When head coach Barry Odom and the Missouri football team secured commitments from two transfer quarterbacks last December, the Tigers knew at least one of them would be eligible for the 2019 season.
That would be Kelly Bryant, the graduate transfer who led Clemson to the College Football Playoff as a starter in 2017. With no transfer rules requiring him to sit out a year, Bryant immediately became the No. 1 quarterback on Missouri’s depth chart.
The same can’t be said about the other transfer, former TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson.
As an undergrad transfer, NCAA rules require Robinson to sit out the 2019 season before becoming eligible to play again in 2020. Robinson decided to go the route of many recent transfers and filed an immediate eligibility waiver.
While the specifics of the request aren’t known due to confidentiality rules, we known that Robinson filed the waiver on the grounds of alleged mistreatment while he was with the Horned Frogs.
“I thought I had a pretty good case,” Robinson said Friday. “All the other quarterbacks around the country were getting accepted so it was just, why not?”
The case apparently wasn’t good enough, as the Tigers learned last week that his request was denied. While disappointed, Robinson wasn’t completely surprised. He had been ready to take whatever decision the NCAA handed down, good or bad.
“We had hope that it would be approved. You can’t think negative about it. You’ve always got to think positive about it and think it’s going to work,” Robinson said after Missouri’s practice Wednesday. “But we also knew that it could have been declined, so I was prepared for both ways.”
Robinson was once considered to be the potential backup to Bryant if his waiver was approved. The assumption was that the Tigers would try to use Robinson in no more than four games in order to preserve redshirt eligibility, with only a worst-case scenario forcing him into the starting job.
The waiting game was a long one for Robinson, but now that his role for the season is set, he knows what he’ll have to do to prepare himself for 2020.
“I’ve just got to focus on me and get better every day,” Robinson said. “Just making sure that the mental side is always active and I’m getting a lot of mental reps.”
The waiver denial makes two things about Missouri’s quarterback situation clear. The first is that, obviously, Robinson will not be the top backup to Bryant this season.
The other is that the competition for backup spot might be even hotter than before.
Taylor Powell has been the No. 2 quarterback for the last few months, but that could’ve been due to the unknown outcome of Robinson’s waiver request.
That’s not to say Powell would’ve certainly lost the job to Robinson. He was the primary backup under Drew Lock in 2018, and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said Powell has “earned the right to be the No. 2.” But, as Dooley pointed out, it’s still the coaches’ job to see if there’s another player who can do better.
The competition for the Tigers’ backup spot is now between three quarterbacks: Powell, Lindsey Scott Jr. and Connor Bazelak.
As the only player with any in-game experience at the Division I level, Powell is ahead of the pack. But through just six days of camp, Robinson can tell the battle is going to be just as fierce as it would be if he was still in the mix.
“They’re balling. That’s all I can say,” Robinson said. “Just come out here and watch them. They’re balling, they’re competing. It’s what they should be doing.”
Bazelak is the youngest of the incumbent quarterbacks, but that hasn’t stopped the coaches from giving him the reps he needs to showcase his ability under center. A four-star recruit out of high school according to 247Sports, Bazelak will certainly be in the mix for the starting quarterback job for the next few years. Getting those reps now, Bazelak said, is preparing him for whenever the coaches call his number.
And with Robinson no longer vying for playing time this year, Bazelak is preparing for that much bigger of an opportunity to stand out.
“The competition level is great. Even between the quarterbacks, I feel like we’re all out there competing (and) making every opportunity count,” Bazelak said. “I knew coming into fall camp that I was going to come in and compete no matter what. Obviously, with (Robinson) being out, it’s more of an opportunity to get more reps during practice, but my mindset didn’t change in terms of coming in and competing.”