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Irish A-to-Z: Greg Bryant

Jun 2, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

Greg Bryant

Thousands of words have already been spent on Greg Bryant‘s 2014 season and the calendar just hit June. Notre Dame’s sophomore running back, healthy after a knee injury and a steep learning curve kept him off the field last season, will now go to work trying to live up to the expectations.

When it comes to Notre Dame fans, that’s no easy task. And after Bryant’s big spring game and a running back depth chart that’s been cut down to three, there’s no player with more on his shoulders than the former blue-chip recruit from Florida.

Let’s take a closer look at Greg Bryant.


5’9.75″, 204-lbs.
Sophomore, No. 1



Not too many players have come to Notre Dame as highly touted as Bryant, who was one of the top 20 players in the country, according to A five-star recruit that jumped from Oklahoma to Notre Dame later in the recruiting process, Bryant was one of the key gains that came from 2012’s undefeated regular season.

Bryant was judged the third-best running back in the country by Rivals, though that Top 5 certainly hasn’t shook out the way you’d expect. At No. 5, Derrick Henry flashed the power and speed you expected in limited touches at Alabama, averaging over 10 yards a carry. At No. 4, Ty Isaac is looking for a new school, transferring from USC. Thomas Tyner had an impressive freshman season at Oregon, running for 711 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry. But the top back in the country, Michigan’s Derrick Green looked slow and overweight as a freshman, breaking 50 yards in a game only once while averaging an anemic 3.3 yards per carry.

Bryant isn’t the biggest or fastest back, but pound-for-pound he looks the part of a workhorse, and the chiseled runner looked like an elite back after dominating Florida high school football, looking like an NFL back as a high schooler. One of three truly elite prospects in the Irish 2013 recruiting class, Notre Dame will hopefully be carried by Bryant, Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield in 2014.



Freshman Season (2013): Appeared in three games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.



The sky is seemingly the limit for Bryant, who worked through a frustrating, injury-plagued freshman campaign to return valiantly for spring ball. As Irish fans often do, rumors of Bryant’s unhappiness and whispers of a transfer started to spread as the season wore on and Bryant wasn’t a part of it. But spring gave the young running back a new start, and he eagerly took advantage of that.

With Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone vacating the running back spot, it is now three backs at a position that had as many as six contenders exiting last season. But the two backs returning, senior Cam McDaniel and fellow sophomore Tarean Folston, both will limit the opportunities Bryant will get this season. And in Folston, the Irish might have a back that’s better for the Irish offense, even if Bryant won the star-rating exiting high school.

Mentioning Folston shouldn’t diminish the player the Irish have in Bryant. He’s the power running that Notre Dame hasn’t had under Brian Kelly, only capable of breaking a big run as well. Bryant also has the ability to be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, smooth in the open field or as a receiver. Paired with Folston or running alone, Bryant (and Folston) both have the highest ceiling of any running back that Kelly has coached at Notre Dame.

Ultimately, Bryant’s biggest limitation — other than the meniscus injury that ended his season — was understanding the demands of running back at the collegiate level. After dominating play physically with raw talent, Bryant’s knowledge-base of the game was lacking last season, leading to some difficulties understanding the playbook, not easy when Tommy Rees is checking plays at the line of scrimmage.



Finding touches will be the most interesting part of 2014. With Brian Kelly back calling the plays, we’ll see exactly how often the head coach wants to get Bryant involved. McDaniel has earned his minutes playing for Kelly, and we’ve seen the Irish head coach feed footballs to the running back he trusts most.

If Bryant can earn his way to that status, then he’s poised to have a monster year, as he’s the best power-running short-yardage back on the roster. But a modest goal of 10 touches a game should be where the bar is set, assuming that Folston deserves just as many.

One place for Bryant to help the Irish is in the short passing game and on special teams. He’s been given the first shot at the punt return job, a spot where for years the Irish were happy just fair catching the football. Bryant should also have a chance to replace George Atkinson as kick returner, though his top-end speed isn’t where Atkinson’s was.

As a pass catcher, Bryant could be an electric option. Kelly was quick to kill comparisons to Theo Riddick, who Kelly believes to be a better receiver, but Bryant is a bigger, stronger and faster version of Riddick.

Ultimately, Bryant is a player with a ton to prove. Can a year in the program shed the burden of great expectations? If the Irish offense is going to be as explosive as many expect, the answer needs to be yes.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown



  1. dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:41 PM

    Arod, Canseco, McGwire, Sammy Sosa…possibly future Mandingo. I am pretty much impressed by his physique for now.

  2. Mike - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    Ya, but if he was the guy with 3 hookers and 2 eight balls you would love him.
    Party all night and tell the story on some blog post. Oh wait that’s what you do and why we love you

    • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:59 PM

      Pardon me. Hookers? Me and the hookers have class and teeth so please call them “escorts”. If he had even one of thems, I’d love him.

  3. Mike - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Your right, how rude. He’s to young to, you bring the Escorts all bring
    the rest.

    • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      What? Speak engrish Obama voter.

  4. NotreDan - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    Hahaha my boy Mike. I love you man, especially because you insult the drug-addled gas bag no-dickie doodle and he doesn’t get it.

    • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      I knew you two were 2 Obama votin gays! That’s Hott!

    • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      Obama should have traded you two bozos instead of 5 9/11 terrorists, brilliant! Now go buy me some$20 LED bulbs would ya?

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:10 PM

        You don’t want light bulbs…that will just force you to see the mustaches on the women you bring home.

      • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:50 PM

        But it’s “green” in al gore voice. Yeah I know exactly what you’re talking about. Have you ever seen the got milk ads? Well replace the milk w semen and you have semenstaches. Good call I wanna be. I didn’t know you were too kewl for school!

  5. fnc111 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    Derrick Green will be a beast against ND. Kelly will make sure of that.

    Can you blame ND fans for thinking Bryant was transferring? Seems like a potential star commit from the south bolts from ND every year. Lynch, Vanderdoes, Neal, etc. Kind of lame digging on ND fans.

    Comparing Bryant to Riddick isn’t going to get ND fans excited. Riddick struggled mightily until having a solid senior year. If you want ND to be great you need explosive players not simply solid players.

  6. irishdog80 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Less miles and wear and tear on a running back is better for the player and the team. Spread the carries around as much as possible. It will keep everybody fresh. I would also like to see more two back sets with defenses having to choose which back to key on.

    • dickasman - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:52 PM

      I like the way you think. Yes, SPREAD’EM!!!

    • DPU Man ND Fan - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      What does Les Miles have to do with this??

    • ndfenian - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:54 AM

      Yes, two back sets. Jet sweeps, motion – in a receiver, whatever!

  7. yaketyyacc - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    the proof will be on the field. on paper, Greg Bryant more then measures up. remember George Atkinson III also looked good on paper, and in the Blue/Gold game, and then, only showed glimpses of greatness on the field. Part of this is the result of poor play calling. so the coaches need a few classes in summer school as well. remember coaches, they call the “spread” the spread not only because of the physical formation, but, that the plays spread the advantage to all the talent.

    • mediocrebob - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      You should call plays.

      • ndfenian - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:59 AM

        If Kelly will let us call plays, we should try to look like Missouri ‘s offense last year. Great running game with multiple backs, vertical receiving routes, some QB run plays. I just kept thinking, this is what Kelly wants to look like. It was a better version of our 2012 offense.

    • nudeman - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Agree on play calling 100000%. Kelly seems to think running the ball throughout the game shows a distinct lack of creativity, like it’s beneath him.

      As for GAIII, there is one major difference you didn’t cite: Heart.
      Atkinson proved to be soft and timid. A track guy trying to play football.
      Bryant is the real deal. He’d rather run over you and put cleat marks up the front of your jersey vs. run out of bounds or go down at first contact.

      • ndirish10 - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        Another major difference…GAIII was NOT a running back. No shiftiness, hip movement. Wouldn’t even lower his shoulder pads to deliver a hit. Blades of grass would trip him up and gusts of wind would topple him. Yes, he did pull off some long runs…every once in a while…but that was when the whole was wide open (please, dick, no need to respond). Maybe GAIII would have made a good safety. Maybe.

      • nudeman - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Uh, a safety has to sort of like contact, doesn’t he?
        So cross that off the list.

        Would have been great in the 220 yd relay.

      • ndirish10 - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:22 PM


        So very true.

  8. irishwilliamsport - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Some people really ruin this blog, and we all know who they are. Keith, can’t you ban the Dick idiot ? Good article about a good kid and we have to read that crap.

    • ibleedirish - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      “Have to”? At the point of what gun?

      • irishwilliamsport - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        You’re an idiot.

      • ibleedirish - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        And you are complaining about an anonymous poster on a football blog, demonstrating you lack the ability to ignore him. I’d much rather be an idiot.

      • irishwilliamsport - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        I get it, you 2 must be buddies.

    • shaunodame - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      I second that!!

  9. shaunodame - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Bryant might be the most talented player on this entire roster. Living up to that potential is the hard part. I think he can do it though. He and Folston will be a NASTY 1,2 combo!

    • sjb198 - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      That 1-2 combo sounds great, but remember, in play-calling, timing is everything. That 1-2 combo won’t mean much if they’re sitting on the bench when it’s 3rd and 2 in the red zone.

      • shaunodame - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        I agree that only one guy can carry the ball in the big spots but I’m not sure what you mean with the play calling and timing stuff?

  10. goirishgo - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:31 PM


  11. knuterocknesghost - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    I think play calling by BK is a little more nuanced than his sitting down with his coaching staff and saying — “gee, let’s just run the football more often”.

    Isn’t play calling dictated by the defense opposing your offense and the opportunities you expect to exploit, and… well, your personnel as well (how do the skills of your players on the field match with the defense and also their general ability to successfully execute certain offensive plays versus the strength of the defensive personnel?).

    In the red zone in what circumstances is it better to pass to Corey Robinson versus handing the ball off to Gregg Bryant? And with MZ’s or EG’s scrambling ability, shouldn’t we expect more or less opportunities to pass the ball into a playmaker’s hands in space vacated by the defense rather than a back’s having to thread his way through the defensive front? With the quarterbacks BK has for this year, it’s more pass than run unless MZ and EG prove not to be efficient in spreading the ball around like point guards in basketball.

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