Bryant breaks through
Mike Monaco | Thursday, September 18, 2014
Football seems pretty simple in the mind of Greg Bryant.
It comes down to making plays, something he’s been doing since he was five years old. The sophomore running back has an unwavering confidence in his playmaking ability, a confidence constructed from his days of throwing the football in the backyard or playing catch in the streets.
“I’m not cocky. I’m just confident,” Bryant said. “I’m just confident I’m going to make a play.”Through the first quarter of the season, Bryant has tallied 119 rushing yards to pace the Irish ground game. He’s done so on 22 carries, the fewest — albeit not by much — of Notre Dame’s three running backs. Bryant is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, more than sophomore Tarean Folston (3.7) and senior Cam McDaniel (3.9).
Bryant said he doesn’t think much about the mechanics of the running back rotation, which has mostly had the running backs alternate on each drive.
“It’s nice to know that all of us got three different running styles,” Bryant said. “All of us are not the same. So we all can do different things. We all can come in in different situations and make plays.”
Bryant, however, has mostly been the last of the running backs to get his shot through each of the first three games. Either Folston or McDaniel has started in the backfield for the first drive, and the other has followed the next series.
“I don’t just want to be a third-string running back — ever,” Bryant said. “I’m just gonna keep making plays and see what the coaches do from there. If you make plays, they got no choice but to move you up.”
Recently, Bryant has focused on his patience as a runner. He still wants to improve his blocking skills, as well. Not surprisingly, the four-star recruit, per 247Sports.com, said he didn’t block much at American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Fla.
“That’s one thing that can separate me from not just the running backs on our team but everybody in the country,” Bryant said of his blocking.
To improve in pass protection, Bryant said it comes down to reading his keys, keeping his hands inside and being more physical.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder has had no issues with his physicality and fearlessness with the ball in his hands. Irish head coach Brian Kelly has joked about Bryant’s allergy to fair catches as a punt returner. Bryant admitted his boldness as a return man could be tied to his thirst to make plays and move up in the running back rotation.
“I don’t know when I’m going to get the ball again, so I might as well get this punt and try to take it to the house,” Bryant said of his mentality.
Bryant did say he’ll willingly signal for a fair catch whenever he feels threatened.
Has he felt threatened?
“No,” Bryant quipped.Comfortable with the ball in his hands, Bryant has also grown more comfortable with his Notre Dame lifestyle in year two.
“It’s just like I adapted to living the lifestyle of a Notre Dame student-athlete, waking up, going to school, knowing that I gotta do stuff that I don’t want to do every day,” Bryant said. “It turned me into a man now. And it made me realize the big picture. It’s not all about football.
“It basically made me the person I am today, just to come back and be humble and be a great football player.”