Greg Bryant

Greg Bryant will continue football career at UAB in 2017

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Former Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant will return to D-I football in 2017 at a program that’s also making a major comeback. Spending the 2015 season playing junior college football at ASA in Miami, the former five-star recruit has decided to finish his college career at University of Alabama-Birmingham, where football is coming back after the program shut down last year.

Bryant made the announcement on his Instagram page:

“Never in my life would I be thinking I would go here,” Bryant posted. “But, the next move has to be the best move. I’m officially committed to the University of Alabama Birmingham! Strictly a business decision. ‪Minor set back for a major comeback.”

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was open to the idea of Bryant returning to South Bend if he wanted to earn his degree. But that return always seemed highly unlikely since Bryant left the university after being declared academically ineligible, even as Bryant had hinted at it via social media a few times this season. Bryant was already suspended four games for an undisclosed rules violation before his summer semester grades came up just short.

Notre Dame’s running back position has been thin this season, especially after losing Bryant this summer and Tarean Folston three carries into the 2015 season. But C.J. Prosise has carried the load for Notre Dame and freshman Josh Adams has done well in a reserve role.

Bryant has two seasons of eligibility remaining, earning a medical redshirt in 2013 as a freshman. His final Notre Dame stats include 57 carries for 303 yards and three touchdowns, good for 5.3 yards per carry.

 

Bryant begins Juco career, opens up recruitment

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It appears that the Greg Bryant era at Notre Dame is over.

The junior running back, who was declared academically ineligible to play for the Irish this fall, has enrolled at ASA Miami, a junior college with a new football program run by former Irish assistant Ernest Jones. In addition to starting school and beginning practices with the new program, Bryant also acknowledged that he’ll be “opening up my recruitment,” all but signaling the end of his time in South Bend.

Bryant took to Instagram to announce the decision.

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The chance of a return to South Bend seemed slim from the moment Bryant decided not to return to Notre Dame and enroll in classes for the fall semester. And while head coach Brian Kelly is and was open to Bryant returning to the program if he wants to get his degree from Notre Dame, Bryant sounds like he’s looking for a better situation on the field.

In his Instagram post, Bryant acknowledged that a fresh start at a new school will hopefully make sure his “next move will be my best move.”

Competition continues as camp settles in

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With the trip to Culver complete, Notre Dame enters the dog days of training camp. More than a week in, there are no restrictions on the football team, so this week featured two-a-days, full pads, and some intense competition as the depth chart begins to shake out.

Brian Kelly caught up with the media after practice on Thursday, and from his comments, it sounds like we can start to make some assumptions.

 

C.J. Prosise and Tarean Folston are legitimately battling for No. 1 reps. 

All that flowery talk about C.J. Prosise this spring? Sounds like it’s legit. Notre Dame’s converted wide receiver is giving incumbent Tarean Folston a run for his money, taking first-team reps and making it appear that there’s a legit competition for the starting job. So much so that Kelly has all but thrown out the depth chart.

“I think we’re going to keep that as a very competitive situation and keep pushing them both. There’s no depth chart there right now,” Kelly explained. “You get a good practice on you and you’ve worked hard, you’re taking first-team reps. If you have a subpar practice based on the standards we’ve set, you’re not taking first-team reps.

“It’s a very competitive situation, very fluid in that sense. It’s going to be competitive each and every week.”

For those who are skeptical that Kelly would be willing to make a move like that so quickly into Prosise’s tenure at running back, just look back to 2012. Converted wide receiver Theo Riddick usurped Cierre Wood as the team’s go-to tailback, even if statistically it didn’t make a ton of sense.

Of course, there’s a lot of time between now and Texas. And with just two legitimate options at tailback, both guys are going to play. So while I still think this is Folston’s job, it appears that Prosise is every bit as good as advertised.

 

So far, so good for Justin Yoon. 

Wondering how freshman kicker Justin Yoon is acclimating to life in college football? Perfectly. Literally, the young kicker hasn’t missed a field goal attempt yet.

