Dec 23, 2013, 1:42 AM EDT
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.