Gators lose DT Bryan to NFL Draft, other decisions looming

Florida DT Taven Bryan is pictured here giving Chad Kelly grass licks. Bryan is leaving UF one year early to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

Published on Wednesday, 12/13/17, at 4:55 p.m. Eastern.

Florida fourth-year junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan will forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Also, Antonio Callaway has signed with an agent and hopes to get drafted this spring.

Bryan was UF’s fifth-leading tackler in 2017 with 40 stops. He had four sacks and six tackles for loss, in addition to three QB hurries.

Many consider the Wyoming native a potential late first-round pick. He had five career sacks, three career fumble recoveries, nine TFL’s and one interception.

Following the 2016 season, ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. had Callaway at No. 12 on his first Big Board for the 2017 NFL Draft. However, the Miami native was arrested in May for possession of marijuana. Then in August, he was suspended indefinitely along with eight other players for their involvement in a credit-card fraud scandal.

Whether Callaway would’ve had the opportunity to play for new head coach Dan Mullen in 2018 is unknown. Whatever the case, he’ll never wear a UF uniform again.

Callaway provided the only excitement in Florida’s offense during Jim McElwain’s tenure. As a true freshman, he caught the game-winning TD pass on a 4th-and-14 play to beat Tennessee in come-from-behind fashion at The Swamp.

Several weeks later in Baton Rouge, Callaway had an electrifying punt return for a TD to tie the game early in the fourth quarter at LSU. He also gave the Gators an early 7-3 lead over Alabama in the 2015 SEC Championship Game with another punt return for a TD. One year later at the same Georgia Dome venue in the 2016 SEC Championship Game, UF went up 7-0 on Alabama with Callaway’s TD catch from Austin Appleby.

However, Callaway will unfortunately be more remembered for his off-the-field issues that kept him on the sidelines in 2017.

Florida kicker Eddy Pineiro buried 17-of-18 FGs in 2017 and will likely turn pro in the coming days or weeks.

There are several other UF players who will be making decisions about staying in school or leaving for the Draft in the coming weeks. These include OT/OG Martez Ivey, safaety Marcell Harris, placekicker Eddy Pineiro, DE CeCe Jefferson and DE Jabari Zuniga.

Ivey, Pineiro and Harris are the most likely to leave early, but all five could do so. Ivey would have to learn a new offense and play for a third different offensive line coach in as many years. Pineiro hit 17-of-18 FGs this past season to lead the nation with a 99.4 percent conversion rate. Unfortunately for UF and former coach Jim McElwain, the only PAT miss of Pineiro’s career came in a 17-16 loss to LSU.

Jefferson, a five-star recruit out of HS, finished 2016 with a team-high 13.5 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks and six QB hurries. Zuniga, a redshirt sophomore this past year, had four sacks and eight TFL’s. As a RS freshman, he had five sacks in the first five games of his career. Jefferson and Zuniga would undoubtedly get drafted, but both could vastly improve their draft status for 2018 if they stick around and enjoyed stellar campaigns.

Harris tore his Achilles in August and could’t play during his senior season. He participated in Senior Day, though, so you would think he’s gone. He had a team-best 73 tackles for the Gators in ’16.

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