› Last season: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)› 2019 opener: Aug. 31 vs. Wyoming in Laramie (7:30; CBS Sports Newtwork)› Fun fact: Missouri has been to more Orange Bowls (four) than any other postseason destination, but the Tigers haven’t played in the Orange since 1969.› Coming Wednesday: South Carolina
What was it like for Missouri transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant to watch his former school, Clemson, demolish Alabama 44-16 in January's championship game of the college football playoff?
Was he happy? Was it bittersweet?
Try both of the above.
Bryant started Clemson's first four games last season before abruptly leaving the program once Tigers coach Dabo Swinney replaced him with freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence. A 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, Bryant was a backup when Deshaun Watson quarterbacked Clemson to the national title in 2016, and he was the starter in 2017, when Clemson was the top seed in the playoff but lost a Sugar Bowl national semifinal to Alabama 24-6.
"It felt great to see my brothers win the national championship," Bryant said this month at SEC Media Days. "They had put in a lot of work. I wasn't surprised by the outcome, because I knew they would have a good game plan. Just talking to them beforehand, they felt good about it.
"It was a little bittersweet for me. I was sitting at home watching the game, and I had been there for three or four years grinding it out with those guys, but at the end of the day I was happy for them and seeing them celebrate and how they went out. I was good with it."
Bryant announced Missouri as his transfer destination more than a month before Clemson's victory.
Missouri thrived offensively last season with quarterback Drew Lock, who played in 50 career games for the Tigers and amassed 12,193 passing yards and 99 aerial touchdowns before becoming a second-round selection of the Denver Broncos this past spring. The match between Bryant and Mizzou was instant, according to both Bryant and fourth-year coach Barry Odom.
"When Kelly stepped on campus for his official visit, I saw an interaction between him and our team in the locker room," Odom said. "It was a natural fit. He's a very selfless person with a low, low ego, and he's one of the best competitors I have ever been around.
"He also saw an opportunity when you look at the makeup of the guys returning on that side of the ball. He's going to make some mistakes. All quarterbacks do. We need 10 guys around him to play really well."
What does Bryant remember about arriving at his new home?
"Getting to Missouri was a long drive," he said. "It was 12 hours, and it was cold. They didn't tell me about that on my visit."
Several weeks into Bryant's transition, the NCAA leveled one-year postseason bans for Missouri's football, baseball and softball programs as a result of a former tutor taking exams for 12 student-athletes. The school has appealed the ruling, but as it currently stands, Bryant has played in his final bowl game.
He has no regrets about his decision.
"I did not consider leaving," he said. "I had already built a relationship with these guys within a couple of months, and I felt I was in a good spot."
Bryant threw for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns for the 2017 Tigers, and he also rushed for 665 yards and 11 scores. He was completing nearly 67% of his passes last season before being replaced.
When Lock held his pro day at Mizzou, he visited with Bryant and offered some tips. Bryant plans to be just as effective guiding an offense that averaged 481.8 yards and 36.6 points per game in Lock's final season and in Derek Dooley's first season as coordinator.
The Tigers return Larry Rountree, who rushed for 1,216 yards and 5.4 yards per carry last year, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, a 6-5, 255-pound mismatch issue who averaged nearly five receptions a game and nearly 11 yards a catch.
"We're still going to attack you vertically down the field," Bryant said. "Coach Dooley pitched to me that we have a bunch of guys coming back and that there won't be any drop-off in our passing game. He also likes that I can run and make plays with my legs, so he's going to cater to that as well.
"I don't think there will be any drop-off from Drew to me."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.