Mauk Key For Missouri's Continued SEC Success

Created on Jul. 18, 2014 2:59 PM EST

This time last year, the majority of media members expected to see Gary Pinkel on his way out as Missouri's head coach. Fast forward one year later and Pinkel has a contract extension through 2020, and with it, a raise from $2.35 million to $3.1 million per year.

Missouri went from 5-7 in its first year in the SEC in 2012, to 12-2 last year, winning the SEC East.

Granted the SEC East was down last season with Florida and Tennessee being below .500 and Georgia riddled with injuries. South Carolina defeated Missouri, but the Gamecocks lost to Tennessee before beating Missouri – ultimately costing Steve Spurrier the East title.

How good are the Missouri Tigers this season?

One thing that is in Missouri's favor is the quarterback position. Maty Mauk returns and could very well be the best returning SEC starting quarterback this season, alongside Dylan Thompson.

"I wasn't surprised by the way Maty handled himself when forced into action last season," Pinkel said at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. "He's got a great work ethic. The team respects him and he leads in a positive way. I think Maty is a very natural leader. After the Georgia game, I said great, great game. It's what I saw in high school, he has the ‘it’ factor."

Mauk said at SEC Media Days that he is continuing to become a better signal caller and that attending the Manning Passing Camp helped sharpen his skill set.

"It taught me huddle presence and leadership," Mauk said. "It took me to the next level. We can continue to build off that."

Mauk and his "it" factor will be the deciding tale if Missouri can keep its winning SEC ways intact. Pinkel kept it simple in describing how to keep that momentum rolling: “Win, that keeps it going."

"The 2013 East title was vindication for those who didn't believe Missouri belonged in the SEC after a dismal 2012 season," Pinkel told reporters. "It also has been very positive for us especially in recruiting."

2014 Missouri Tigers Schedule Predictions

Wins: South Dakota State, Toledo, UCF, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Kentucky

Losses: South Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M

Toss-ups: Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas

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