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Bryant impressing during bowl prep

Dec 23, 2013, 1:42 AM EDT

Greg Bryant

After what many thought was a lost season, freshman running back Greg Bryant is making up for lost time. During Notre Dame’s preparations for the Pinstripe Bowl, the five-star recruit is practicing up to his reputation, earning the praise of his head coach over the weekend after recovering from minor knee surgery.

“He’s moving along very well after the procedure that he had,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s running around, took some carries in our scrimmage. He’s really good, really excited about where he can be next year.”

Bryant’s development was a constant question in Kelly’s weekly meetings with the media this season. But after undergoing a surgery similar to the one that ended Louis Nix’s career at Notre Dame, Bryant is healthy, happy, and ready to join the competition this spring for carries in a very crowded backfield.

Last week, we talked about Bryant’s redshirt season, and what it could mean for the Irish depth chart. While Bryant needs to carve out a niche for himself next year, it’s clear that getting healthy — and saving a year of eligibility — could pay immediate dividends.

“I think we did the right thing with him not playing this year, because I can see where his development and how he’s going to help our football team next year. He’s a dynamic player,” Kelly said.

If you listened to the rumors and message boards, Bryant had one foot out the door this season as he didn’t step onto campus and dominate, as some thought he could.  Yet the Florida native seems to have kept an even keel, shrugging off some of the questions that came with not playing right away.

“It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy. Every freshman goes through that period of time,” Kelly explained. “First, that ‘Hey, I’m a great player. I should be playing.’ Then, how do I communicate that back to my friends that I’m not playing? What’s wrong with you? You’re not a good player?

“I think his dad helped him a lot with that. Usually you find a parent to help get involved in that. So you’re having a conversation with the parent. That usually helps a lot. It starts there.”

While things came slowly on the field, Bryant did get an early taste of what’s expected from him. That included some early touches this season. But more importantly, it included an acclimation to college football that is really important at a school like Notre Dame.

“Handling the academics, handling just being here at Notre Dame, that with the rigors of college football and everybody’s a really good player,” Kelly said, when asked about his goals for Bryant this season. “His experience here is going to be not just on the field but off the field as well. He’s done a really good job.”

Kelly singled out Bryant’s work in the classroom, usually a good indication that a student-athlete is engaged in the process. And after watching snippets of Bryant during the Pinstripe Bowl’s practice reports, it appears that the knee injury hasn’t diminished the running back’s hunger to compete.

After watching Everett Golson and Davaris Daniels excel after a redshirt season, Bryant can follow a similar plan. It might not be immediate, but it’s certainly good enough.

 

  1. bernhtp - Dec 23, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Bryant is a stud running back. I’ve heard several reports that he shows to be the best of the bunch in practice. Apparently he did have some difficulty in picking up all of the formations and assignments quickly enough as Tommy checked out of plays, which was a big problem given the importance of protecting the QB. The injury then shut him down and didn’t leave enough to waste a year over (though few five-stars play a fifth year). Between further development and having a less-vulnerable Golson as QB, I expect Bryant to play big this next fall.

    While everything Kelly said here rings very true, I can’t help but think some of its purpose is to help buoy Bryant’s morale through the upcoming “transfer season.” We lost three last spring.

    • nudeman - Dec 23, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Why would someone give that comment a thumbs down?

      The other interesting tidbit I saw this weekend is that GAIII requested an NFL draft grade. Probably just a formality, and I think leaving would be a big mistake. Although he’s still not nearly as good as his physical assets suggest he could be, he did show some significant improvement this year, finally.

      If he left now, I’d say he’d be a 4th rounder at the very best, with even a possibility he’d go undrafted.
      Next year, if he comes back and keeps improving, he actually has an outside shot at 1st-2nd round.

      I’m pulling for the guy. Took a lot of crap this year.

      • getsome99 - Dec 23, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Only the most elite RB’s get drafted that high since most RB’s are a dime a dozen. Unless he shows a 1000% improvement and consistency in pass catching and pass blocking, he may a 3rd or 4th rounder just based on his speed. But he would still need to show some major improvement in his overall game to go that high.

      • ibleedirish - Dec 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        Nude, you’re making me agree with getsome. That isn’t very Christmas-y of you. RBs simply aren’t worth much in The League anymore. And certainly not one who saw his carries drop as the season went on, on a poor running team no less. Are you saying you’d rather have GA3 than Theo or Cierre? They went 6th round and undrafted respectively. Best of luck to George, I hope he does leave and finds a team, but…he’s not a pro back. He doesn’t even like contact at the college level.

      • goirishgo - Dec 23, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        Now may be better for Atkinson to test the NFL now than next year. It’s looking like Folston and Bryant will get significant PT in 2014. If I’m not mistaken, Carlisle and McDaniel are back too. A hard look at the future may lead him to believe (rightly) that the best time to take his shot is now – before dwindling playing time makes him a complete non-factor in the draft.

      • bearcatirishfan - Dec 23, 2013 at 1:36 PM

        I think his best bet is to get drafted as a trinden holiday, tavon Austin, Deven Hester return specialist maybe would go in the 4th or 5th round if someone wanted to dedicate him to the return game, not sure if he can do punts though.

