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Who we’ll be watching in Missouri’s spring game

Kelly Bryant, of course. But who else should fans look for on Saturday?

Arkansas v LSU Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It’s almost time for our first glimpse of the 2019 Missouri Tigers football team, as Black meets Gold on Saturday in the annual spring game. While Missouri’s entire 2019 signing class has yet to arrive on campus, the backbone of Missouri’s team will be on display on Saturday, providing a look at who the stars of the first post-Drew Lock year will be.

With that being said, let’s take a look at which players I’m most interested in seeing. And yes, of course, we’ll start with Kelly Bryant

Kelly Bryant

Who he’s replacing: Drew Lock

Projected role: Starting quarterback

Why we’re watching:

This one’s self-explanatory. Bryant has been the story of the offseason, and his addition started a run of nearly unopposed good news for Missouri — until the NCAA sanctions. But Bryant stuck with the Tigers despite that, and now he’ll get the chance to lead what could be a special, balanced offense.

Bryant’s obviously used to national attention, but this will be the nation’s first look at him not wearing orange and purple. I don’t think we’re going to see anything spectacular from him, so lower your expectations. That’s not to say he won’t play well; what I mean is that these spring games — especially under Barry Odom — have a tendency to be very vanilla. Derek Dooley isn’t going to give away how the offense will change with Bryant behind center. At the same time, the lack of contact for quarterbacks means running situations will be either limited or meaningless.

Instead, we’ll be watching for how comfortable Bryant seems, which receivers he focuses on and how long he plays. He’s the unquestioned starter; he certainly doesn’t need reps in a meaningless to scrimmage to have a more secure hold on that job. However, if he only plays for two series or so, that probably says more about just how good the staff feels about their new quarterback.

Johnathan Nance

Who he’s replacing: Emanuel Hall

Projected role: Potential starter at outside receiver

Why we’re watching:

Missouri absolutely needs someone to step up without Emanuel Hall; we already saw what happened over the last two years when Hall was injured. We know that Johnathon Johnson will be the starting slot receiver; Jalen Knox, most likely, will be a starter at one outside spot.

Missouri has a lot of bodies for that other outside spot — the one that used to be occupied by Hall — but Nance is the most intriguing option. He already has SEC experience at Arkansas; he was reportedly instrumental in helping to land Bryant.

Will that chemistry manifest on the field?

We’re most interested to see how he gels with Bryant in this limited setting on Saturday, and what he can do with the ball in his hands.

Hyrin White

Who he’s replacing: Paul Adams

Projected role: Starting right tackle

Why we’re watching:

Missouri replaces two starters on the offensive line. In addition to Adams, the Tigers are replacing Kevin Pendleton at left guard, with either Larry Borom or Case Cook.

I think White’s play will be more important.

If there are any deficiencies at left guard, they can be masked better because that player will be surrounded by Yasir Durant and Trystan Colon-Castillo, two of the better players in the SEC at their positions. But White will be on more of a island. If he struggles, it’s also going to force Bryant from the pocket more quickly. White stood strong when Durant went down against Purdue; is he now ready to take over for Adams and keep Missouri’s offensive line as one of the team’s top strengths?

Jatorian Hansford

Who he’s replacing: Nate Anderson

Projected role: Rotation with Chris Turner

Why we’re watching:

Missouri didn’t lose a starter at either defensive end position, as Chris Turner and Akial Byers were the bowl-game starters and remained atop the depth chart at the beginning of this spring.

But, man. Missouri needs to find a spark at defensive end, as they’ve lacked a consistent pass rusher since Charles Harris left.

Call this a homer pick because Hansford is from Georgia — but I think he’s the guy who comes out of nowhere to become the next great Missouri defensive end. He’s got good size, and he’s played outside linebacker so he has some versatility.

Check out his high school tape. I’m going to be watching to see if, after a year in Missouri’s program, he’s back to playing with these type of instincts:

Nick Bolton

Who he’s replacing: Terez Hall

Projected role: Starting weakside linebacker

Why we’re watching:

Bolton showed plenty of flashes as a true freshman, finishing with 22 tackles in 2018, including eight against Alabama.

Now, he’s not just backing up Hall — he’s replacing him. Hall was one of Missouri’s most athletic linebackers in recent history, and his departure isn’t getting the same attention as some other seniors, but he arguably leaves a bigger hole to fill than anyone not named Drew Lock.

Big shoes to fill for Bolton, but he seems up to the task. We’ll get our first extended look at him on Saturday, going up against (mainly) the No. 2 offense.