The 90 Illini #29: Alec Bryant
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This is the least informed as I've ever been about a player I'm putting 29th on this list.
See, I'm usually at camp by the time I get to the players in the 20's. And so I've gotten to see a lot of the players in person. Did this guy bulk up in the offseason? How does this guy look in drills? I then go back and adjust the players in the top-30 or so based on initial fall impressions.
This year, we've been allowed at two practices and have only been able to watch stretching and light warm-up work. So I don't have any camp impressions. Which means I can't make any top-30 adjustments. Bryant transferred in from Virginia Tech last August and we got to see him for the first time in the spring game. I think he's fully in the mix at Owen Carney's OLB position. But I really don't know that. I'm assuming based on his recruiting pedigree.
The information I'm lacking is how far along he is in his development. Some edge guys are ready early. Some aren't ready for 3-4 years. Carney arrived in 2017 and didn't blossom until 2020. So it's hard to say if Bryant a "ready sooner rather than later" guy.
If he's ready, he might be the starter there and I should have him 15th or so. If he's not, he might just be some redshirt freshman we're developing for the future and I should have him 57th. He's probably needed right now (unless one of the freshmen are ready), and this is a list of the most important players for the season, So Alec Bryant is ranked...
29. Alec Bryant
Uniform number: 90
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (without the Covid waiver, 3 years to play 3; with the Covid waiver, technically 4 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-3" -- Weight: 240 lbs.
Hometown: Pearland, Texas
High School: Shadow Creek HS
Transfer From: Virginia Tech
Five best offers: Oklahoma, LSU, USC, Oregon, Miami
Tom Cruise rating:
2021 statistics: Transferred after the cutoff date for immediate eligibility so he had to sit out a full season. Took a redshirt year.
It's been quite the journey to Illinois. For starters, he was an early LSU commit in high school. Then, fall of his senior year, LSU signed the #6 weakside defensive end. Which meant the #17 weakside defensive end no longer had a spot. LSU media painted it like this 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
So here's this 4-star defensive end back on the market. Virginia Tech swooped in and landed him. He was there for the Covid season (2020), but in the summer there was an incident in the dorms (all that was reported was that a door was broken - this wasn't some arrest or something). He considered several schools (including Purdue) and ended up here. This is what a Purdue beat writer said about his possible Purdue transfer at the time:
(Feels a little sour grapes-y to me - like Michigan when Terrence Shannon picked Illinois - but whatever.)
All that matters: his long journey took him from Houston to Baton Rouge to Blacksburg to Champaign (and not West Lafayette).
He couldn't have stepped into a better opportunity. The new defense requires an outside linebacker on one side who can hold up against the run like he puts the strong in strongside DE but also might drop into coverage here or there. And the old staff wasn't really recruiting that type of player.
Enter Alec Bryant. He's the type of athlete they will be recruiting for that role. And he's now entering his third year removed from HS so this isn't a true freshman coming in and trying to learn the defense in four weeks before his first ever season of football. Bryant spent the past 12 months learning this defense and now a class-of-2020 guy enters the 2022 season with tons of snaps available in front of him.
Ezekiel Holmes, Alec Bryant, and Gabe Jacas - your table is ready. All we need to do these next four weeks is figure out who gets seated first.