The major recruiting service gives the Hogs a 35% chance for Kelly Bryant — 15% more than No. 2 Auburn.
by Evin Demirel
That’s the day Razorback fans should have circled on their calendars.
That’s the day, if everything falls into place, they will be delivered an early Christmas gift in the form of a 6’3”, 225 pound lightning bolt of a quarterback. (And, in Chad Morris’ case, a birthday gift.)
Kelly Bryant is at the top of six head college football coaches’ wist list this winter. On December 4, the coveted transfer will make one of them very happy when announcing where he’ll play next.
Paul Finebaum, the nationally renowned radio host, believes Arkansas is the frontrunner. “Kelly Bryant is an important piece. I think there’s a great chance he joins Chad Morris at Arkansas,” Finebaum said. “That could open the floodgates for more recruits.” Finebaum has no reason to homer up to Hog fans. He’s based in Alabama and often works in North Carolina.
Then there’s Rivals. The national recruiting service tends to attack these kinds of predictions with Spock-like precision. One of their big-brained assessors looked into the crystal ball for Bryant’s most likely destination and came away agreeing with Finebaum: Arkansas leads the pack.
Here’s the Breakdown on the Probability of Where Kelly Bryant Plays Next:
Least Likely Destinations: 10%
This one’s now closer to 0% thanks to the following news:
News: Source tells me that former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant has scrapped his official visit to Miami this weekend and will instead use his last official visit to go to Auburn next week.@CaneSport @JLeeAURivals
— Woody Wommack (@RivalsWoody) November 20, 2018
Miami: The Hurricane have entered the Kelly Bryant sweepstakes later than the other contenders, which typically isn’t a good sign (unless you’re Devin Bush deciding on Arkansas over LSU, Georgia et al). Here’s what Bryant told 247Sports about the Hurricane and their head coach Mark Richt:
“He just tells me the philosophy, you know pro-style but mixing with the spread and RPO. It would be a good situation. The guys they have around them are some really deep threats, good targets and also the offensive line — they feel like next year will be the best since he’s been there.”
Bryant’s Miami visit: Next weekend.
Mississippi State: Of all the teams listed here, Bulldog players vie with the Tarheels for acting most desperate in lavishing Bryant with attention. Mississippi State’s Jamal Peters has been especially forward. “He texts me, not blowing me up, but telling me a lot about what they have to offer there,” Bryant said. “It’s been there and UNC as well. Those players have been reaching out and I’ve been hanging out with some of the guys.”
Bryant’s Mississippi State visit: This weekend.
Bryant will watch the Razorbacks play Mississippi State in Starkville this Saturday. It will be interesting to monitor if he shows any sign of favoritism toward the visitors.
North Carolina: Bryant has visited Chapel Hill twice, once officially and once unofficially, and both times he’s walked away spouting generic, uninspiring positives about the Tar heel program. Here’s what he says about the town:
“It’s a great environment. College town. It kind of feels like home but it’s not home. Just being around the guys, I really enjoyed them. They’re really down-to-earth guys. They just keep it real with me.”
Razorback fans have heard Bryant also speak highly of Fayetteville in a similar way. But he speaks no where near as glowingly about North Carolina coach Larry Fedora as he does about Arkansas’ Chad Morris.
Here’s more of his take on UNC:
“They’ve got everybody returning next year. The experience and I can see the guys they have around (the quarterback) that can make plays. If you look at their schedule, they’re right there in the game. A lot of them. A few plays here and there.”
Bryant’s North Carolina visit: Done.
2nd-Most Least Likely Destination: 15%
The Tigers have a wide-open door at quarterback and they are ready to see Bryant walk in to fill it. He speaks fairly highly of the Missouri coaches, but in a more technical, distant way. Here’s what Bryant said about head coach Barry Odom:
“I could tell from the first time I talked to him he was a down-to-earth guy. And just him and coach [Derek] Dooley — coach Dooley has been in the NFL so he has that track record and was the head coach at Tennessee and all that. Having that experience in the NFL, now he’s carrying it over to the college league.”
247Sports’ Keith Neibuhr also asked Bryant what he thinks of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock’s prolific passing numbers:
“Man, that’s everything I want to look for. What really intrigues me with them is that it’s coach Dooley’s first year there and Drew had to go in and learn the system and you see how he’s playing now. That’s just drawing me. If he can go and learn it in one year I know I can go in and learn it as well.”
Bryant’s Missouri visit: Already happened (here’s why Razorback fans should feel good about it)
2nd-Most Likely Destination: 20%
Now wouldn’t it be something if Arkansas native Gus Malzahn stuck it to Hogs fans yet again?
Fortunately, for Arkansas, there’s a lot of discontent building in Auburn over Malzahn’s performance as head coach on the Plains. After raising his annual pay from $4.7 million a year to $7 million a year (in part because of his flirtation with Arkansas’ vacancy), the Tigers have underwhelmed this season.
They are 6-4 and Malzahn appears to be on the hot seat. Unless the team spirals down the homestretch this season, he will likely still be around next season thanks to a $32 million buyout. Regardless, it won’t be a comfortable time given the way things are heading.
Still, there’s no denying Bryant’s dual threat ability would mesh well with Malzahn’s scheme. Bryant’s already done an unofficial visit to Auburn. He watched film and took note of who is coming back next season: “They’ve got outside guys, you know, skill players, and also the offensive line guys that are coming back as well. It was really good to see the similarities in the offense they’re accustomed to running and just seeing how coach Malzahn can help me prepare for the next step.”
He’s more of his insight:
“I feel like we connected. One of the main things that stood out to me was that he was asking me, ‘What do I see? Where do I want to be? What’s my goals?’ He said hedging to do everything I need to get me where I want. He’s going to push me and be tough on me. And that’s what I’m looking for and what I need.”
Ok, that’s all good and well, Kelly.
But c’mon — you really want to spend your last season of college glory with this?
I’m no expert lip reader but I’m pretty sure a blind man can see what he just said. pic.twitter.com/hmbo84L4Hu
— Auburn Overtime (@AuburnOvertime) November 11, 2018
Most Likely Destination: 35%
Kelly Bryant’s relationship with Chad Morris, extending back to the days when Morris recruited him to Clemson, has been well documented. Still, there’s always room for extra documentation, thanks to 247Sports:
“He recruited me. He was my main guy. It’s important — the relationship is already there so it’s established. Right after I made the decision (to leave Clemson) he was one of the first people, one of the first coaches to reach out. It’s like we didn’t skip a beat. Right there, the relationship seemed like it started right back again. And just having that relationship and knowing what he looks for in a quarterback is big.”
Besides Morris, he’s something else Bryant loves about the Hogs:
“Just the amount of love that they showed me. The fans. I really enjoyed the gameday environment. It was kind of different. That was my first time at Arkansas. I got more out of it than I was expecting. Just sitting down and talking to them — we didn’t even talk ball. That’s been the biggest thing that I enjoyed about that visit.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that in the span of 365 days, most of a star quarterback’s time will be spent outside his team’s stadium and workout facility. Star quarterbacks are, after all, people. They need to get out of their football bubble every once in a while, and just feel like a normal person.
It’s clear Bryant can already imagine doing that in Fayetteville. In Arkansas, fans and coaches won’t expect him to deliver a national title, as he would at a place like Auburn. Without such extra pressure, he can enjoy his last college run even more.