      • nudeman - Dec 23, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        I am not saying I’d rather have him than Theo or Cierre.
        I’m well aware of his limitations but no.one can deny he improved lot by year end. As far as my draft forecast, don’t forget he has world class speed and someone sill notice that.
        The NFL loves speed

      • papadec - Dec 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        Trolls got loose again, nude – HEYYYYYYYY someone shut the darn gate!!!!!!

  2. kiopta1 - Dec 23, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Bryant did appreciate BK’s words. I think it motivates Bryant to focus on the opportunity ahead of him and drive passionately to his goals. IMO his big goal is to become one of the nations best RBs and go to the NFL.

  3. oldestguard - Dec 23, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    That’s a nice season greeting. What else is left on our wish list – Tuitt coming back, another.DL stud committing, getting the next Coordinators on board….??

    You’re right on the money Bern, re. Kelly getting ahead of potential “pitfalls”.

    This program under Kelly is maturing and it’s going to be a solid run and exciting times ahead.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 23, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      also still on the wish list for ’13 there has to be an absolute a$$-whipping of rutgers. not sure how santa responds to requests for “a$$-whippings” but who cares.

      this needs to be a shut-out. the demoralizing kind that makes rutgers players want to transfer to a D-II school.

      the kind where AH plays the entire second half, and completes passes!

      the kind sending the message “ok, ND wasn’t a BCS team this year, but they were better than the pinstripe bowl and there are plenty of guys coming back next year…”

      if the

  4. viktory2013 - Dec 23, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Bryant and Folston will do very well next year, especially with Golson orchestrating the attack, probably like the Wood/Riddick combo last year. Have a sneaking suspicion it was more of a doghouse situation for both Bryant and Zaire this year than injury or lack of a grasp of the system.
    I would be really surprised if Atkinson goes in the draft. He’s fast, but not nearly tough enough to be a pro. In fact he showed very little desire on the field, and even his speed isn’t that overwhelming.

    • bernhtp - Dec 23, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Doghouse? So mononucleosis and knee surgery don’t constitute sufficient evidence for why they sat this season?

      Here’s another conspiracy theory that might appeal to you:

      • viktory2013 - Dec 23, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        No but you could tell by the way Kelly talked about them that he wasn’t particularly enamoured with either, nor were they with Kelly. It seems they’ve kissed and made up, but he’s certainly not going to come out and say “this kid’s mouthy in practice, so I’m going to sit his ass on the bench until he minds his P’s and Q’s”, and make an example of him. No conspiracy theories necessary, just writing on the wall, boss.

      • bernhtp - Dec 23, 2013 at 7:21 PM

        Not doghouse but a combination of not ready and sick/injured.

        It’s proven tough for a new QB to learn the offense with proficiency. Zaire was #3 (and reportedly not very close) and then he got mono that took him out of practice for about two months. This is as certain a recipe for a redshirt as there ever has been. But not doghouse.

        Bryant got a tiny bit of playing time in a position where a true freshman (and no EE) can make a contribution. However, he could only get limited time given his inability to quickly pick up the plays, formations and blocking assignments as Rees changed them with his checks, which is a quality made far more important given Rees’ immobility, vulnerability and importance. Then Bryant crapped out his knee, requiring surgery and a layoff for two months. Again, an easy decision for a redshirt and no doghouse status.

        Doghouse is a place occupied by Cierre Wood last year as he didn’t quit the weed and didn’t always take direction well. The problem apparently persisted in the pros. Not so for Zaire and Bryant.

    • dmac4real - Dec 23, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Ridiculous speculations with no factual basis behind them. This wouldnt be a Notre Dame blog with out one of these comments.

  5. regionirish - Dec 23, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I think RB is one of the most interesting story lines for 2014. With Cam, GAIII, Folston, & Bryant all trying to establish themselves. I wonder if BK will have more of an urge to have a RB by committee system much like this year. I am really against this. My opinion is there needs to be a max of two guys who do the majority of the work. This rotating RB’s thing not only makes you more predictable as a play caller but limits the RB’s ability to get into the flow of the game. The more the RB’s observes how a defense is defending each play the better they can set up their blocks and make better cuts. I have a feeling ND fans again will be frustrated by the non-emergence of a back who can carry the load for the Irish next year.

    • onward2victory - Dec 23, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      While I agree that Folston and Bryant are the 2 best RBs, I don’t think we should sleep on Amir yet. I still believe he can be a big contributor to this offense, especially if we spread things out and get guys in space.

      We also can’t count on all 5 backs being healthy all year. In fact it’s very unlikely they will be.

      • regionirish - Dec 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        onward2victory

        If Amir did not play this year, next year with the addition of Bryant and EG “stealing” carries. No way does Amir get in the mix at RB. Maybe slot receiver.

        I don’t know with the limited carries per game by BK’s running backs, it seems they are more likely to get hurt in practice then in the actual game. I say play the best player until they are too tired or get dinged up, then put in the next best player. ND is the #1 school in the nation for carries by 3rd and 4th string running backs.

  6. 25kgold - Dec 23, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Gol(D)son and Bryant are going to make OC’s cry this coming season!

  7. lightskin350 - Dec 23, 2013 at 10:00 PM

    I can’t wait to see what this kid can do. He is the most talented player at RB and I would argue he might be the most talented player we have on offense in 2014 and that includes Golson. With Golson back and the stable of backs we have this offense has the potential to be elite if the line plays better than this year.

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