We move into the teens in our countdown of the Top 25 Notre Dame Football players for 2013 today with our third freshman to make the list and the first on the offensive side of the ball – running back Greg Bryant.
Notre Dame hadn’t recruited a 5-star running back since James Aldridge back in 2005 before Greg Bryant committed to Notre Dame last December after an early winter visit to South Bend. A one time commitment to Oklahoma, Bryant liked what he saw on his visit to Notre Dame and became the offensive headliner in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.
A US Army All American, Bryant has Notre Dame fans giddy with excitement more than any incoming freshman running back in recent memory – especially since the last 5-star back to commit to Notre Dame (Aldridge) tore his ACL as a high school senior before losing that 5th star and never fully regaining the form that made him worthy of the distinction in the first place.
Why Greg Bryant could be ranked higher
You will be hard pressed to find a freshman running back more put together physically than Greg Bryant. In reading the early reviews of the freshman class, Bryant’s size and stature stand out. That size is precisely why many think that Bryant will be able to seriously challenge George Atkinson for the starting role at running back at some point this fall if not in fall camp.
Bryant is an elite talent at running back unlike the Irish have seen in some time. He has the skill and raw talent to be a feature back in a lot of offenses in the country this year. Does he have the ability to hold up to the punishment a go-to back takes at the college level? That remains to be seen.
It would not surprise anyone if Bryant plays a very prominent role in the Notre Dame offense this fall even if he is unable to unseat Atkinson for the top spot on the depth chart. Notre Dame plays a lot of two back sets and likes to get multiple backs on the field throughout the course of the game so the opportunity will be there for Bryant to gain carries this year. If he seizes it, he could easily be ranked much higher than 19th for the Irish by season’s end.
Why Greg Byrant could be ranked lower
While Bryant is an elite talent, he is still a freshman. We’ve seen a lot of talented backs come through Notre Dame that were thought to be able to make an immediate impact that took some time to crack the running back rotation. Granted, none of them bring in the pedigree of Bryant, but none the less Notre Dame has had other talented backs in come and take some time to make their impact.
The development of George Atkinson will also play a role in just how much of an impact Bryant makes this fall. Atkinson enters fall camp as the #1 back and will be doing all he can to secure that spot and keep the talented younger backs behind him on the depth chart. Atkinson proved he can be a home run threat in the Notre Dame offense last year. If he learns to run with a lower pad level and be more consistent, he could lock up the top spot on the depth chart and leave Bryant fighting for carries with five other backs – Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle, Tarean Folston, and Will Mahone.
What would a successful 2013 season be for Greg Bryant?
It would be an upset at this point if Bryant did not factor into the rotation at running back this fall. Brian Kelly has talked up Cam McDaniel a lot as a viable option for carries at the position, but for as solid of a player as McDaniel is, he just doesn’t have Bryant’s combination of size, power, and speed. Those are things that you can’t coach.
Bryant clearly has the talent to play this fall and if he is able to secure the backup running spot for Notre Dame, there will still be quite a few carries to be had for him. Last year’s #2 back, Cierre Wood, ran the ball 114 times for 766 yards with four touchdowns. It will be tough for Bryant to match Wood’s impressive 6.5 yards per carry average, but if he were to get a similar share of carries, it is reasonable to look for him to run the ball 120 times (figuring that Wood lost carries by being suspended for the first two games of 2012) for 550 yards and a couple of touchdowns as a frosh.
That is assuming that Atkinson shows enough in fall camp and throughout the season to warrant the same level of trust from the coaching staff that Theo Riddick built up last year. If that doesn’t happen, there could be a more equal share of carries this year which would open up more opportunity for Bryant.
The rest of our countdown so far: