Kelly Bryant, Missouri's heralded, new starting quarterback, is already counting down the days.
Just over four weeks separate the Tigers from their season opener at Wyoming, and Friday served as the official start of preseason at the Kadlec Practice Fields.
The Tribune was on hand for the first practice of fall camp and joined local media outlets afterward in catching up with the Clemson transfer.
Questions and answers from Bryant's news conference have been edited for length and clarity:
What are your overall thoughts on the team going into camp?
"We’re just going to take it one day at a time and focus on what’s at the end. Control what we control. Ultimately if we do all that we’ll be in the right spot come the first game in Wyoming."
Seems like you haven’t had any trouble connecting with teammates here. What’s the chemistry like up and down the roster?
"The guys are hungry. It would be easy to say we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, but it’s more like a boulder. Those guys are so eager and high-energy guys, and I feel like I fit in well with them. They’re going to challenge me and I’m going to challenge them as well."
How much can you set the tone in practice and make it fun for everybody else?
"The biggest thing I just said before we broke it down is making sure we are just bringing energy. That’s been my focal point, the message I’ve been preaching — bring the energy whenever we’re out here. We don’t want to just be going through the motions and let one day slip and go by. This has been my message and I’m just trying to make sure I’ve got energy and I’m matching those guys as well.”
How do you think you’ve grown personally since the spring?
"Just confidence in the offense, I don’t feel like this is my first time going through the offense like in the spring, so I’m more confident and I know where to go with the ball, just being able to make checks and stuff like that, being a more comfortable player. It makes a whole world of a difference when you’re out there and it’s not your first time going through it."
What was your reaction Thursday when the team moved into the new south end zone complex at Memorial Stadium?
"Oh man, that stuff is crazy. That’s what I thought. Best I’ve seen. It’s really neat because they’re not even done with it fully. Just seeing what they have done, it’s just like, wow, they really put their time into it. I try to go by and see all the workers and tell them thank you because they’re working really hard to get it finished for us for this season."
Is it almost like being a child at Christmas when you look around and see all the weapons you have on this team offensively?
"Oh yeah, just looking across the board, and what’s even better on the other side of the ball, we’ve got a bunch of guys who can make plays and change the game as well. It’s good that we have weapons on both sides of the ball."
You didn’t get to play with junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam much in the spring. Now that you get the chance every day, what do you see in him?
"Just watching film on him when I was making my decision to come here with coach (offensive coordinator Derek) Dooley and also this spring I got a few reps with him, just building that chemistry right out of the gate, he’s a guy who’s going to be really special for this offense. He’s done really good leading up to this point so we all know he’s ready to get that going."
What do you think sophomore wide receiver Jalen Knox can bring to the team this season?
"Just looking at him, he’s very confident. Last year was his first year playing receiver. In high school he played running back and a little bit of quarterback. Last year he had a pretty good year, now he’s had a year under his belt and he’s very confident. Him getting the ball out in space has been really good to see out there this spring and in summer and now today."
How much of a weapon is senior wide receiver Johnathan Nance and what has it been like to transfer into the program together?
"He was probably one of the first guys I talked to before being on the team, just trying to get me to come here, but I wasn’t really buying it at first, I just didn’t know for sure. But he’s been an excellent roommate for me. He’s a guy that’s been challenging me, making sure that we get work in and also vice versa with me. He’s been a very good asset and he’s getting very confident since the spring. He knows the offense and he’s been making plays. Good to have him in the offense looking outside as a weapon."
How quickly have you and junior center Trystan Colon-Castillo meshed and how important is that to this offense?
"You’ve got to have that good bond with your offensive linemen, especially at center because that’s where it all starts. Trystan is a hard worker, very smart player, he makes your job easier out there making calls and putting you in the right situations."
You’ve said you want to challenge yourself in this offense that maybe was a bit out of your comfort zone. What are some things you’re learning and honing in on during camp?
"Scheme reports, run blocking, it’s good to know (our) protection and how we’re going to block in the run game. Those have just been things I’ve been trying to focus on, just little things like that where I can have more of an understanding."
What have you seen out of the defense so far?
"Those guys are flying around and making plays. Those guys are very smart and you can tell the work they’ve put in since spring and also in the summer. It’s been good because they’re going to challenge you and you’re going to challenge them as well."
Why are you still wearing your helmet for this post-practice news conference?
"I just want to be different. I’m going to save the face until the last day. You all will get to see the face on the last day of camp."
How exciting is it to just be back practicing football?
"It’s crazy because you talk so much about football and you hear everybody in the media. Now it’s like, pretty much the talking is done, it’s just get ready for the first game. We’re actually on the field practicing and meeting and everything. Now we’re in the grind of it."