Memphis Tigers vs. Mizzou Tigers at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics
It is never easy to replace a four-year starter at quarterback, but with the transfer portal serving as the NCAA’s free agency market, there are usually a few savvy veterans available if you can offer the right situation. Drew Locke helped navigate the Missouri program through a coaching change that, thanks in large part to his talents, went from disaster to success. Barry Odom used that momentum to court former Clemson starter Kelly Bryant, who left the Tigers after he lost his job to phenom, Trevor Lawrence.
Bryant is a true dual-threat quarterback. While his passing statistics weren’t eye-popping, his willingness to run and decision making, along with his accuracy, give Missouri a dependable starter who won’t lose the game with bone-headed mistakes. The players around him should make his transition into a new system easier. The offensive line is experienced and massive (averaging 6’5”, 325 lbs), the receivers are solid, and the back field features an every down back in Larry Roundtree III, with enough depth on the bench to spell him when needed.
August 31 at Wyoming
September 7 vs. West Virginia
September 14 vs. SE Missouri State
September 21 vs. South Carolina
October 5 vs. Troy University
October 12 vs. Ole Miss
October 19 at Vanderbilt
October 26 at Kentucky
November 9 at Georgia
November 16 vs. Florida
November 23 vs. Tennessee
November 30 at Arkansas (Little Rock, ARK)
Defensively, this squad is stingy but struggles getting after the quarterback. Ranking 108th in sack rate during 2018 was a far cry from the defenses fans had grown accustomed to for just about their entire time in the Southeastern Conference, but they worked around that deficiency quite well. The secondary struggled at times, but some of that has to be placed on the lack of a pass rush.
Most of that cast from 2018 return this season, led by linebacker Cale Garrett, who is absolute beast in every aspect of the game. That should lead to an improved defense, so points shouldn’t come cheap against the Tigers in 2019.
Four-year starting punter Corey Fatony exits and will be replaced by Tucker McCann, who will handle place kicking and punting duties going forward.
If Bryant acclimates quickly and produces like he did for his former squad, the offense should be solid but not explosive. That will require the defense to create a short field if they want to be considered a true dark horse in the East. With the ridiculous sanctions (2019 Bowl Ban and loss of scholarships) set forth for self-reporting a few minor violations, this team will be motivated to give it their all; I still think that yields a max of eight or nine wins.