For four-star defensive end Austin Bryant, recruiting is a nationwide process. Thanks to his prowess in the classroom, which matches his ability on the football field, Bryant is hearing from prestigious schools across the county.
"I have a 3.8 GPA," the Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County prospect said. "I'm hearing from most of the SEC, but I'm also being recruited by Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Penn State, all of which are recruiting me pretty hard."
Bryant has already begun hitting the recruiting trail, taking unofficial visits to Florida State and Florida earlier in the spring.
"I liked Florida State, it's one of my top schools," Bryant said. "I've got a good relationship with my recruiter and with Coach Fisher. They just told me how I could fit in and how I'd be a good addition to their recruiting class, and how I'd be used when I got there.
"With Florida, I like their coaches. I like the area, I like the feel of it. They have good academics and are ranked among the best academics in the SEC. I have a good relationship with the coaching staff. I got a chance to sit down with Coach Muschamp as well."
The 6'4, 225 pound prospect is being recruited by most schools as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, though some see him as one or the other depending on their system. One school's pitch, however, has been especially enticing.
"UCLA has told me that I can play defensive end but also have the athleticism to play linebacker, so they said I can take over Anthony Barr's spot if I came there," Bryant said. "Just seeing him flourish in Coach (Jeff Ulbrich)'s defense, it's really attractive to see what he's telling me, he's put into action, and gotten players to the league."
Bryant said that the Bruins staff is in touch quite a bit, with Ulbrich calling "at minimum, once a week" and head coach Jim Mora touching in about once every two weeks. Though he met personally with Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp on his unofricials to Florida and Florida State, he says that the attention he's being paid over the phone by Mora is the most of any head coach.
The defensive end is also hearing quite a bit from Stanford, with the Cardinal offer coming early in January.
"Stanford offered early this year and I really hit it off with their recruiters," Bryant said. "I have a good relationship with the coaching staff there, and they've been trying to sell me on the academics. Being that I'm an honors student, they really tried to hit home to me the value of a Stanford degree. They also play great football, so it's really a win-win situation."
Among the southern schools recruiting him the hardest, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Georgia have stood out, along with the two Florida schools. He said he'll plan unofficial visits out to most of the southern schools recruiting him, but that it's not as urgent with spring practices mostly being over.
"If I get up to an SEC school this spring, it'll probably be South Carolina," Bryant said. "But I'll try to visit some more of those schools over the next few months just to get up to campus and hang out with the coaches and players."
Bryant, who said he isn't opposed to leaving home for college, is also beginning to put together plans for a West Coast tour at some point in the near future.
"I'm trying to get an unofficial out to Cali," Bryant said. "I know it's really likely I take an unofficial to Stanford. I'm still working on an unofficial to UCLA, but I know I'll probably take an official visit to UCLA."
The defensive end plans to cut down his list after the summer, and said that, if he likes what he sees from a particular school during his unofficial visits, he might end the recruiting process then.
"If a place really hits me this summer, I won't be afraid to pull the trigger then," Bryant said. "If not, I might sit and wait a while. So it'll either be August, if a place hits me over the summer, or December, after I take some official visits."
As for what factors will contribute to his decision, he has a prioritized list at the ready.
"First, I want to have a good relationship with the coaches," Bryant said. "Second, I definitely want to make sure the academics are there for me to succeed in my life after football. Next after that, football itself, how much playing time I can get and when I can get it, and how they plan to use me, and whether it fits my player personality."
Bryant Has Plenty of Options
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