Looks Like University Of Illinois - Alec Bryant
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My very first thought when I saw the tweet that Alec Bryant was transferring from Virginia Tech to Illinois: "well, now Pat Bryant is going to have to add a 'P' to his jersey."
I don't know why I care about stuff like that. But any time a recruit verbals and that recruit shares a last name with someone currently on the team, I think of the need to add a letter to the current player's jersey. And if that player's first name starts with the first letter of the current player's first name? Or if it starts with the same first two letters? Man, that's a serious equipment conundrum.
Say we add some offensive lineman named Carter Washington. Well then next year, Casey Washington, who already has to go from "Washington" to "C. Washington" this year because of freshman Joriell Washington, would then need to go to Cas. Washington while the fictitious Carter Washington would be Car. Washington.
Maybe we're at the point now where we'd just put "Washington" on the back of both jerseys and know that people would be able to tell them apart. But then THAT makes me think about Chase Brown and Sydney Brown, identical twins, and how no one would be able to tell them apart if they both just had "Brown" on the back of their jerseys instead of "C. Brown" and "S. Brown." I mean, what if both wore #2, one on offense, one on defense, and then both just put "Brown" on their jersey. No one would ever know (like, ever) if they switched, right?
We're off to a great start here.
Alec Bryant is a 4-star defensive end from Houston. He spent one year at Virginia Tech. He'll now spend four (maybe five?) years at Illinois. Let's get into it.
First off, I see that Bryant was originally committed to LSU. 4-star defensive end from a state champion high school program, offers coming in from everywhere, and very early in the 2020 recruiting cycle (February of 2019) he commits to LSU. He stays committed all summer, takes his official visit to an LSU game in October of 2019 (for #2 LSU vs. #9 Auburn), and the day after that visit, the #84 player in the 2020 class (defensive end BJ Ojulari) flips from Tennessee to LSU. A few weeks later, Alec Bryant decommits from LSU.
Just looking at the numbers, after Ojulari committed to LSU in late October, they had 25 players committed in their 2020 class. They ended up signing 22. So, uh, yeah - it looks like LSU swapped out the #17 WDE in the class for the #6 WDE. Happens all the time at that level of recruiting, unfortunately. Which reminds me to post my annual PSA: when a kid who is committed starts taking visits to other schools and you get mad because he should be "loyal", this is why he is taking those visits. He can be dropped and be scrambling to find a spot just as easily as he can decommit. All players need to keep their options open until signing day.
Here's what The Athletic's LSU writer tweeted at the time:
#LSU 2020 defensive end commit Alec Bryant reopens his recruitment. That's the second in the past week, joining DT Jalen Lee.— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) November 24, 2019
As we said then, LSU was at 25 commitments and needed to open up spots. Now it's at 23. https://t.co/ixQem9uaQr
"LSU was at 25 commitments and needed to open up spots." College football recruiting is a rough game. You think it's infuriating when you reserve a rental car and they tell you they ran out of cars? Try being offered a scholarship, accepting that offer, and then being told that they're out of scholarships because they accepted more commitments than they had spots.
Bryant then had around a month to make a new decision before Signing Day. He got an additional offer from USC, set up visits to both USC and Virginia Tech, only took the Virginia Tech visit, and verballed there. He enrolled at VA Tech last summer, was a true freshman last fall (played in one game), and then this summer he announced he was entering the transfer portal. The reason? Well, according to this Purdue beat writer...
We don't know what he was facing at Virginia Tech (suspension? removed from team?), and we don't know the details of the incident, but that gives us a picture of the timing here. 4-star freshman DE at Virginia Tech. Some incident happens in the dorms (no arrest or anything - just some incident). Announces transfer in July. Ends up at Illinois.
And because last season never happened, I see him as simply the 19th member of the 2021 recruiting class. He's 5-to-play-4 just like Brody Wisecarver and Kionte Curry, so he'll likely redshirt this season (he's not here yet, as far as I know) and then debut as a redshirt freshman in 2022.
What kind of player is he? A really promising one. There aren't many consensus four-stars on the roster right now, so this is a big deal. And it's not like he's leaving Virginia Tech because he was a total bust or anything like that. There was an incident, he left, and this is his second chance.
The main thing I looked for while evaluating his film was where he'd play in this defense. Is he an outside linebacker (the edge rushers in this scheme) or is he an interior defensive lineman? So I figured I'd look at him this way. When I watch the OLB's and DL go through individual drills at practice, I see this continuum. Let's just number some spots 1 to 5. From "the most linebacker-y defensive linemen" to "OK that guy is definitely a nose tackle and nothing else".
Here's what I currently see. I'll just name two guys at each spot so you will understand what I mean.
