Will Bryan has a beard and a plan.
Bryan, the Georgia Tech senior offensive lineman, began growing his beard in the spring with a plan to keep it until the season began. It is now facial growth in bloom, a radiating symbol of masculinity. The initial goal was hatched from an interview with Tech voice Andy Demetra.
“So Andy was like, ‘Hey, are you going to grow that out till the season?’” Bryan said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess. Why not?’ And I didn’t realize exactly how long that was. It’s just been kind of going and now, I’m just going to keep it going until the end of the season. Might as well. Got not reason to cut it. It feels really good with the chin strap, too. It’s nice and padded.”
The beard – a thick, tufted mane – has received Bryan’s care and attention throughout its life. He treats it with beard oil and applies conditioner in the shower, he said.
“You’ve got to treat it right, make it silky,” he said. “It’s great. It’s been going really well so far.”
The Bryan beard has at least one admirer.
“I like it,” said left guard Parker Braun, a close friend of Bryan’s. “I’ve got beard envy. I’m kind of patchy. I’m not that full.”
Ironically, Bryan observed the 2017 preseason by shaving his head. Feast or famine, it would seem.
Regardless, it is a different look for perhaps a different sort of season. After playing two or more positions each of the past two years, Bryan is hopeful that he will be stationed at tackle for the duration of his bearded final season as a Yellow Jacket.
“Mentally, it’s definitely a lot easier than bouncing around so much,” Bryan said. “It helps me to sharpen up on my footwork and my technique and make sure I’ve got all the basics right and help me knowing all the calls and everything. It’ll be good for me, I’m sure.”
Bryan’s versatility has helped him get on the field, but, as he suggested, has perhaps limited his effectiveness. As a sophomore in 2016, he started five games at left guard and then six games at right guard. Last year, he started three games at right guard, two at left tackle and one at right tackle while playing 11 games in all. It wasn’t unusual for him to rotate between guard at tackle in the same game.
Bryan first started as a freshman in 2015, and has started a total of 23 games, playing in 31 consecutive games. His game is marked by an ability to play with low pad level and to-the-whistle effort.
Parker Braun has left guard locked down. The job at right guard may be won by Brad Morgan. Coach Paul Johnson has suggested moving center Kenny Cooper to guard when he returns from a foot injury suffered in spring practice as Jahaziel Lee, to this point a tackle, has been holding down center during preseason practice.
That could serve to keep Bryan at left tackle. Among other things, that would place him on the left shoulder of Braun.
“It’s great playing next to Parker,” he said. “I love that guy.”
It could be the makings of a particularly effective offensive line, especially if its members can stay healthy. Bryan, right tackle Andrew Marshall, Braun, Cooper and Lee all have significant starting experience. Offensive tackle Bailey Ivemeyer logged plenty of snaps last season, as well.
As is invariably the case, if Tech can be strong upfront, it bodes well for the offense and team in general. A strong running attack, an effective passing game and the ability to convert third-and-short plays find their roots in a solid offensive line.
“We’re going to have a really good season coming up,” Bryan said.
Just as long as Bryan and his beard make it out of the preseason.
“It’s pretty hot,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It’s been heating up pretty bad. But I think I’ll be all right.”