Instead of transferring to Tennessee or Oklahoma, Auburn defensive end Markaviest “Big Kat” Bryant has chosen to play his final season at Central Florida.
Bryant had previously announced on social media that he would be joining the Vols, but then deleted that post after Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired. He had hoped to play at OU, but encountered too many hurdles and will play for the Knights in 2021.
Bryant, a former 4-star defensive end in the 2017 recruiting class, wanted out of Auburn after coach Gus Malzahn was fired. Malzahn also landed at UCF when the Knights hired him on Feb. 15 to replace Heupel.
Bryant earned a 4-star evaluation from 247 Sports and ESPN while Rivals rated him as a 3-star prospect.
Bryant was one of the top prospects from the state of Georgia in the 2017 class and was regarded as a top-10 defensive end nationally. ESPN ranked him No. 100 in its ESPN 300 while 247 Sports slotted him at No. 189 nationally.
At Oklahoma, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Bryant would have fit into the role vacated when All-Big 12 defensive end Ronnie Perkins declared for the NFL Draft. Edge rusher, however, is probably the Sooners’ strongest position, with All-Big 12 swing-man Isaiah Thomas alternating with Perkins this past season (and also playing tackle), and rush linebacker Nik Bonitto earning All-America accolades on the other side. Marcus Stripling and Reggie Grimes also showed flashes of greatness at end in 2020.
Bryant, a senior this past season, played in 10 games for the Tigers and earned second-team All-SEC honors with 17 tackles, three quarterback sacks, four QB hurries and an interception. With the NCAA’s blanket eligibility waiver for 2020 athletes, Bryant has another year of eligibility left.
Bryant earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team in 2017, scored a touchdown on a 20-yard interception return against Purdue in the Music City Bowl in 2018, and had an 83-yard fumble return in the season opener against Oregon in 2019 — the latter two a testament to his athletic ability: he also ran track and played basketball in high school.
As a high school senior, he had 102 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 quarterback sacks on his way to a spot in the Under Armour All-America Game.
With his career encompassing 49 games, Bryant has 56 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 10.0 quarterback sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and seven passes deflected.