The Maneater

Prized transfer Kelly Bryant chooses Missouri

The former Clemson quarterback will have one year of eligibility at MU.

Former Clemson quarterback and incoming graduate transfer Kelly Bryant visited MU for the Tigers' game against Kentucky, Oct. 27, 2018.

Missouri football’s gold standard in 2018 may have been even greater than its final 8-4 record, but future ceilings and floors remained unclear and dimensionless without an answer regarding one critical factor. On Tuesday night, the Tigers secured their 2019 quarterback.

Graduate transfer Kelly Bryant, once the starting quarterback for perennial power Clemson, has committed to Missouri. He will be eligible to play one season at MU.

Bryant announced Missouri as his transfer choice on Twitter at 6 p.m. Tuesday over Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and North Carolina. MU and Auburn were considered the two frontrunners in the Bryant sweepstakes as his decision neared. Sources with Missouri told The Maneater Tuesday morning they were confident in MU’s chances at landing Bryant.

Bryant took Clemson to the College Football Playoff last season as its starter. The Tigers lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which also acted as a CFP semifinal. He played the first four games of the 2018 campaign then left the program after freshman Trevor Lawrence took over the starting quarterback job. Bryant graduated from Clemson and will be immediately eligible for Missouri as a graduate transfer.

Bryant is 16-2 in his career as a starter and played backup for Clemson’s national championship team in 2016-17. He will make for an experienced successor to current senior Drew Lock, who will enter the 2019 NFL Draft as one of its top quarterback prospects. After Lock, Missouri’s future at the position was murky – widely seen as a reflection of the prospective state of the program as a whole in the coming years.

Miss out on Bryant, and the Tigers would have been left with Taylor Powell and Micah Wilson, neither of which has taken significant snaps or received much attention for their talent potential. Land Bryant, some pundits said, and Barry Odom’s team could contend near the top of the SEC next year.

Missouri’s evident appeal to Bryant was its offensive style and efficiency this season. First-year offensive coordinator Derek Dooley put together a pro-style machine that utilized Lock’s arm and a trio of tailbacks to average 36.9 points per game against a schedule that included three teams in “New Year’s Six” bowls. The Tigers will return most of their offense in 2019.

Bryant visited MU and attended the Tigers’ 15-14 loss to Kentucky on Oct. 27, then received a visit from Odom in late November. Bryant took two visits to Auburn, including his final one the weekend before Tuesday’s announcement. Reports said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made a last-second visit to Bryant’s home in South Carolina on Tuesday, the day of the announcement.

The turbulent state of Auburn’s coaching staff and poor offensive results in 2018 may have damaged Malzahn’s chances at landing college football’s most prized free agent. Reports surfaced Monday that play-caller Chip Lindsey was leaving Auburn, and he soon took the offensive coordinator job at Kansas. Rumors had circulated earlier questioning Malzahn’s job stability after Auburn finished with a 7-5 record, one season after winning the SEC West.

Bryant passed for 3,338 yards during his career at Clemson, including 2,802 his junior year. Now, he joins an ancestry of reputed Missouri quarterbacks who have steadied the program throughout the years. MU is lined with multi-year starters and has only used seven in the last 16 seasons, one of which was just a temporary injury fill-in. Lock followed the memorable likes of Maty Mauk, James Franklin, Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith.

Kelly Bryant won’t be a multi-year starter for Missouri, but the scale of his recruitment figures him to be just as memorable.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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