“Charting right now he’s 18-for-18 on kicks. He’s 9-for-9 between the 30-and 39- (yard line). We’re going to stretch him out a little bit tomorrow. He’s 4-for-4 from  40 to 49. He hasn’t missed a kick yet. His operation is outstanding.”

Of course, none of that will matter when he jogs onto the field against Texas needing to put points on the board. But Kelly praised two very important pieces of the puzzle when talking about his young kicker. First, his operation speed. Yoon gets to the ball quickly, very important when you’re dealing with block attempts. Second, he praised his technique—Yoon’s got a relatively simple stroke that allows him to still make a kick, even if he slightly mishits it.

Both Yoon and redshirt freshman Tyler Newsome have been kicking the ball “off the charts” so far in camp. It doesn’t mean anything when it comes to success on Saturday, but you’d certainly rather have positive data points with your young specialists than balls shanking left and right.

 

Greg Bryant? Kelly has no idea what’s happening either. 

The bad news? Greg Bryant hasn’t talked with his head coach about the decision to head to junior college and play football this fall. The good news? Kelly hasn’t closed any door on Bryant returning to South Bend, even if he spends a year in Florida attending junior college.

“I want Greg back here if he wants a Notre Dame degree and if he is committed to a Notre Dame education,” Kelly said. “Obviously from what I’m hearing, that’s not what he’s interested. I think he’s interested in playing football. At Notre Dame you have to do both and you have to be committed to an education and playing football.”

That alone sounds pretty declarative, but then again—Kelly hasn’t spoken with Bryant. (Per an Irish Illustrated tweet from Pete Sampson, his father had no clue Greg was going to junior college until an ESPN reporter called him.)

But the current decision-making that Bryant is displaying doesn’t necessarily mean his former head coach has given up on him.

“I love Greg. He’s a great kid. It seems like from what I’m hearing is that he’s choosing to go,” Kelly said. “But I have not spoken to Greg. It’s purely the speculative version of it.”

 

The arrow is pointing up for Nic Weishar. 

Another day, another glowing report for rising sophomore tight end Nic Weishar. With Durham Smythe nursing a hamstring injury and Alize Jones slowed for a day or two more, Weishar was the beneficiary of extra reps, and the 6-foot-4, 241-pounder showed some of the ball skills that made him a record-setting pass catcher in high school.

Kelly talked about the improvements Weishar made over the past calendar year, and what’s changed since his redshirt season.

“We knew he was a pass catcher. He was prolific in high school. He caught everything. I think in the state championship game he had a breakout, record-setting performance. We knew his ability to catch the football was there,” Kelly explained. “It was in-line blocking that was going to be the question and whether he could put on the weight necessary to compete right away.  He had a terrific offseason and putting on weight and getting stronger in the weight room. He’s still got a ways to go, but that coupled with the toughness and resolve, he’s put himself right in the mix there to play a lot of snaps.”

Weishar looks like a viable red zone target, and that’s where he showed best, according to multiple reports from practice. Kelly even mentioned holding Weishar back on a few drills, if only to protect him from doing too much with the depth chart down to just two guys right now.

 

Jaylon Smith isn’t bad, either. 

This seems to be a good sign that Jaylon Smith is taking things to the next level during fall camp.

“Jaylon Smith is remarkable in terms of what he’s doing on the field. He is on his game,” Kelly said. “It’s just remarkable the things he’s doing right now.”

Kelly described in detail Smith’s superior athleticism, talking about Smith’s ability to play close to the line of scrimmage, then diagnose a bootleg pass. Smith went from being aggressive in run support to getting underneath a wide receiver nearly 20 yards down field, taking away a key pass route.

Those are some of the things that make NFL scouts drool. And you’ve got to think Smith is benefitting from the return of Joe Schmidt, but also the relentless competitive energy that KeiVarae Russell shows.

 

Isaac Rochell going into Beast Mode. 

