Recruiting

College football decisions by Bryan, Fort makes for interesting day

2013-06-11T18:00:00Z 2013-06-11T22:52:32Z College football decisions by Bryan, Fort makes for interesting dayBy MIKE VOREL Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

First, Austin Fort. Then, Taven Bryan.

In the span of two hours, they were off recruiting boards.

It started around 7 p.m. Sunday, when Fort was driving back from a recruiting camp at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. The Gillette quarterback called Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen, and Christensen responded by extending an offer.

Fort became a Cowboy before he heard the dial tone.

A few hours later, Natrona County's Bryan made a similar decision. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound lineman had spent the weekend visiting the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. He and his family had arrived unannounced, but the reception was still more than he expected.

Coaches showed him the campus and the facilities on Friday, stopping to answer each one of his parents' questions. They told him if he came to play at Florida he'd line up on the defensive side of the ball, just like he had always wanted.

Bryan had lived his entire life in Wyoming, but in the middle of a swamp, he felt at home.

"The visit blew me away," Bryan said Tuesday.

His parents, Brandy and Stacey Bryan, made Taven promise not to make a decision until he got home. They visited Arizona State the next day, hearing another pitch and walking through another tour.

Bryan went through the motions, but in his head he had already decided. Come Fall 2014, he would be a Gator.

"I got home, and I still had that good feeling," Bryan said. "I was still pumped up."

On Sunday night at 9 p.m. -- just hours after Fort said yes to Wyoming -- Bryan turned down the same opportunity, committing to play at football powerhouse Florida.

He didn't care that plane tickets to visit Washington and Oregon had already been purchased. He had recently received a call from national champion Alabama, but his mind was decided.

"Nobody compares to Oregon for facilities. Florida would look like a dump compared to Oregon. But Taven got the best feeling not from the facilities or the extras that they were trying to help recruit with," Brandy Bryan said. "It was the people."

Not that there was anything wrong with the people at Wyoming or the other schools. Bryan liked the Cowboys coaches as well as the facilities. He had been to the campus, obviously, and he liked that, too. He could have very happily stayed home.

But because of their conference, the Cowboys were at an immediate disadvantage.

"Taven really liked them. They were in the top few, right to the end," Brandy Bryan said. Beside him, Stacey Bryan wore a blue t-shirt with a large green gator on the front, a show of support for her son's decision.

"But the NCAA is set up for the six BCS divisions, so they're not dealt a fair hand."

Fair or not, Bryan will be a Gator. And despite his SEC commitment, it was a two-hour stretch to remember for Wyoming high school football.

"Both guys are wrapped up right now," Natrona County head coach Steve Harshman said, referring to Bryant and Fort. "Having two guys with early verbal [commitments], I don't recall that ever happening in this state."

That could be because the state has rarely -- if ever -- witnessed this kind of talent.

Bryan is a three-star recruit according to Rivals for a reason. (And that rating will likely go up after his commitment to Florida, one of the top recruiting programs in the country). He's big and fast, well-suited to play just about anywhere on either line. Gillette coach Vic Wilkerson, whose team lost to Natrona County twice last season, knows this all too well.

"He's a quality player. Once again, intangibles. He's 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. He runs well, has great feet for a lineman. He's big and strong, fast and physical," Wilkerson said.

Then he stated the obvious.

"That makes for a good offensive lineman and a good defensive lineman."

In Fort's case, the physique is what earned him the offer. He's 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, yet he ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.7 seconds. Will that make him a quality Division I quarterback? Not necessarily.

But it does make him hard to stop.

"The number one thing is size and speed, and he certainly has that," Harshman said. "We all thought, 'Boy, he's sure got the body and the frame to be that kind of player.' The University of Wyoming must think so, too."

Because of those measurables, Fort has landed in Laramie. And the plan, he said, was to make the state's other premier player follow suit.

"I know we would have bumped into each other down the road and I would have tried to show him the positives of playing with me at Wyoming," Fort said.

But Fort was too late. Officially, only by a few hours. But by the time he made his decision, Bryan was ready to do the same. And a few days later, the Bryan's aren't looking back.

"His mom's already planning trips to Gainesville," Brandy Bryan said.

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Mike.Vorel@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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