COLUMBIA, Mo. — Unless they’re concocting a smokescreen for their opponents from Oxford, Miss., the Missouri Tigers gave every indication Tuesday that they expect Kelly Bryant to be their starting quarterback Saturday against Ole Miss. Bryant left Saturday’s win over Troy with what was later diagnosed as a sprained left knee, an injury that looked more serious at the time than the final diagnosis.
Fitted with a knee brace that he wore during Tuesday’s practice, Bryant said he expects to start Saturday’s homecoming game.
“Yeah, you know, I’ve just been testing out the brace, seeing how I move in it,” Bryant said. “I feel I’ll be ready to play on Saturday, just making sure I’m on top of it, just doing extra rehab and on treatment on it.”
How did Bryant look in practice?
“He looks like Kelly Bryant,” offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said. “I think anybody that may have watched him today, if they didn’t even know he got hit on Saturday, they wouldn’t have noticed anything. He’s got an extraordinary level of toughness, mentally and physically. So we’re just really grateful he’s back out here and he looks like himself. It’s really a fortunate deal.”
The Tigers (4-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) and Rebels (3-3, 2-1) kick off at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Tigers coach Barry Odom went as far to say Bryant had his best Tuesday practice of the season.
“That’s a good sign,” Odom said. “Now we need to have a really good Wednesday. I don’t think I’d change anything on what I just watched going into Saturday.”
On Mizzou’s final offensive play of the first half Saturday, Troy defensive tackle Travis Sailo slipped past left guard took Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms on a run-pass option play and took down Bryant from behind, grabbing his lower left leg well after Bryant released a pass for Jalen Knox. Bryant said he heard and felt “a pop” as he fell backward onto Sailo.
“The biggest thing is you try not to think about the worst, so I said a quick prayer when I was laying there,” Bryant said. “It could have been way worse. I’m just fortunate and blessed that it wasn’t major.”
Bryant said he could bend his knee by the time he walked into the locker room shortly before halftime. By then, he said, he was confident it wasn’t a major injury. An MRI later revealed a sprain, though MU didn’t disclose what ligament he injured or the severity of the sprain.
Bryant said he’d put his knee at 90 percent after Tuesday’s practice.
“You know, it’s part of football,” Dooley said. “Every week you pray that nobody gets hurt. You’re grateful. You can’t ever take it for granted. It’s just an unfortunate part. It’s a violent game. We’re just really grateful that it came out OK.”
Sailo was flagged for roughing the passer on the play that knocked Bryant out of the game. In a game that got chippy early and led Odom to pull most of his starters early in the second half, Bryant didn’t think Sailo’s hit was malicious.
“I don’t think he tried to do it,” Bryant said. “He happened to dive and my leg happened to be right there. I wouldn’t classify it as a dirty hit. That’s just football.”
His head coach agreed.
“The kid beat our offensive lineman and he was straining to try to make a tackle,” Odom said. “It looked awful, but I didn’t think there was any intent there to injure a player.”
Missouri made one minor change to the depth chart at the receiver positions. Freshman Maurice Massey (Kirkwood) has appeared in three games but was removed from the depth chart. He had been listed as Jonathan Nance’s backup at one of the two outside receiver positions. This week, Dominic Gicinto moves from backup slot receiver to Nance’s backup on the outside. Barrett Banister is now the top backup to Johnathon Johnson in the slot.
The demotion wasn’t injury related, Odom said. Massey still could earn playing time this season and won’t necessarily take a redshirt
“His habits last week didn’t align with what we thought he needed to do to be in position to play Saturday,” Odom said. “I thought he had a really good day today without getting into all the video yet. (Players) know every week is a new week. If you go earn it you’ll play on Saturday. He’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
MORE O-LINE MOVES
Another week brings more changes to Mizzou’s offensive line. The Tigers have started four combinations across the line in five games and could feature a new look Saturday if the updated depth chart holds. This week, left tackle Yasir Durant and center Trystan Colon-Castillo are in their normal spots. Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms (right guard) and Case Cook (left guard) have swapped jobs from where they started against Troy. At right tackle, there’s an “or” between Larry Borom and Hyrin White, meaning either could start against Ole Miss.