Kentucky has four straight wins over Missouri but the consensus seems to be that Missouri will be picked to finish higher than Kentucky in a poll at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., this week. One reason for that feeling is the arrival of transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant from Clemson. But remember that Missouri’s former quarterback Drew Lock was a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Here’s what Missouri coach Barry Odom had to say Monday about Bryant (Kentucky will host Missouri on Oct. 26 at Kroger Field).
Q. I wanted to ask about Kelly Bryant. What do you think is the key getting him to Missouri? How does he fit in? What does he bring to table for you?
BARRY ODOM: When Kelly stepped on campus for his official visit, I saw interaction between him and our team in the locker room. It was a natural fit. He’s a very selfless person, low, low ego. And one of the best competitors I have ever been around. That fit with who we are as a program and as an organization. I also look at the opportunity when you look at the makeup of the guys returning on that side of the ball on stepping in the quarterback position, he’s going to make some mistakes. All quarterbacks do. We need ten guys around him to play really well.
But also the fit that he had when he was on campus, there’s times that through the recruiting process, you can tell the story over and over and over over the phone, through graphics and pictures, but when you get a kid on campus, you get a prospect on campus, and you see the structure we have, the culture, the ownership of our team with our players, everybody that touches them they know they’ll have success. We give them the platform to go be successful and guys want to be a part of that. They see it. They’re attracted to it. And it was a very, very natural fit.
Q. Coach, you talk about Kelly and his impact. What are your overall thoughts on the transfer portal just having gone through kind of a full year of this thing?
BARRY ODOM: Yeah, the thing with how you build your roster, and you know, it’s unique for every situation, and our opinion is at Mizzou, the ways that you always want to try to — you want to improve your roster through recruiting in every area, then how do you build that? The approach of grad transfers, of high school, junior college, how is your program built? You’ve got to make sure, and we do, from the inside out, that it’s built that we’re all in for Mizzou.
I don’t want a situation where a guy steps in that doesn’t fit with the culture of who we are and doesn’t want to do it the Mizzou way because then the experience that they have won’t be what they are looking for. So the ways through the transfer portal, I think would have been very, very open to finding out how it’s going to fit, how does it work, you know, what the opportunities are there. But also, there’s more time that I need before I have a firm belief in, yeah, this is a great thing or not.
I also, I look at experiences for student-athletes. You know, for them, in the short window they’ve got to be a student-athlete, a college student-athlete, I want it to be the best experience it can be for that kid. Okay. And fortunate we are in the category that we haven’t had guys leave. They’ve wanted to be at Mizzou. Is that going to change? I’m sure it will over time, that we’ll have a player leave and enter the portal, but right now, it’s too early for me to stand and say, exactly how I feel — the good or the bad with that.
I know we’ve got to be really — you know, you got to be open and really study on what’s out there and what’s available because the roster management just has increased. The time you spent on that has increased so much with those opportunities.
Q. Barry, I wanted to ask a follow-up on Kelly Bryant. As a former defensive coach, what do you think makes him a problem for defenses? And also you have Jonathan Nance, a former Arkansas player, how is he sitting in? What kind of season are you expecting from him?
BARRY ODOM: As a coach, you want to be a great teacher. That’s our job is be tremendous educators and put our kids in position to play well and use their skill set. Kelly’s skill set at the quarterback position allows us an opportunity in the things that he’s been able to do, in the vertical passing game, the intermediate passing game, play action, moving the pocket, but also some quarterback run that will help our team out.
That’s also his growth as a quarterback, as I saw from practice one to 15, the things that he was able to do that we have done previously in our offense. He has a really good grasp of that. So it allows a lot of different things that you have to defend from a defensive standpoint, and I think every quarterback obviously is a little unique and different, but Kelly has got a skill set that through the air or on the ground, he’s going to be able to help us and gain an advantage in a number of different ways from that position.
You asked about Jonathan Nance, who is a transfer, plays wide receiver, he was able to start school in January, went through winter conditioning program, and then spring practice. And right now, if we lined up in the depth chart and started practice tomorrow, he would be one of the starters at the wide receiver position.
I’ve got a number of guys battling for those jobs, but he did a nice job understanding the scheme of what we’re trying to do offensively. And by the end of spring, he was able to play to his speed because he understood the concepts and what we’re asking out of the play.