INDIANAPOLIS — In the high school football recruiting class of 2020, Bryan Bresee was rated as one of the top players in the country.
Three years later, entering the 2023 NFL Draft, that’s again the case, as Bresee is expected to be one of the top couple of defensive linemen selected and a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
But Bresee’s transition from top prospect, to one of the top schools in the country in Clemson, to the NFL, was not nearly as smooth as his three-year timeline suggests.
Bresee burst onto the scene in 2020 and was a freshman All-American while earning a starting role on a brutally competitive Clemson defensive line. Four weeks into his sophomore season, an ACL tear sidelined him for nearly a calendar year.
His 2022 season was slowed as he got a late start on the season due to the recovery from his knee surgery. In September, his 15-year-old sister died of brain cancer. He returned to the field less than two weeks later, but then missed a game with strep throat later in the year and another with a kidney infection. He played just 14 games over his final two seasons with the Tigers, recording 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
“Football was my escape through a lot of things, having my teammates, my family, my coaches, a lot of support all around me was definitely crucial during that time,” Bresee said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “And you know, it just it motivated me just to you know, push through and continue to go.”
Now, he’ll need to make the leap to the NFL level without having ever put together the kind of full-season stats that his lofty recruiting status suggested he might. But the combination of size and skill that made him such a highly sought after recruit coming out of Damascus, Maryland remains, and that potential is why he’s still one of the top prospects in the draft.
“Going out to this combine, competing, doing everything, you know, I think just showing everybody a healthy me out here and you know just showing them how I move, how I work, I think that’ll help me a lot,” Bresee said. “I feel really, really good. So I’m super excited.”
At the combine, Bresee has already taken care of the all-important medical tests and has met with a number of teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was a reunion of sorts, as Bresee first met Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin when he visited Clemson’s campus back in 2020.
“I’ve known Coach Tomlin since my freshman year at Clemson,” Bresee said. “He’s there all the time. So, it was just like catching up with an old friend with him. He’s a great guy, super easy to talk to and just you know a phenomenal coach.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Listed by Clemson: 6-foot-5, 305 pounds
BRYAN BRESEE SCOUTING REPORT
Bresee is a very advanced pass rusher for an interior lineman, and he also uses his agility to move along the line well, particularly against zone running schemes, where he can flow to the football.
He has struggled when teams choose to run right at him, particularly in dealing with double teams. He hasn’t excelled at, or even done a lot of the two-gapping that the Steelers demand from their linemen when they’re in their base 3-4.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, that’s the case with the overwhelming majority of college defensive linemen, and why they have to make projections about what players may be able to excel in their scheme.
HOW DOES HE FIT?
Bresee is about the prototypical size for the Steelers to use as both a 3-4 defensive end and a 4-3 defensive tackle. Cam Heyward is 6-foot-5, 295 pounds. Larry Ogunjobi is 6-foot-3, 305 pounds. Stephon Tuitt was 6-foot-6, 303 pounds.
Other teams might see him differently, but for the Steelers, Bresee represents a very familiar paradigm.
“I think it kind of differs from team to team,” he said. “You know, I’ve kind of shown my versatility throughout college, playing a bunch of different positions. So I think I think it varies.”
The Clemson defense does play a number of fronts, with Bresee typically working from the inside shoulder of the guard all the way out to the outside shoulder of the tackle. So the Steelers could use Bresee in a number of their multitude of defensive fronts employed.
WHERE WILL BRYAN BRESEE BE DRAFTED
Once considered a top 10 pick, Bresee seems to have settled around pick No. 21 recently in most mock drafts. He is one of the best players that is very likely to be available when the Steelers pick at No. 17 overall.