GAINESVILLE — O’Cyrus Torrence’s path toward the first round of the 2023 NFL draft started to materialize on the road in front of his family’s Louisiana home.
That’s where the Florida Gators star had to stand some Thursday evenings in high school to get his weekly call from then-Louisiana coach Billy Napier; the cell service was too spotty to speak inside (except for one occasionally operational corner of the house).
“We were just on regular voice call,” Torrence said. “We ain’t even FaceTiming.”
Getting face time has, thankfully, been easier for Torrence lately as he prepares once again to advance to the next level. That happens when you’re an All-American who never gave up a college sack and deserves first-round consideration (including from the Bucs).
Torrence doubles as a 6-foot-5, 331-pound billboard for Napier and his staff.
Growing up in Greensburg, La. — a dot of a town in a dot of an area (11,000-person St. Helena Parish) 50 miles northeast of Baton Rouge — Torrence had little recruiting exposure. It didn’t help that his offensive film “wasn’t very good at all,” Napier said.
“But when you turned the defensive tape on, and you see the athleticism,” Napier said.
Napier and his staff saw it because they cast a wide recruiting net. Back then, Napier would personally evaluate 800 prospects, looking for hidden gems. At Florida (where the talent bar is higher), it’s closer to 600.
Louisiana verified Torrence’s massive size during his visit. The Ragin’ Cajuns also knew he was slimming down a frame that once topped 400 pounds.
So Napier kept calling every Thursday on his way to the barber shop. Torrence kept answering, standing in the road, if necessary — a memory Torrence couldn’t help but laugh about this week.
Louisiana Tech rang, too, but few others did until Georgia and Colorado made runs in late 2018. Without the early signing period, Napier said, Torrence would have had two more months for his recruitment to blow up and bigger offers to materialize. Instead, Napier landed a future All-American in his first full class.
“You knew pretty, pretty early that we probably shouldn’t have this guy,” Napier said.
From there, Torrence’s innate talent developed under Napier’s staff. An injury to Louisiana’s starting left guard in the 2019 opener threw Torrence into action. He immediately held his own and earned the job, starting 46 games over four seasons (three at Louisiana, one at Florida after following Napier as a transfer). Most astonishingly, Torrence never allowed a sack in his career and gave up only one quarterback hit when a defender beat him during his junior year.
“That still hurts me a little bit,” Torrence said.
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It does not, however, hurt his draft stock. He’s the near-unanimous top prospect at his position and has a chance to be only the seventh guard drafted in the first round since 2016. A recent ESPN mock draft had him going 24th to the Jaguars. The Bucs sent at least three of their top front-office officials to Florida’s pro day Thursday; though tackle is probably a bigger need, it wouldn’t be a stretch for Tampa Bay to look at Torrence with the No. 19 overall pick.
“I think he’s a plug-and-play guy right out of the gate…” ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller said. “He’s a bodyguard for you.”
Whatever his next destination, Torrence shouldn’t have to wait long on draft weekend before an NFL team calls. Hopefully he doesn’t have to walk into the road to answer.
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