Subscribe for 99¢

Missouri football fans who spent their favorite team’s bye week scouting the competition heard plenty about the latest debate in college football.

It turns out the new redshirt rule coaches spent years campaigning for might have some unintended consequences.

Go figure.

The pregame conversation on every Saturday broadcast revolved around the transfer of Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant. The senior went 16-2 as a starter for coach Dabo Swinney’s powerhouse program, but he was recently replaced by talented true freshman Trevor Lawrence. So, Bryant decided to bolt. He became the first marquee QB to exploit the unexpected loophole in the new redshirt rule.

The NCAA now allows college football players to compete in up to four games in a redshirt season. The hope was that this tweak would allow young players to get a more substantial taste of a season without losing one of their coveted years of eligibility. The switch will also ease the eligibility ramifications created by season-ending injuries. Redshirting players can receive meaningful experience early, or they can contribute more as starters are injured later in the year.

Coaches didn’t just approve of this. They fought for it. Now some, like Swinney, might regret it.

The rule change has opened the window for what could best be described as a free agency period for graduating players. If a player who has not already redshirted in his career does not like his spot on the depth chart after a trial run of four games, he can claim his redshirt season and eject himself from the program. And if that player can graduate from his school, he can play immediately elsewhere as a graduate transfer the following season.

Bryant is not alone. Oklahoma State senior receiver Jalen McCleskey is looking for a new school. So is Oregon senior running back Taj Griffin. All plan to play elsewhere as grad transfers in 2019.

For weeks, we have wondered if talented Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts would pursue the same path. But Hurts played Saturday. He can no longer redshirt. What he could do is finish this season and become a grad transfer. He is just a junior.

Mizzou does not have to worry about losing an important quarterback this season.

One wonders if the Tigers should prioritize the pursuit of one.

Senior Drew Lock is the entrenched starter. Behind him on the depth chart is a question mark so big, former Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel might call it “mammoth.” Under Pinkel, the next quarterback was always obvious.

Lock replaced Maty Mauk, who replaced James Franklin, who replaced Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Chase Daniel, who replaced Brad Smith.

This passing of the baton has helped Mizzou post a 128-81 record since 2002.

Flash forward.

Who leads third-year coach Barry Odom’s team after Lock walks across the stage at the NFL draft?

Heck, who starts against Alabama if Lock gets knocked out at South Carolina?

Junior college transfer Lindsey Scott Jr. was supposed to emerge as the clear-cut backup until he took center stage next season. Well, the former LSU signee has not yet cracked the depth chart. And he didn’t even make the travel roster for the Purdue game. That’s a concerning sign, when you remember the coaching staff’s pursuit of Scott occurred after an analysis of internal options.

Redshirt freshman Taylor Powell completed four of nine passes for 105 yards against FCS opponent UT Martin. That’s his only college experience.

Redshirt sophomore Micah Wilson has completed five of the 10 passes he has attempted in six games since 2017.

These two are separated by an “or” on the depth chart. Odom has not declared a favorite in the underwhelming race to back up Lock.

Perhaps Connor Bazelak is the answer. The three-star QB prospect out of Ohio is committed for the 2019 class. But here’s the thing: Under the new redshirt rule, he could play in as many as four games next season and still bank that year of eligibility. He could provide a glimpse of the future instead of being asked to become the present upon arrival. That’s if there is someone more qualified ahead of him.

Some might shrug off the notion of Mizzou being an appealing landing spot for Bryant.

I disagree.

Bryant should be searching for a program in a high-profile conference that has a glaring need for a game-ready starter in 2019. The last thing he should want is to join a team that has a backup who has a good chance of overtaking him. He’s experienced that before. It’s why he’s on the move. Winning another national championship is not on Bryant’s checklist. If that was the case, he would not have left Clemson.

Bryant surely thinks he can play in the NFL. The former four-star prospect who was considered to be a top-10 QB in the 2015 class would have to be impressed by the same selling points that made Lock so excited to work with Tigers new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, a former Cowboys position coach with a pro philosophy and connections.

Looking ahead to next season, the Mizzou offense returns a good amount of non-quarterback talent. The entire backfield is back. Play-makers Emanuel Hall (exhausted eligibility) and Albert Okwuegbunam (projected NFL draft pick) would be hard to replace, but wide receivers Johnathon Johnson, Jalen Knox and Kam Scott have emerged. Three of five starters along a strong offensive line should return.

After new Clemson starter Lawrence was injured against Syracuse on Saturday, Swinney sure would have liked to have Bryant on his sideline.

A lack of depth at quarterback is always one play away from being exposed.

Keep up with the latest Cardinals coverage from our award-winning team of reporters and columnists.