COLUMBIA, Mo. – Paul Adams tries to avoid playing Jack Lowary, Missouri’s backup quarterback, in “Madden” if he can help it.
Lowary’s football IQ, which teammates rave about, apparently translates to the video game.
“The man just knows exactly what’s supposed to happen,” said Adams, Missouri’s right tackle.
The same can be said when Lowary is on the practice field getting in work as Drew Lock's backup.
Lowary redshirted last season, when he served as MU’s third-string QB. Although he never stepped on the field, he said he had a good understanding of offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s system.
“I think I’ve had a great grasp of it since the beginning,” Lowary said. “Definitely game week” last year, “I was ready.”
Missouri didn’t use a two-quarterback system in 2016. Lock was the man at the controls, starting all 12 games and accounting for all but 14 of the team’s 448 pass attempts. But backup Marvin Zanders was used as a run-first wrinkle. Zanders appeared in eight games, rushing for 198 yards and completing 10 of 12 passes.
Zanders decided to leave the program after the season – he committed to transfer to Virginia but never resurfaced there – walking away with two years of eligibility on the table.
That left Lock as Missouri’s only quarterback who has thrown a pass in a Football Bowl Subdivision game. Redshirt freshman Micah Wilson is battling with Lowary for the backup job.
Despite Zanders’ departure and the lack of game experience behind Lock, Missouri’s third-year starter said he feels more comfortable with the Tigers’ backup situation than he did a year ago.
“I’m more confident if I go down, Jack would be able to come in and run the offense more in the style of offense that I would play,” Lock said. “... Jack is a smart football player who knows what he’s doing and takes care of the ball, can check in and out of things if he needs to. He won’t make a bad play for us.”
Adams said Lock isn’t afraid to approach Lowary and get his input about what he saw on a particular play.
Lowary hasn’t thrown a pass in game action since November 2015, when he was Long Beach City College’s quarterback in its SoCal regional championship game against Saddleback College. Lowary threw for 3,306 yards in that lone season at Long Beach City.
The Huntington Beach, Calif., native opted to go to junior college to improve his stock after not getting scholarship offers coming out of Mater Dei High School.
“I had confidence in myself going to junior college,” Lowary said. “I knew I’d probably get picked up real quickly.”
His plan paid off when Missouri swooped in late in the recruiting cycle for its 2016 signing class. Lowary signed one day after national signing day, enrolled at MU and participated in camp that spring.
Since then, he’s bided his time.
Lowary has experience with that.
“I was a three-year backup at Mater Dei,” Lowary said. “I was on varsity all four years and sat for three of them,” before passing for 2,265 yards as a senior, “so I’ve learned a lot just through watching people.”
The battle for the backup job isn’t settled. Missouri will have its first closed scrimmage of camp on Saturday.
In the spring game, Lowary completed 7 of 11 passes for 113 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Wilson was 7 of 15 for 68 yards and an interception.
Wilson, who came to Missouri as a three-star recruit from Tulsa, Okla., said his biggest improvement in the past year has come in the mental aspect of the position.
“I feel like I physically have the ability, and I feel like I mentally now have the ability,” Wilson said. “I’ve just been really focusing on that this spring, summer, and it’s been huge for me. Now I understand why concepts work, not just: Go here, go here.”
Certainly, the hope within Missouri’s camp is that Lock stays healthy for the full season and piles on to his 20 career starts. But if he does miss any time, Adams said the Tigers feel confident in the options behind him.
“We wouldn’t feel any uncomfortableness at all,” said Adams, who noticed Lowary and Wilson devouring hours upon hours of film in the offseason. “It would just be a different voice telling us what the play is.”