Jun 19, 2013, 2:35 PM EST
Not many skill players have come to Notre Dame in recent years with the expectations of Florida’s Greg Bryant. After a heralded prep career, Bryant walks onto campus with many believing he’s already the best running back in South Bend.
Of course, heralded freshmen phenoms are nothing new for the Irish. But getting the type of performance out of them that you expect is an entirely different story. Still, Bryant is one of the most intriguing players in the Irish recruiting class because of what he brings to the table.
Physically ready to contribute, comfortable in an offensive system like the Irish’s, and capable of carrying the load or catching out of the backfield, Bryant looks the part of an early contributor. Now he’ll have to work hard through summer workouts, and quickly make a name for himself during fall camp.
If he does, a wide open running back race could be his to win.
Few names are as shiny and bright as Bryant’s. A five-star prospect by Rivals, he’s the highest ranked skill player to sign with the Irish since Jimmy Clausen. While not all services view him as quite that elite, he’s a consensus top 50 player, one of the elite offensive skill players in the country.
At a position that’s probably the easiest to break into in college football, looking at past years gives you an idea of what type of player the Irish could be getting. Ranked around the same spot as Bryant over the following few recruiting cycles? Freshmen phenoms Duke Johnson of Miami, Todd Gurley at Georgia, Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, and Silas Redd of Penn State.
Then again, the last big name running back to sign with the Irish was James Aldridge, who never showed the type of promise many expected after a high school knee injury.
No pressure, kid.
EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES
While most see the starting running back job as George Atkinson‘s to lose, even with his elite speed, he’s not necessarily without his faults. (Nicely documented here and here by our friends at OFD.) With Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone possessing next to no experience, there’s an opening in the backfield if Bryant sees the hole and hits it (pardon the crummy running back metaphor).
Still, if we’ve learned anything these last three years, it’s that it takes a freshman some time to earn the trust of this coaching staff. Sure, there are examples like KeiVarae Russell learning to play cornerback on the fly, but for the most part, even the most impressive young players take some time to learn the ropes.
But if you are looking for a clear take on the attitude Bryant brings with him on his way to South Bend, he provided it last week when talking with Blue & Gold Illustrated.
“I can tell you right now that I’m not going to redshirt,” Bryant told B&G. “I’m putting myself in the best position to play early and nobody is going to work harder than me to get on the field. I’ve been playing among the best of the best in Florida and I’m prepared to go in and make plays for Notre Dame.”
PROJECTING THE FUTURE
Bryant is an interesting case study for both Rivals rankings and the Irish coaching staff’s player evaluations. While Bryant has an elite grade, he’s not one of the biggest, fastest, or strongest running backs in the country. Tony Alford has compared him to a stronger Theo Riddick, a comparison that should make Irish fans happy, but shouldn’t have them expecting another Jerome Bettis.
Still, Bryant has impressed recruitniks at the US Army All-American Bowl, had an elite set of offers, and has plenty of size, speed, and skill to be a very productive member of the Irish offense. Riddick put together a terrific senior season with below average size and speed. We should expect Bryant’s baseline measureables to probably exceed Riddick’s right now, and he’s known for his elusiveness as well. That’s a scary combination.
The timing is right for a player like Bryant to seize an opening in the Irish offense. Can it be him, Tarean Folston, or incoming blue-chipper Elijah Hood? That’s the big question.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EST
It’s official: Brian Kelly’s new coaching staff won the press conference. Just about universally positive reviews came from Monday’s official announcements, with new coaches Mike Sanford, Autry Denson, Keith Gilmore and Todd Lyght winning the day.
Mar 4, 2015, 2:25 PM EST
As the focus begins to turn to spring football, it appears one very big roster move is taking place along the offensive line. Matt Fortuna of ESPN reports that starting center Matt Hegarty will be leaving Notre Dame and playing his fifth year elsewhere.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:49 AM EST
With Notre Dame just one season into Mike Denbrock’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Brian Kelly didn’t look like he was in the market for a new offensive coordinator. But in Mike Sanford, Kelly (and Denbrock) found a coach worth making room for.
