Auburn turned to its closer to land Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant.
Bryant whittled his list down to a trio of SEC schools — Auburn, LSU and Georgia — in the weeks leading up to signing day.
With Auburn looking to fill the void from Carl Lawson’s early departure, defensive line coach Rodney Garner set his sights on landing the 4-star pass-rusher out of Crisp County High School in Cordele, Georgia.
“Big Cat is a guy that we circled in,” Malzahn said during his national signing day press conference.
Last year, Garner helped Auburn land Derrick Brown out of Georgia, which was one of signing day’s biggest surprises.
Auburn’s coaching staff felt confident Tuesday night the program would make similar headlines with Bryant.
“Talking to him, we always felt like we had a good chance,” Malzahn said. “Last night, we felt like that he was coming here. This morning, we felt the same.”
Auburn filled its other scholarship openings on signing day with a pair of 3-star signees — defefensive lineman Tyrone Truesdell and wide receiver JaTarvious Whitlow — but Bryant was clearly the most sought after prize.
“The guys who aren't committed when you go down to signing day, especially with our need for a pass rusher, that was really extra-special big for us as a staff,” Malzahn said. “It was big. It was kind of the icing on the cake to this class. The last one to send his stuff in and commit. It was a good end to a good day.”
What made Bryant special? Malzahn succinctly summed up the feeling of the defensive coaching staff Wednesday afternoon.
“He is a pass-rushing machine,” Malzahn said.
Bryant, who is Montravius Adams’ cousin, was the Georgia Class 3A defensive play of the year as a senior. He had 102 tackles, 36.5 for a loss and 15.5 sacks.
Rodney Garner gave a slightly longer scouting report on Byrant during an appearance on the program’s in-house signing day broadcast.
“I think we’re getting a dynamic young man that has a tremendous skill set,” Garner said. “He has great length. He can bend. He has a great burst. He has the ability to affect the game in a third down situation and be able to create some pressure on the quarterback.”