YSU’s Bryant getting second chance

YOUNGSTOWN – Kyle Bryant came to Youngstown State University for a reason.

Sure, getting dismissed from the Bowling Green State University football team didn’t help his cause with the Falcons, but at 6-feet-6, 320 pounds, the monstrous offensive lineman had options.

Yet it was Youngstown that piqued his interest – and for good reason.

Bryant wants to become an NFL player at some point, and he felt the best place for him to pursue that dream was with the Penguins.

“That’s my drive, to be a better player, to get to the next level,” said Bryant on Tuesday after the Penguins’ fourth spring practice. “That is one of my main goals, and that’s sorta the reason I came here. I wanted to work with (YSU?coach) Eric Wolford. He’s a great o-line coach. (Offensive line) coach (Carmen Bricillo) is a great o-line coach. They’re guys who know the game and they have experience sending guys to the next level.”

Bryant seemed on his way to achieving that task at Bowling Green. He started six games at left tackle as a sophomore in 2011, but things took a sudden turn for the worst in May of last year when he was kicked off the team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Bryant, now a senior, didn’t elaborate on what transpired, simply saying, “I was at a point in my life where I made some immature decisions in my social life.”

Wolford decided to take a chance on him anyway, mainly because of Andrew Johnson, another former Falcon who transferred to YSU. Johnson, who graduated last year after battling academic problems at BGSU, went to the same high school as Bryant, so he knew a little bit about the big man before he went to Bowling Green.

“Andrew said that he was a good kid, and I told (Bryant) to come into camp, and we’ll see what happens at the end of camp whether we give you a scholarship or not,” Wolford said. “So he came without even a promise of a scholarship.”

Bryant fit in almost immediately with the Penguins. His friendly nature allowed him to mesh well with teammates, and his smarts helped him quickly learn the blocking schemes. His only hurdle was physically, which may seem a bit surprising considering his imposing size.

“He’s little bit underdeveloped, physically,” Wolford said. “Coming from a program like Bowling Green for three years, I would expect him to be more physically developed than he is, and we kind of had the same thing with Andrew Johnson, so we’ve got to get him caught up. But he’s spending the extra time and working.”

Bryant appears on the right path. He played in all 11 games last year, starting the final six. He also caught the eye of several scouts at YSU’s Pro Day earlier this month, and he did so by just standing there. That tends to happen when you’re 6-6, 320. Still, he’s already placed himself on several NFL teams’ radars, Wolford said. Now he just has to put together a complete season.

“The scouts that were in here for the Pro Day, they got all his numbers, and they’re like, ‘This is exactly what we’re looking for,’ ” Wolford said. “They like that size. I’d like to see him get a little better at some of his run blocking.

“He’s got some improvement to do, but the thing I’ve been impressed with him is his work ethic. He’s very smart. He’s articulate, and he’ll be a good player. We’ve just got to keep him healthy.”

Now that Bryant’s entrenched as a starter up front (most likely at left tackle), he’ll have an opportunity to reach the potential he set for himself. He said another year in the system and a full offseason to build on his overall strength is exactly what he needs.

“I feel confident,” he said. “There were some things that I was unclear of my first year, but I feel confident. I fit right in from the jump. There’s a good atmosphere, good coaches and a lot of things are going great, so it’s just time for me to do my part.”