1 (OLB-1): Seth Coleman | Shammond Cooper
2 (OLB-2): Owen Carney | Ezekiel Holmes
3 (DL-1): Johnny Newton | Jamal Woods
4 (DL-2): Keith Randolph | Deon Pate
5 (NG): Roderick Perry | Calvin Avery
I can say this: he's definitely not a 1. Virginia Tech put out a video this spring spotlighting their defensive line. Here's a few gifs I pulled from the video showing Bryant. He's #98 in these gifs - all the way to the left in the first one, and then both sides of the screen in the second one:
That's definitely not Seth Coleman or Shammond Cooper. And it's probably not Owen Carney or Ezekiel Holmes either? In uniform, he looks a lot more like Jer'Zhan Newton (or maybe pre-bulked up Keith Randolph?).
He was listed at 240 lbs when he arrived at Virginia Tech last fall. I'm guessing he might be 250-255 there? So what's his ultimate weight? Carney will be playing OLB at 265 lbs, so it's not like they can't have big guys there. But I see Keith Randolph when I watch those clips, and Randolph is playing inside.
That means it's time to go back and watch some high school film. His senior season ended only 20 months ago, so we can still get an idea of what kind of athlete he might be.
Here's what I found. And, uh, yes - he can play OLB. This right here is what I like to call "burst" on the defensive line:
And this right here is what I like to call "holy crap is he fast for a guy who is 240 lbs." If you want to know why he was a four-star recruit, it's this right here:
I would now like to take back everything I said. If you can run like that, you can play OLB in this scheme. So yes, I do think he can be 2, not 3 on the list above. It's fun when these posts start in one direction and then move in another.
Is there a need there? Absolutely. Right now, on my depth chart, there are several options at the "1" above - Isaiah Gay, Seth Coleman, Shammond Cooper, DJ Johnson. At the "2" (I guess I could just use the position names), right now, there's two scholarship players (Owen Carney and Ezekiel Holmes) plus walkons Bryce Barnes and Marko Rajkovic. So if nothing else, he's a third scholarship player at that spot during practice this fall.
Wait, that presents the perfect scenario here. 2020 didn't count so he's still 5-to-play-4. That means he could do the freshman thing and play in four games this fall (like Keith Randolph in 2019). He could be a depth piece, play in four games if needed (Randolph was in 2019), and still retain all eligibility. Then he'd have 2022 through 2025 on the field. So let me amend "he'll likely redshirt this fall" to "hopefully he has eligibility this fall and can play in four games because playing in four games is the same as playing in zero."
I had really hoped to get this post finished before covering practice (and then Media Day) but I have to leave immediately so I'll pick this up later. I know you don't care but I always write these in real time. See you in a bit.
OK, wow, I'm so glad I didn't finish. I didn't know Bret Bielema could talk about Alec Bryant yet (there have been no "welcome to the team Alec Bryant!" tweets so I figured his paperwork wasn't finalized yet), but Bielema did talk about him at the press conference. Said he is on campus, processing paperwork, and they hope to have him on the field by Monday. His eligibility for this fall would require a waiver (remember when Kofi entered the portal on July 1 because that was the deadline to enter the portal and still be eligible at another school in 2021/22? Bryant transferred after that deadline which means he'd need a waiver to be eligible), so they'll process that application, get him on the field, and see if he might get a waiver to play this fall. If he does, my guess is four games. If he doesn't, he redshirts and returns next year as a four-to-play-four.
Bielema also talked about what kind of player they saw him as. Even said they see him as an Owen Carney-like player, so there's the answer to that one. Of the 1-5 above, they see him as a 2.
Now I'm wondering if I should wait to publish this until Monday because if he's on the practice field, I could evaluate him in person. I did that with Chase Brown, and that's why I gave him 3.5 Cruises. Maybe I should do the same?
Of course, he'd need to do the five day ramp-up, and that means he can't really join the team in pads until he's had his five days without pads (NCAA rules). So I'm not going to see much next week (if he's even cleared by Monday). OK, I'll publish tonight.
Let's just close with my main takeaway. After this season, on the defensive line (I'm counting both OLB spots as "defensive line"), we will lose Owen Carney, Roderick Perry, Isaiah Gay, and Jamal Woods. If there's ten guys in the rotation there, losing four of them after only one year is a pretty big reset. And it might not just be those four Super Seniors. Calvin Avery and Deon Pate are both technically seniors this fall - Avery a fourth-year guy and Pate a fifth-year guy. If both of them were to leave, we'd lose six of ten.
That means some of the incoming freshmen next summer might be in the two-deep immediately. So adding a Virginia Tech transfer - someone who will be a third-year player next fall, not a first-year player - is really big. Especially since that transfer was a four-star recruit in the 2020 class.
So this is really big. I'm somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0 Cruises. Just based on "LSU needed his spot, and then after picking Virginia Tech he only lasted one season" (might be nothing, might be something), I think I'll stay a bit conservative. 3.5 it is.
Alec Bryant - Three and one-half Tom Cruises.