Kelly Bryant’s Faurot Field debut did little to manage the hype train surrounding Missouri’s new starting quarterback.
Bryant, a graduate transfer from Clemson, completed 12 of 17 passes for 150 yards to help his Black team defeat the Gold 21-3 in Missouri’s spring game on Saturday.
While his performance mainly came against the third-string defense, Bryant completed his first eight passes and played a little favoritism with wideout Jonathan Nance, a fellow graduate transfer from Arkansas.
Nance caught three passes for 48 yards and made MU’s offense look experienced, especially for a unit that is replacing former quarterback Drew Lock and wideout Emanuel Hall. Both Hall and Lock could go in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, which starts April 25.
“I think the veteran piece helps,” said Derek Dooley, MU’s offensive coordinator, on Nance and Bryant. “I wouldn’t say they have a rapport. They’re developing a rapport. You can tell both of them have been out there in big games. Nance made plays every scrimmage we were in.”
Bryant and Nance took their official visit together on Oct. 27 for MU’s game against Kentucky, which resulted in a last-second loss, but the duo immediately clicked. While Bryant was the hottest quarterback on the market, Nance was under the radar and only got on the Tigers’ radar because of his high school teammate, MU wideout Richaud Floyd.
Floyd told MU tight ends coach A.J. Ofodile, who was coaching receivers last season, about Nance, and Mizzou immediately got on his radar. Floyd hosted both players on the visit and discovered after the game that the two had decided to be a package deal and attend Missouri together.
“He’s a funny, goofy guy,” Nance said of Bryant. “I’m a people person, too. We clicked together as soon as we met.”
“I didn’t know him at all,” Bryant told The Star about Nance. “He was one of the first guys to hit me up. Came here together for the first time here on our visit, and it seemed like we already knew each other. We took advantage of the rule and just wanted to take advantage of this last year that we have.”
It appears they’re already doing so.
In his third series on Saturday, Bryant opened the drive by finding Nance for a 25-yard strike down the sideline on a back-shoulder fade. The two connected on the next play for a 15-yard gain over the middle. While Saturday’s competition level wasn’t that of a conference game, the showing was impressive given MU was without starters Albert Okwuegbunam and Jonathon Johnson, who both sat out due to injury.
Nance originally committed to Missouri with the thought that he’d be playing under Ofodile, but has enjoyed being paired with wideouts coach Garrick McGee, who was an offensive analyst on MU’s staff in 2018. Ofodile said Nance was one of his favorite athletes to recruit, because his experience made him come off as a professional athlete instead of a high school recruit.
“If you didn’t know him, you’d think he’s a serious, quiet kid, but he’s really fun, comedian,” McGee said of Nance. “But he’s been around now. He’s on his third program, really fourth, so he understands the urgency of what we want to accomplish. I’m really glad we got him.”
Floyd and Nance first met in elementary school, when they played against one another in youth football before becoming teammates in middle school and later at Gulfport High School in Mississippi. At Gulfport, Floyd said Nance was always a play-maker, but wasn’t as outspoken as he is now.
With Nance needed to replace both the production and leadership left by Hall and fellow senior Nate Brown, he knows he has to make a quick impact, given he only has one year at MU.
“I just try to make sure I’m doing everything right so the younger guys below me know how to handle business,” Nance said.
On Saturday, he provided a good example for that.