Aside from standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 260 pounds, Taven Bryan wasn’t ready for college football when he arrived at the University of Florida.
Although Bryan’s athleticism helped him earn a scholarship, as well as Super 25 and Wyoming Coaches Association Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in high school, it wasn’t enough to see playing time immediately in college.
Bryan, a 2014 Natrona County graduate and Florida redshirt freshman defensive lineman, spent his first year learning the “general concept of football."
“I had to learn a lot,” Bryan said. “My high school coaches, we didn’t learn a lot of football. It was really just ‘get in the gap and play football.’
“Now I’ve got to know schemes, I’ve got to know what everybody is doing.”
Bryan started by learning the basics of everything from his technique to his stance on the defensive line. The Gators spend significant time in meetings, talking with coaches and teammates
Bryan was also sick for part of last season. A bout with strep throat eventually caused him to have his tonsils removed and he ended up redshirting.
The year of waiting has already proven to have a positive impact.
Bryan is 32 pounds heavier than last year and has seen playing time in each of the Gators’ first six games.
Will Muschamp originally recruited Bryan to Florida, but the university fired him after the 2014 season, replacing him with former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain. Despite the coaching change, Florida is undefeated and ranked No. 8 in the country heading into their road game at LSU on Saturday.
“That’s why I chose this place,” Bryan said. “No matter what they’re going to have a great coaching staff and give us a really good chance to win ball games.”
Bryan has five total tackles, including one solo and 1 ½ for loss, plus two quarterback hurries on the season.
Two weeks ago, Bryan recorded his first sack against then-No. 3 Mississippi, one of Florida’s biggest games all season. Bryan, alongside Antonio Morrison, sacked Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly for an 11-yard loss in the Gators' 38-10 win on Oct. 3.
“It was pretty cool,” Bryan said. “You’d have to be there to understand. It’s Florida, it’s a different environment.
“The stadium is crazy loud here … you can’t even hear.”
Out of the 115 players on the Gators’ roster, Bryan is one of only a few to come from the western part of the U.S. He said the distance is one of the only downfalls to choosing Florida.
Bryan doesn’t get to see his parents as often as he’d like, but they have made the trek for home games. He joked that his dad can’t make him work anymore on the side, so he’s got a little more free time when he’s not training or in classes.
Bryan plans to keep developing physically by working on his strength and speed. But with three years of eligibility remaining, he’s content with his progress to this point.
“I’m just going to take it one day at a time and make sure I work on my knowledge of football, work on my technique,” Bryan said, “just improve as a whole and help the team improve.”