HOOVER, Ala. — It did not take long for the college game to begin to slow down for Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk.
Mauk needed just 22 seconds last October against the Florida Gators.
Two passes — the second a 20-yard Mauk touchdown throw — were the beginning of a Tigers’ offensive onslaught last October that signaled the beginning of the end of the Gators’ season and the start of something special for Mizzou.
Mauk’s first career started ended in a 36-17 win over UF featuring 500 yards of offense against a defense ranked No. 3 in the nation.
“That’s what really slowed everything down for me,” Mauk recalled Wednesday at SEC Media Days. “That’s when I got better.”
The best surely is yet to come from Mauk, a redshirt sophomore.
Mauk backed up senior James Franklin last season. But Mauk offered a glimpse of the future during four starts in place of the injured Franklin during the middle of Mizzou’s surprising run to the SEC championship game.
Mauk was 3-1, losing only in double-overtime to South Carolina. He finished with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
“The bad news is we lost our QB for four games,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday. “But the good news, that experience has helped (Mauk) tremendously. Our players obviously have a lot of confidence in him.”
The Tigers are now Mauk’s team.
With a void of star quarterbacks in the SEC, Mauk also has a chance to become the league’s next electrifying signal caller.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be 100 percent all the time, but he’s going to surprise you every week,” Missouri center Evan Boehm said. “He’s a playmaker.”
Mauk’s favorite player is Johnny Manziel because of his ability to improvise on the field.
“He can turn anything into something,” Mauk said of Manziel. “He can change a game so quick by being able to make plays. He’s someone I look to.
“I watch him on film on the time.”
Mauk sees himself in a similar mode, as does his coach.
“He’s just got the ‘it’ factor,” Pinkel said.
At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Mauk is a much better runner than people think.
“I was a track guy,” he joked.
No has ever questioned his ability to throw the football. The Ohio native remains the national high school record holder in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense.
Pinkel said Mauk also is a strong leader.
Off the field, Maty Football is the anti-Manziel. Mauk, who wore longish hair, a beard and a bow tie Wednesday, is a low-key kid with an aversion to the spotlight.
“I don’t like attention,” he said. “I want to be able to focus on football and get as good as I can and help this team succeed.”
A talented, determined quarterback gives Pinkel the ultimate building block.
Looking to remain atop the SEC East, Mizzou returns an SEC-low eight starters — four on each side of the ball — from a 12-2 team.
The biggest hole is at wide receiver. The Tigers lost 6-foot-4 L’Damian Washington and 6-foot-6 Dorian Green-Beckham, who combined for 22 touchdown catches in 2013. Washington graduated and Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April.
Mauk said he is confident in the current receivers, led by Texas transfer Darius White, and has worked hard this offseason to develop timing and chemistry with them.
“I’m not going to sit back and watch,” Mauk said. “I’m going to lead and show these guys what to do. I want our team to be as good as it can be.”
Mizzou’s encore to 2014 likely will hinge on Mauk’s success.
Despite the splash he made in a limited role, Mauk completed just 51.1 percent of his passes. One reason, he said, is he was anxious, overly aggressive and sometimes did not allow receivers’ routes to develop.
But with each day, the game slows down for him.
“You can tell after each pass Maty makes, his confidence goes up more and more,” Boehm said.
Mauk can see a difference, too.
“It’s almost like I’m back in high school and having fun,” he said.