When making the transition from high school to college, it makes sense that some positions take longer to adapt to the physicality and size of the collegiate level. Defensive line especially comes to mind, but Ryan Bee bucked the trend for Marshall and contributed almost immediately as a freshman.
After getting his feet wet in the 2015 season for the first two weeks, he exploded onto the scene against Old Dominion. Back then, No. 91 mostly played defensive end, and he wreaked havoc in the Monarchs backfield, logging 12 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks to go with a forced fumble. While he was still one of the youngest players on the field, he played like a veteran, utilizing every inch of his 6-foot-7 frame along with his array of moves to disengage from blocks.
That early success must have given Bee confidence, as he continued to put in impressive performances each week and finished his freshman campaign with 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks, including one of each against Connecticut in his first bowl game. This upward trajectory only continued in his sophomore year, where he came into his own by combining his pass-rushing ability with his length, making him nearly unblockable at times.
The biggest change came during his junior year — and this might be the most indicative of Bee’s knowledge of the game and sheer physical talent. After spending his first two years as an edge rusher and bringing value from the end, he moved to playing primarily as an interior defensive linemen. While much of the stats glory seems to go to the edge rushers, Bee managed to shine just as bright from his new spot inside, using his length to overwhelm centers and guards. Bee ended up notching 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks during his junior campaign.
Though senior years are supposed to be the culmination of every player’s career, Bee suffered a setback early on when he was forced to miss the first few games due to injury and played on a limited snap count afterwards. But in his first game back with regular action, Bee didn’t take long to get going as he registered two sacks and a forced fumble against Western Kentucky and continued that torrid pace from there.
Now, all those years of honing his defensive line techniques were perfectly mastered with his frame. This showed up not just in the stat line but on the field, where even when he couldn’t get to the quarterback, he was able to get his hands up to redirect passes. That aspect of his play was on display in his final game, when Bee registered three tackles and a pass deflection in victory against South Florida.
With the positional flexibility to excel anywhere on the defensive line, the question is not where will Bee slot in, but how much disruption can he cause while playing there. If his collegiate career is anything to go by, the answer will likely cause offensive linemen fits.
– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst