College Sports

For one Gamecock, facing Missouri’s Kelly Bryant is like facing a brother

South Carolina quarterback/wide receiver Jay Urich never played high school football with Missouri starting QB Kelly Bryant.

But make no mistake, they played some sort of football together.

Under the tutelage of quarterback coach Ramon Robinson, the two had early morning workouts together, learning the ropes of their position. Both were athletic guys focusing their talents, and when Bryant’s two-year run at Wren High School was over, Urich transferred in and kept things going.

In some ways, this game between a Kelly Bryant team and Urich’s Gamecocks is different, as Bryant is quarterbacking the Missouri Tigers rather than the Clemson ones. But there’s something very much the same about it.

“I’ll just say that’s my brother,” Urich said. “We grew up sort of together and went to high school and, and he went to Clemson and then I came here. So we’ve been training together for a while. And it’s been just amazing to see how our relationship has moved forward.”

The two have already texted a little this week, but Urich said he wasn’t deeply consulted when Bryant made the choice last offseason and season that changed his career.

Bryant had carved out a nice little spot in the sport. He’d apprenticed behind Deshaun Watson for two years, and then surprised many by holding off Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper and starting all of 2017.

That year, he posted 2,802 passing yards and ran for 665 more, guiding a loaded team to a 12-2 record and a playoff spot. But he couldn’t hold off Trevor Lawrence. Faced with ending his career as a backup, he chose to be a graduate transfer and found his way to Missouri.

He stood out on film to Gamecocks defender Jaycee Horn, and he’s being used differently than he was at Clemson. That starting season, Bryant averaged 13.7 carries a game.

He’s down to eight this year, and only has 26 rushing yards in three games.

“He’s a winner,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “That’s the one thing that jumps out at you. He throws the ball extremely well. He throws the vertical balls as well. He evades and moves to create, to throw the ball more than he does run the ball.

“I’ve got tremendous respect for him.”

The coach mentioned facing Bryant before doesn’t provide a ton of benefit this time around. The personnel is different, though the schemes have a lot of carryover, as happens with the majority of modern college football offenses.

In 2017, Bryant threw for 272 yards, two scores and one interception, while gaining 26 yards on the ground.

“He’s evolved a lot,” Urich said. “He’s progressed, just like any quarterback, you know. You want to evolve, you want to progress and you want to get better and I think he’s really done that over his years.”

Picking a more pass-heavy offense was in part because Bryant hoped to use it as possible preparation for the NFL.

Urich said his friend has liked the transition, liked the new atmosphere and environment. Bryant is in some ways doing what Urich did, following a prolific passer in Drew Lock as Urich had followed him.

And ready to again see a good friend on the other sideline, Urich has his own understanding of that respect his coach mentioned.

“Wherever he goes, he’s a light and he’s gonna shine bright and his personality is big,” Urich said. “And wherever he goes, people follow him. So I’m not surprised by that.”