COLUMBIA — Much of the national reaction to Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant picking Missouri was a snap comparison to then-starter and current Denver Bronco Drew Lock.
Arm strength, especially in comparison to the hard-throwing Lock, is usually the first critique of Bryant. The Tigers took him anyway, for his myriad other talents. And whether or not offensive coordinator Derek Dooley calls as many go routes as a year ago, already a reduction from the Josh Heupel days, with primary target Emanuel Hall playing for the Chicago Bears, remains to be seen.
But what is clear through two days of training camp is for Bryant and the other quarterbacks, and for a talented corps of receivers, timing has been no issue. It's allowed the offense to more than hold their own in passing drills, with Johnathon Johnson, Kam Scott, Dawson Downing, Johnathan Nance and former Jefferson City Jay Daniel Ellinger have all made notable plays in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills during the last two practices.
"It's just two days, obviously, but it looks really, really sharp right now," head coach Barry Odom said Saturday. "Tomorrow we'll put pads on, shoulder pads, and there will be some collisions and things that change that up a little bit."
In 2017, Bryant passed for 2,802 yards, completing 262-of-398 attempts. Of those 262 completions, 99 were for 10 or more yards, 35 for 20-plus yards, and 14 for 30-plus yards. That same year, Heupel's final season as offensive coordinator, Lock threw for 3,964 yards and completed 242-of-419 attempts on the way to a new SEC record of 44 passing touchdowns in a single season. More than half of those completions, 138, were of 10 or more yards, 62 for 20-plus yards and 32 for 30-plus yards.
The numbers don't correlate perfectly because the two played in different offensive systems, against different opponents and with different teammates, so take the fact that Lock's '17 season was 2.5 yards per attempt better — 9.5 to seven — than Bryant's with a grain of salt, despite an eight percent lower completion rate for Lock, 57.8 to 65.8.
Lock's 2018 season saw a five percent uptick in completion rate while his yards per attempt dropped to eight.
Missouri also won an additional game last year, and arguably could have won three more contests, which is in part because it adjusted away from a boom-or-bust pass-heavy system to one that was still explosive, even in the Southeastern Conference.
The next step for Missouri: a system of wide receivers that have the ball distributed and keep the chains moving without relying on a single perimeter play-maker.
That rotation of Nance, Johnson, Scott, Jalen Knox, Dominic Gicinto and Albert Okwuegbunam, plus another potential breakout player or two, and Bryant, fit that next step.
"The whole summer, we all do routes out here, making sure we were getting the chemistry down," Nance, an Arkansas transfer, said. "The whole receiver corps, just make sure you're getting reps, going hard."
Notes: Defensive tackle/end Akial Byers rolled his ankle in practice. Defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (sprained shoulder) is day-to-day, and running back Simi Bakare missed practice with a stomach bug. None of the three are expected to miss significant time in camp.