We heard Brian Kelly call Isaac Rochell a beast last training camp, seemingly the only guy who wasn’t worried about the young player’s ability to step in for Ishaq Williams at defensive end. Kelly doubled down on those comments yesterday, and it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of Rochell doing even more in 2015.

“Isaac Rochell is a beast. He is a beast. If he continues to play at this level, he’s virtually unblockable on a 1-on-1 situation,” Kelly said. “Our guys have a very difficult time blocking him. He’s faster, stronger. He’s just an outstanding player.”

Done in South Bend? Greg Bryant reportedly lands at Florida Juco

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Notre Dame’s ineligible running back Greg Bryant looks to still be playing football this fall. And that could mean the end of his time in South Bend.

A tweet from an assistant coach at ASA College in Miami got the internet humming as it appears that Bryant will spend the fall semester in his home state, taking classes at a local college while also playing for the only junior college program in Florida.

Here’s the tweet that set-off a crazy few minutes:

Blue & Gold’s Andrew Ivins was the first to follow that up, reporting that Bryant has enrolled in classes, and also joined team meetings. Yet what that means for his future in South Bend remains to be seen.

Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson has been all over the Bryant story, communicating with the running back’s father, who stated very clearly that he wants his son to return to South Bend and finish what he started. Brian Kelly said he was open to that scenario last week, especially if Bryant was willing to buy in as both a student and football player.

The situation isn’t unprecedented. Quarterback Nate Montana left Notre Dame voluntarily, seeking out playing time at Pasadena City College after being buried on the Irish depth chart. He returned in time for spring practice, and played sparingly in Kelly’s first season, serving as a backup to Dayne Crist before Tommy Rees ascended to the starting job after Crist’s season-ending knee injury.

The connectivity between the ASA program and Notre Dame? Sampson points out their head coach is Ernest Jones, a long-time Brian Kelly assistant who spent time at Notre Dame in an off-field role. Jones was briefly on Bob Diaco’s staff before he resigned from position after he created a firestorm with comments about religion being center stage in the Huskies program.

Up for debate is the timing of Bryant’s return—or whether it’s possible. Ivins mentioned that Bryant was hoping to earn an associate’s degree. Another source mentioned that Bryant would need to spend an entire year at the college, meaning no return for spring semester and practice.

Whatever the case, you couldn’t ask for a better on-field situation for Bryant. Enrolling at ASA allows him to play football, especially for a head coach who’ll likely be running an offensive system similar to the one the Irish utilized. But whether that means he—or Kelly—have closed the door on a potential return to Notre Dame is up for debate. Talking to various people around the program, it feels like a 50-50 proposition.

 

Brian Kelly will likely comment on this when he’s made available to the media tomorrow, continuing to make a major media story out of Notre Dame’s third-string running back.

Stay tuned.

Greg Bryant academically ineligible for ’15 season

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Notre Dame won’t have running back Greg Bryant this season. Already looking at a four-game suspension for violating team rules, news broke today via Irish Illustrated that the junior running back was declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, ending his season before it even began.

It’s another bump in the road for Bryant, a former five-star recruit who has yet to fulfill that promise in two-plus seasons in South Bend. Per Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated, Bryant won’t report to campus for training camp, but will instead enroll in classes with the rest of the student body in late August.

Notre Dame confirmed the news earlier today, with Brian Kelly releasing a statement through SID Michael Bertsch.

“There are certain expectations within our program that must be met on a daily basis,” Kelly said. “Quite simply, Greg did not meet those expectations.”

Bryant remains on scholarship and will work out with the team once he returns to campus. But he will not be on the Irish roster. Per Sampson, Bryant’s eligibility came down to a summer course—he needed a B+ he received a B-.

The ineligibility leaves Bryant’s place in the program on unstable footing. It also likely cements C.J. Prosise’s permanent move to running back, while also forcing either freshman Josh Adams or Dexter Williams into the rotation. Bryant was already running with the third-team this spring, but his departure certainly hurts a depth chart that’s one of the thinnest on the roster.