After a sluggish start to the tenure of coach Barry Odom, Missouri has won 14 of its past 20 games, but the Tigers face the formidable task of replacing prolific passer Drew Lock.
How big is that task? Well, Lock played in 50 games, starting 46. He passed for 12,193 yards and 99 touchdowns. He completed 56.9 percent of his passes, 56.9 percent as a senior. He set a Missouri record by throwing 44 touchdown passes as a junior. Over his final two seasons, he threw 72 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions.
Now Lock is gone, a second-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos.
Entering the picture is former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, who moved to Columbia as a graduate transfer after he left the Clemson program, four games into last season. He stated those four as part of 18 consecutive starts. Bryant was supplanted by freshman Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville, who led the Tigers to the national championship over Alabama.
Players to watch
» Kelly Bryant. After leaving Clemson in September, Bryant landed at Missouri in December as a graduate transfer, taking advantage of the NCAA’s new rule that allowed a player to play up to four games and still redshirt. Otherwise, he would not have been eligible to continue his career beyond that point.
Bryant took part in spring practice, ready to work with offensive coordinator Derek Dooley to prepare for the challenge of replacing Lock as Missouri’s starting quarterback. Bryant started all 14 games for Clemson in 2017 and completed 262 of 398 passes (65.8 percent) for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns, while throwing only eight interceptions, so his background clearly shows that he is a capable replacement for Lock.
» Johnathan Johnson and Albert Okwuegbunam. A senior this season, Johnson led Missouri in receiving in 2018 (59 catches in 13 games). Okwuegbunam, a junior, ranked second (43 catches, six TDs in only nine games), and he was voted first-team preseason All-SEC by voters at the SEC Media Days in July. Johnson finished last season with nine catches for 185 yards in the Liberty Bowl and has a knack for big plays. He scored on an 86-yard catch in the Liberty Bowl and recorded a 79-yard TD pass in the Texas Bowl the year before. Okwuegbunam was a John Mackey Award finalist last year and has NFL scouts keeping their eyes on him. These two give Bryant key weapons as he goes to work in his new surroundings.
» Cale Garrett. Another first-team preseason All-SEC selection, Garrett is a 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior middle linebacker who was chosen first-team All-SEC last season by Pro Football Focus. Garrett was credited with making 112 tackles last season, 69 solo, and has 22.5 tackles for loss in his three seasons playing for Mizzou — with four sacks and three interceptions.
» Larry Rountree. As a sophomore last season, Rountree ranked fourth in the SEC in rushing. He netted 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns (5.4 yards per carry, 93.5 per game). Rountree has rushed for 1,919 yards in his career, the most ever by a Missouri player in his first two seasons.
Before the Tigers face the Bulldogs
Missouri’s bye week comes the week before they travel to Athens. Before that Missouri plays consecutive road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Tigers’ four nonconference games this season are at Wyoming and at home against West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State and Troy. Other than this one against Georgia, the games may matter most to Missouri come after the Bulldogs: at home against Florida and Tennessee in the weeks immediately after this game.
The last time against Georgia
The Bulldogs won, 43-29, last season at Missouri. Aided by a 64-yard fumble recovery and return for a touchdown in the first quarter by freshman cornerback Tyson Campbell, Georgia led 20-7 at halftime and held on to defeat the Tigers. Jake Fromm threw three touchdown passes for Georgia, which won its fifth consecutive game in the series with Missouri. UGA holds a 7-1 lead all-time, including a victory in the Orange Bowl in the 1959 season. All other games have occurred since Missouri joined the SEC for the 2012 season.
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