Jonathan Nance understands he fits into a few unique positions on and off the gridiron for Missouri.

The Arkansas graduate transfer is one of the Tigers’ elder statesmen and will turn 22 years old in a few weeks. Nance has been through the first day of college football fall camp a few times before.

Yet, Nance is still awaiting his Missouri debut since making his Southeastern Conference switch official mere minutes after Missouri starting quarterback Kelly Bryant pledged his allegiance to the Tigers on Dec. 4.

Nance’s announcement on social media wasn’t just a photo of him. It’s of both him and Bryant, his Columbia roommate.

As the Tigers opened fall camp Friday morning on new turf at the Kadlec Practice Fields, across Providence Road from Faurot Field and the nearly completed South End Zone Complex, Bryant had a clear eye for Nance — giving the receiver he shares a refrigerator with a chance to impress.

“I feel like I’ve been here for a while,” Nance said. “It’s not my first camp, I just got to get back into the swing of things.”

Nance was one of three wide receivers listed Friday as first-team on the preseason depth chart, along with senior Johnathon Johnson and sophomore Jalen Knox.

“It could change any day, so I just work hard,” Nance said of his perceived starting spot. “It’s not promised for me.”

That responsibility is why Nance jumped at the chance to come to Missouri over one-year opportunities with Auburn, Mississippi State and North Carolina.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound wideout’s transfer journey to the Tigers publicly started the same day as Bryant, with a game day visit Oct. 27 against Kentucky.

Nance and Bryant knew they wanted to link up for their final year of college eligibility and have grown even closer in the eight months since choosing the same destination.

Each of them were sold individually on the Tigers and haven’t wavered from their first choice since NCAA sanctions were handed down to the program less than two months after committing.

After one day of fall camp, they could be considered a package deal that helps deal with the graduation departures of quarterback Drew Lock and wide receiver Emanuel Hall.

“Kelly, that’s like my brother,” Nance said. “I trust his decisions. So whatever goes on, I'm just making sure I’m doing what I need to do when I do get the chance to get the ball or whenever I get the chance to make a play.”

Nance’s quick acclimation to mid-Missouri was also aided by Richaud Floyd, as they were high school teammates.

Since the duo’s days in Gulfport, Mississippi, where Nance earned second-team all-state honors as a senior, Floyd has switched to cornerback for the Tigers after three seasons as a wide receiver.

Floyd knows the ins and outs at Missouri and shared as much as he could prior to Friday with Nance.

“He told me it's going to be a grind every day and that it’s a good environment,” Nance said of his conversations with Floyd. “Basically exactly what he told me, that's what I got when I came here.”

Nance didn’t play for the Razorbacks in 2018, but he started six games for Arkansas in 2017, catching 37 passes for 539 yards and five touchdowns.

He led the Razorbacks in receptions (37), receiving yards (539) and receiving touchdowns (five) two years ago.

“He’s a good kid,” Missouri wide receivers coach Garrick McGee said of Nance. “He’s in shape now, so you can really see his quickness, his ability to run and make plays. We’re really fortunate to have him and he's going to do a lot for us.”

Nance knows his place, unique as it may be, on the team. Just as Bryant has inserted himself as a leader for one season, Nance aims to do the same. Some of his teammates with more Missouri experience have taken notice.

“Just his experience, he just knows what it is to be a college football player in the SEC,” Knox said of Nance. “He already came in here with four years under his belt of college football, so it's natural to him. When he got here, it wasn't like he was trying to mold into anything. He already knew who he was and played and had his confidence already."

Connecting with Bryant paved Nance's path to Missouri and the roommates have spent countless hours working on timing and routes since arriving on campus.

Both Nance and Bryant’s chances of playing past December could heavily involve each other.

“He was probably one of the first guys I talked to before being on the team, just trying to get me to come here. He's been an excellent roommate for me, a guy that's been challenging me,” Bryant said of Nance.

“That’s our quarterback, whatever he say, we’re right behind him,” Nance said of Bryant. “But the receivers bring the juice anyways.”

eblum@columbiatribune.com

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