For the first time in over a decade, Missouri hasn’t solidified its quarterback of the future.
Senior Drew Lock will play his final college game at the Liberty Bowl, and backups Taylor Powell and Micah Wilson have not taken meaningful snaps since arriving on campus.
Lock, a projected first-round NFL Draft pick, will leave a void on the Tigers’ roster, but Missouri could fill it Tuesday, the day former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant plans to announce his transfer destination.
Bryant graduated from Clemson and can play immediately as a graduate transfer. He played the first four games of the season for the Tigers but elected to leave the program when freshman Trevor Lawrence took over as starting quarterback. Bryant visited Missouri, Auburn, Arkansas, North Carolina and Mississippi State this fall. Sources tell the Star that the two Tigers teams — Missouri and Auburn — are considered the leaders in the Bryant sweepstakes.
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Reports surfaced on Monday that Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is leaving the program to take the same job at Kansas, which could play a factor in Bryant’s decision.
Missouri has used only seven starting quarterbacks since 2002. Brad Smith started for four seasons, Chase Daniel for three, Blaine Gabbert for two and James Franklin for three. Maty Mauk started in 2014 and played the first four games of the 2015 season before the team suspended him for disciplinary reasons, opening the door for Lock. Corbin Berkstresser started four games in 2012 because of a Franklin injury.
Starting with Daniel as the understudy to Smith, Missouri normally had a younger quarterback play a series every game when the starter was an upperclassman. Lock did the same under Mauk when Gary Pinkel was head coach.
Under Odom, the Tigers have gone away from that.
Powell and Wilson have mainly played in garbage time since stepping on campus, and Missouri lost some quarterbacks Odom inherited, like Marvin Zanders, who transferred. When asked before the season if Odom would give an underclassman meaningful snaps during the season, he didn’t commit.
“I want to get as much out of Drew as we can,” Odom said during spring football.
Four-star quarterback prospect James Foster gave a verbal pledge to Missouri in 2017, but he decommitted during the Tigers’ five-game losing streak and ultimately enrolled at Texas A&M. Powell and Wilson don’t appear ready to start, and incoming freshman Connor Bazelak will likely need time to transition to the college game before taking the reins. The team’s quarterback uncertainty leaves the door open for a graduate transfer looking for a chance to start.
Missouri brings back a significant chunk of its 2018 offense, which could be attractive to Bryant. Three starting linemen will return, as well as the Tigers’ top three running backs and two of their primary receivers. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam could declare for the NFL Draft but will be an attractive receiving target if he returns to Missouri. The Tigers lose top receiver Emanuel Hall.
Bryant boasts 16-2 career record as a starter and earned the ACC Championship Game MVP in 2017. He served as a backup on Clemson’s 2016 team, which won the NCAA Championship.