Posted: 11:11 a.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Late Monday night, Florida received a commitment from Wyoming athlete Taven Bryan, who announced his commitment to the Gators on his Facebook page by changing his cover and profile pictures to a picture of Florida's logo and a picture of himself riding the Bull Gator statue outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, respectively.
No, this is not a particularly normal recruitment. But Bryan, from Natrona County High School in Casper, not a run-of-the-mill player — and there are no mills in Wyoming that churn out recruits.
Bryan, a three-star athlete listed as an offensive lineman by most sites, stands 6'5" and 250ish pounds, and has an impressive highlight reel — but he's from Wyoming, which hasn't produced a signee to a BCS automatic qualifier conference in over a decade, according to Rivals. And while Bryan's mostly played offensive line in high school, Florida is apparently looking at him as a defensive lineman, and likely sees him as a jumbo defensive end.
Luke Stampini has a lot more of the backstory behind Bryan's recruitment at 247Sports ($), but Bryan seems to have mostly slipped under the radar during Will Muschamp's weekend camps for underclassmen, as reporters were looking for players like now-Florida commit J.C. Jackson.
And being from Wyoming, period, makes Bryan an under-the-radar prospect nationally: The least populous state's last big name in football recruiting was Brian Mattes, a Class of 2002 tight end who committed to Notre Dame. Wyoming's so sparsely populated (575,000 or so people live in Wyoming, which makes it a little more than twice as populous as Alachua County) that players likely don't have the resources available to kids from other parts of America, and that lack of bodies also makes judging a player's talent somewhat difficult, because the level of competition can be spotty at best.
So Muschamp and company — 247 lists Brent Pease and Brad Lawing as Bryan's recruiters — are definitely taking a chance on Bryan. But they were taking a chance, to a degree, on Marcus Roberson and Hunter Joyer in 2011, and on Antonio Morrison in 2012, and all three of those players have looked quite good for the Gators so far. I trust Muschamp's staff's ability to evaluate talent, and I trust Lawing to coach defensive linemen.
We probably won't know whether this roll of the dice will pay off for Florida for at least 30 months from this point — and, seriously, that's a long time — but my hunch is that Florida won't crap out.
Bryan makes 10 commitments for Florida in the Class of 2014, and joins Anthony Moten on the defensive line.