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 apparently Chris Horn, who committed to Stanford in 2003.
Update: I mistook Brian Mattes being from Wyoming Valley High School in Pennsylvania for Mattes being from Wyoming, which reader Doug pointed out in a couple of emails that also contextualized Wyoming's remoteness as a football outpost.
Great article on Taven Bryan's committment to UF. As a Wyoming native, I'm always happy to see local kids (and in Wyoming...the whole state is local!) do well.
One catch to correct: Brian Mattes isn't from Wyoming. He's from Pennsylvania. The high school in PA was Wyoming Valley.
In the place of Brian Mattes, you might have to go all the way back to 1992 with Troy Dumas out of Cheyenne East High School. Troy played linebacker for Nebraska's 1994 MNC team.
There have been numerous kids play at BYU, CSU, Utah and Utah State, etc., but a school the caliber of UF is very rare. A kicker from Rock Springs, WY lettered about 10 years ago for the Miami Hurricanes. However, I'm not willing to call a kicker a real player, nor Miami a real school.
The Wyoming player turned Miami kicker is Freddie Capshaw, who I can't say I had ever heard of prior to this email.
There could be a kid between Taven and Troy Dumas that went to a big school...but I can't think of one. (Brett) Kiesel is from a little town in Wyoming, but he went to BYU. So he's been removed from the rolls of Wyomingites...
Also, I think Dumas was 1991.
Here's hoping Taven has a great career in the Swamp. If nothing else, I'd like to see him sack Saban in the endzone after a game and make the safety gesture as he hovers over him.
Dumas was, in fact, at Nebraska from 1991 to 1994. He's now the linebackers coach at Southeast Missouri. Kiesel, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, went to Greybull High School, which is in a town called Greybull, and apparently has an enrollment of 150 or so students.
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.