention towards the 2014 season. Once again, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will be back on the field looking to win the award yet again. As impressive as Jameis Winston was this season, next year he’ll have to contend with Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, and Brett Hundley on the short list for the Heisman at the start of the season. However, one player to keep an eye on as a potential dark horse for the Heisman in 2014 is Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk.
As a redshirt freshman, Mauk started four games for the Tigers in the middle of their SEC schedule when James Franklin went down with an injury, and the Missouri offense didn’t miss a beat. The Tigers were 3-1 over those four games as Mauk kept them on track to win the SEC East and ultimately finish the season with 12 wins, including a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
Even after Franklin returned from injury, head coach Gary Pinkel made sure that Mauk got playing time. That included an appearance in the Cotton Bowl when he provided a much-needed spark for the Missouri offense in the second quarter by making two long runs to move the ball down the field before eventually throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas.
After all of the success Mauk had as a backup this season, he should be well prepared to make a seamless transition to being the full-time starter next season. With so many of the top quarterbacks in the SEC leaving, Mauk will enter 2014 as one of the best quarterbacks in the best conference, setting up both Mauk and the Tigers for success next season.
As the Tigers’ starting quarterback in 2014, Mauk will be in perfect position to make a serious run at the Heisman even if he’s not a favorite heading into the season. He’s displayed the athletic ability to make plays with his legs which is almost a prerequisite these days for quarterbacks hoping to win the Heisman. He’s also displayed great instincts and decision-making this season which will allow him to make highlight reel plays that capture the attention of fans and critics.
What will help Mauk become a Heisman contender in 2014 is the fact that he’ll have a pair of big and reliable receivers to throw the ball to in Dorial Green-Beckham and Bud Sasser. They will make it easy for Mauk to complete passes and improve his completion percentage. Having those two talented receivers and a set of veteran running backs at his side will help Mauk lead what should be a high-scoring Missouri offense and will allow him to put up the kind of numbers that will gain a lot of recognition to put him in the Heisman conversation.
Right now, Mauk is just a redshirt freshman that had some nice moments as the backup quarterback on a top-10 team. But next year he’ll be the starter on a contending team in the SEC which will give him the opportunity he needs to gain notoriety across the country. Mauk has the skill-set and the supporting cast necessary to take advantage of that opportunity and become a serious candidate for the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.