When prestigious college football programs claim that they can recruit all over the country, few are referring to Wyoming, a beautiful state, to be sure, but a relatively rare producer of future NFL talent.
Rare, however, might be the operative word when discussing Bryan, who infrequently produced the kind of statistics at Florida that normally would generate much interest from scouts but flashed undeniable potential when doing so.
As one might expect, Bryan dominated at the prep level. He spent most of his time on the offensive line and that is where the majority of the recruiters who spent the time and money to actually visit him in Wyoming wanted him to stay for their college teams.
Bryan, however, wanted to play defensive line. Then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp - who traveled to Casper, himself, to recruit Bryan - recognized immediately that the then-260 pound son of a Navy SEAL was athletic and tough enough to handle the switch.
The switch to defensive tackle did not come as easily as some unfamiliar with the sport might anticipate, especially after Muschamp - a defensive wiz - was replaced by Jim McElwain, a former quarterback whose specialty lies on offense.
Bryan redshirted his first season on campus and recorded a total of 10 tackles in 12 games (including a start against Mississippi) in 2015. Though he appeared in all 13 games the next season - starting two contests - the results weren't significantly better in 2016, when he registered 17 total tackles, including three tackles for a loss and the first sack of his career, which, ironically enough, came against a South Carolina squad coached by Muschamp.
While Bryan was struggling to put up the kind of statistics to earn media attention, he quietly was drawing rave reviews from scouts attending Florida's practices. They spoke of a player who, while still undeniably raw, possessed as impressive a combination of size, strength and speed as anyone on the roster.
As McElwain said prior to the 2017 season when asked about Bryan, "This guy is arguably the best athlete on our football team. I'm sure many of the players would tell you the same thing."
Unfortunately for McElwain - who was fired following Florida's disappointing 4-7 season and fifth place finish in the SEC East - he was right. Finally turning some of his incredible potential into production, Bryan emerged as one of Florida's few bright spots in 2017, recording more tackles in his redshirt junior season (40) than his entire career (27) up to that point. Among those 40 stops were six tackles for loss and four sacks.
Bryan's breakout season finally provided some numerical evidence to the hype that had been building about the young defensive lineman, one whom former Florida defensive coordinator and current Temple head coach Geoff Collins compared prior to the season to a young J.J. Watt.
"I always thought he had J.J. Watt-ish ability," Collins said. "He's a physical freak, and he's gotten better every single day. He's an NFL player now with room to get better. It's a scary thought."
It goes without saying that Bryan has a long way to go before warranting a comparison to Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive MVP. Bryan does show remarkable explosiveness off the snap, however, combining raw power with exceptional initial burst to embarrass would-be blockers. Even after four years at the position, Bryan is as raw as they come, entering the draft with less production over his career than some of the other highly regarded defensive tackles recorded this season, alone.
His upside is so enticing, however, that Bryan could hear his name called as early as the first round.
Unanimously selected as the 2013 Conference Defensive Player of the Year... Named to the All-State First Team on both the defensive line and the offensive line and to the All-Conference First Team on the offensive line as a high school senior... Honored with the 2013 Natrona County Iron Man award... Helped lead Natrona County to a 41-6 record in his final three seasons, including back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013... Chose Florida over Colorado, Colorado State, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, Washington State and Wyoming.
Boasts a power-packed, well-distributed frame with broad shoulders, anvils for limbs and a thick lower half. Bryan may possess the most impressive combination of burst and raw power of any defensive tackle in this draft, exploding off the ball like he is shot out of a cannon. He was consistently the first off the ball in the games viewed. Exhibiting excellent upper body strength to simply bench press and discard would-be blockers as well as the core strength and leg drive to bull rush through them, Bryan can be a one-man wrecking crew on the inside, collapsing the interior. When he keeps his pads down, Bryan can anchor against double-teams, showing the girth and power to handle two gapping.
He shows vastly improved awareness of the ball-carrier in 2017, showing excellent strength in his hands to latch onto runners as they attempt to slide by him and pulling them to the ground. Seems to enjoy the physical nature of the game... A freakish athlete whose explosiveness will shine through in workouts, including in the leap and 40-yard dash. Bryan is loaded with untapped potential and possesses the blue collar upbringing to suggest that he will continue to work hard after signing an NFL contract. - Rob Rang 12/19/2017
Still very raw in his technique and will require a lot of patience. Too quick to stand up as he attacks would-be blockers, losing the leverage battle and negating his own strength. Shows little awareness of passing lanes with just one pass batted down in 36 career games. Nimble enough to avoid being cut but does not see them or trap blocks coming often enough. Too easily fooled on screens, draws and misdirection, often rushing upfield only to have the ball-carrier escape in the hole he just helped create. Some have questions about how much he loves the game and whether he will put in the time in the film room to ever harness the mental side. An explosive straight-line athlete but a bit stiff in his hips, lacking the wiggle to dip and slide through cracks in the offensive line. -- Rob Rang 12/19/2017
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles - There may not be a more physically imposing defensive tackle in today's NFL than Cox, who is listed at 6-4, 310 (but looks much bigger) and was clocked at an astounding 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash back in 2012. Just like Cox back then, Bryan is a raw and will need time to harness his ability but the upside warrants a long look if a team has the coaching staff in place with the confidence and patience to handle a project of this magnitude and upside.
IN OUR VIEW: In an era in which statistics are often padded by scheme, Bryan proved the opposite, making more plays behind the line of scrimmage than his six tackles for loss would suggest. His burst and power help him consistently disrupt the middle, leading to easy tackle for loss opportunities for opponents. He may never develop the instincts and technique coaches would prefer but Bryan is the proverbial bull in a china shop every club is looking for. He - not one of the hotly debated quarterbacks in this class - may very well be the biggest boom or bust prospect of the year.