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Who stands to benefit the most from Kelly Bryant’s transfer to Mizzou?

When transfer quarterbacks take over, do they usually go with trusted receivers, or are opportunities ripe for new guys?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee
Recent history favors established options over fresh faces when grad transfer quarterbacks step into a Power-5 situation. Good news, right, Johnathon Johnson?
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri spring football practice this year, officially, is Kelly Bryant Watch Season.

If dispatches from the people who cover the team every day aren’t evidence enough of that, then perhaps this story from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd is enough to convince you.

But I’m not here to talk about Bryant today. I’m here to talk about the guys he’ll be throwing to.

Who benefits the most when a graduate transfer quarterback steps in and takes the reins? With only, if they’re lucky, spring and fall practice to get acquainted with their new cast of characters, do these signal-callers end up falling back on the guys who have produced for their new team before, or do they seek out fresh faces with which to forge a connection?

I looked back at Power-5 graduate transfer quarterbacks since 2014 — using The Grad Transfer Tracker, FOX Sports and Athlon Sports to pull names — and found 19 examples of grad transfer quarterbacks who ended up starting at least five games the next season for their new teams.

Did they rely on experience? Should Johnathon Johnson, Albert Okwuegbunam and Jalen Knox be excited? Or should newish weapons such as Jonathan Nance, Dominic Gicinto...or Micah Wilson? chomping at the bit.

Let’s see what the past five years of history tell us.


A.J. Bush, Illinois
Top Target: Ricky Smalling, Soph. (33 catches, 406 yards, 5 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was also the Illini’s leading receiver as a true freshman the year before.
Rating: Continuity

Gardner Minshew, Washington St.
Top Target: James Williams, Jr. (83 catches, 613 yards, 4 TD)
What’s His Story?: The Cougars’ running back was also the top pass-catcher the year before with Luke Falk slinging the ball.
Rating: Continuity

Wilton Speight, UCLA
Top Target: Caleb Wilson, Jr. (60 catches, 965 yards, 4 TD)
What’s His Story?: Wilson, a tight end, was on track to be the Bruins’ leading pass-catcher the year before, but injury derailed his season after five games.
Rating: Continuity

Joe Burrow, LSU
Top Target: Justin Jefferson, Soph. (54 catches, 875 yards, 6 TD)
What’s His Story?: Didn’t have a catch the year before, so he was a fresh face. LSU also lost its top three pass-catchers, but Burrow eschewed more experienced receivers for Jefferson.
Rating: Fresh Face


Max Browne, Pittsburgh
Top Target: Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Jr. (43 catches, 531 yards, 2 TD)
What’s His Story?: Had only three catches the year before and benefited greatly from Browne coming into the picture. Had 26 catches over the first six games with Browne starting then, with Browne lost to injury, only 17 over the final six.
Rating: Fresh Face


Ryan Finley, NC State
Top Target: Jaylen Samuels, Jr. (55 catches, 565 yards, 7 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was also the top pass-catcher under Jacoby Brissett the year before and would continue to be under Finley in 2017.
Rating: Continuity

Davis Webb, California
Top Target: Chad Hansen, Jr. (92 catches, 1249 yards, 11 TD)
What’s His Story?: Caught only 19 passes in 10 games the year before, so Webb was a huge boost to Hansen’s fortunes. So was Cal losing its top six pass-catchers from the year before.
Rating: Fresh Face

Dakota Prukop, Oregon
Top Target: Charles Nelson, Jr. (52 catches, 554 yards, 5 TD)
What’s His Story?: Little-used option the year before, catching 17 passes over 12 games and being the fourth option on the wideout pecking order. With Prukop and, after his benching, Justin Hebert behind center and two of those other options still around, Nelson rose to the top. Well, co-top with Darren Carrington.
Rating: Fresh Face

Austin Appleby, Florida
Top Target: Antonio Callaway, Soph. (54 catches, 721 yards, 3 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was the big-play guy, while Demarcus Robinson was the possession receiver, the year before. With Robinson gone, Callaway easily assumed his role as more of an every-down option.
Rating: Continuity

Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Top Target: Christian Kirk, Soph. (83 catches, 928 yards, 9 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was a 1,000-yard receiver with Jake Allen and Kyler Murray throwing the year before, so just kept on keeping on.
Rating: Continuity


Vernon Adams, Oregon
Top Target: Bralon Addison, Jr. (63 catches, 804 yards, 10 TD)
What’s His Story?: Missed the entire previous season with a spring injury, but was the co-top target in 2013 with Josh Huff. So he just picked up where he left off.
Rating: Continuity

Everett Golson, Florida St.
Top Target: Kermit Whitfield, Jr. (57 catches, 798 yards, 6 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was the eighth option the year prior, behind four returners. Actually benefited much more from Golson’s time as starter than fellow top targets Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson.
Rating: Fresh Face

Greyson Lambert, Georgia
Top Target: Malcolm Mitchell, Sr. (58 catches, 865 yards, 5 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was the leading returner after the graduations of Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, although his role changed to more of a home-run hitter with Lambert.
Rating: Continuity

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Top Target: Sterling Shepard, Sr. (86 catches, 1288 yards, 11 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was far and away the team’s leader under Knight the year before, with 51 catches for 970 yards.
Rating: Continuity

Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
Top Target: Tyler Boyd, Jr. (91 catches, 926 yards, 6 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was a 1261-yard receiver under Chad Voytik – who was still on the roster in 2015, by the way – the year before.
Rating: Continuity

Jake Rudock, Michigan
Top Target: Amara Darboh, Sr. (58 catches, 727 yards, 5 TD)
What’s His Story?: Played second fiddle to Devin Funchess the year before and, with Funchess an early draft entry, rose to the top along with Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt.
Rating: Continuity


Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
Top Target: Isaiah Ford, Fr. (56 catches, 709 yards, 6 TD)
What’s His Story?: Eschewed the top three options from the year before – all still there – for a true freshman. That’s the definition of going with a fresh face.
Rating: Fresh Face

Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Top Target: Bo Hines, Fr. (45 catches, 616 yards, TD)
What’s His Story?: Again, leapfrogged more accomplished wideouts on the roster as a true freshman. Then transferred to Yale after the season to follow dreams of running for political office. As one does.
Rating: Fresh Face

Tyler Murphy, Boston College
Top Target: Josh Bordner, Sr. (27 catches, 346 yards, 3 TD)
What’s His Story?: Was a quarterback until 2014. A Micah Wilson role model, maybe?
Rating: Fresh Face


Verdict? Looks like the continuity picks have it, by an 11-8 margin. Also, teams that return significant weapons from the year before — like Missouri and Johnson, Okwuegbunam and Knox’s combined 129 catches — seem to trend more toward established options as well.