Mar 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
In hiring defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, Brian Kelly decided to bring back to the program one of the most talented players of the Lou Holtz era. While his resume may be short as a coach, one listen to Lyght reveals a man whose DNA is football, with coaching taking root after a world-class career.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:49 AM EST
Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher is now in charge of coaching the position. Autry Denson’s return to South Bend comes at the perfect time, with Brian Kelly looking to find the right coach and personality to replace Tony Alford on the coaching staff.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:20 AM EST
Notre Dame’s new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was introduced yesterday, a reunion for Gilmore with former boss Brian Kelly and former college teammates Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo.
Mar 2, 2015, 10:52 AM EST
After weeks of speculation, Brian Kelly has announced his coaching staff for the 2015 season. The result is four new assistants, a few new assignments and the homecoming of a handful of former Irish stars.
Mar 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EST
Before Brian Kelly introduces us to his new coaching staff tomorrow, let’s finish the mailbag. More here on what to expect from Mike Sanford, “committing” to the run, and stopping the option.
Feb 28, 2015, 2:48 PM EST
Well crew, I’ve gotta say… I’m a little underwhelmed by the mailbag question. And in the 150+ comments of people screaming at each other about mostly stupid stuff, I think I speak for everybody when I say:
Feb 27, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
Former Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., died Thursday night on campus. Father Ted was 97. He said his final mass on Thursday, the day he passed away.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:24 PM EST
Gone are Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth. Returning is a safety position that’s struggled, another transfer, a young cornerback on the rise, and (hopefully) an exiled potential star.
Welcome to the Notre Dame secondary. New coaching, same scheme, different players, and one of 2015’s great unknowns.
Feb 25, 2015, 2:34 PM EST
As we get a few extra weeks to prep for spring practice, let’s open the mailbag.
Feb 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EST
A position that looked like a huge question mark entering the 2014 season ended the year with an embarrassment of riches. After watching Will Fuller emerge with a record-setting sophomore season, the loss of DaVaris Daniels and departure of TJ Jones didn’t do anything to slow the Irish passing game down.
Feb 24, 2015, 1:34 PM EST
None of Notre Dame’s coaching changes are official yet. But more arrows point to North Carolina defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joining the Irish staff in the same role.
Feb 23, 2015, 12:43 AM EST
There might not be a deeper unit on the roster than the offensive line. After a lack of depth made it nearly impossible to practice at full speed heading into the 2012 BCS title game, Notre Dame enters the 2015 season with a two-deep most teams would pay for.
Feb 20, 2015, 10:48 AM EST
Whether it’s the Siberian Express rolling through most of the country (sorry, guys) or the grand reshuffling taking place on Brian Kelly’s coaching staff, Notre Dame announced a delay in the kickoff of spring practice.
Feb 19, 2015, 11:44 AM EST
After an incredibly impressive run at the position, Notre Dame enters spring practice with nothing but question marks at tight end. After Brian Kelly watched Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and now Ben Koyack churn through his program, he’ll spend spring trying to figure out what exactly he has at the position.
Feb 18, 2015, 11:47 AM EST
On Tuesday, a flurry of reports had Brian Kelly focusing in on the final pieces of his reshuffled coaching staff. They include two likely additions, one transition, and a position shift.
Feb 18, 2015, 11:18 AM EST
A few days after safety Avery Sebastian announced his intentions, Notre Dame made the commitment and graduate transfer of the former Cal safety official. Sebastian will enroll in graduate school and join the team in June.
Feb 17, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
After missing out on a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, a once crowded depth chart now only features Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Two backs that once worried about having to find snaps will now have all the work they could ever want, with the majority of spring spent doing everything they can to stay healthy.