In 2012 Greg Bryant’s star was on the rise, and his future was bright. With over 20 offers on the table including USC, Florida State, Alabama, Ohio St., and Oklahoma, Bryant eventually ended up at Notre Dame after originally committing to Oklahoma. In joining fellow recruit, Tarean Folston, the two were expected to be Notre Dame’s version of “Thunder and Lightning” for years to come, but much like a distant summer storm, the thunder hasn’t been present.
A four-star recruit out of American Heritage high school, Bryant seemed to have all the tools to be a featured back at the school of his choice. Speed, power, and quickness, were just some of the words used to described Bryant – attributes that can’t be taught, merely refined.
With only a grand total of just 57 carries, and 303 yards while at Notre Dame, Bryant has struggled to find the field. Constantly finding himself third on the depth chart behind fellow teammates, Tarean Folston and Can McDaniel, Bryant now has the opportunity to move up directly behind Folston, as McDaniel has graduated. That doesn’t erase the fact that Bryant has had the opportunity to rise up the depth chart before though, and this new opportunity for Bryant speaks more to the lack of depth at the running back department, and less to the maturity and growth of his game.
Injuries have played a part in the lack of Bryant’s development, and speculation of him leaving the program surely didn’t help, but the biggest culprit has been Bryant himself. Relegated mostly to the return team in the latter half of the 2014 season, Bryant saw just 21 carries over the last nine games of the season. When given the chance though, Bryant was one of the lone bright spots in the final game of the regular season, against USC carrying the ball for 7 times for 79 yards, and one touchdown. Some have questioned how coach Brian Kelly has utilized Bryant, but unless you are privy to the internal workings of Notre Dame practice, it is hard to argue against the coaching staff.
While many think that the offensive line should be more consistent in 2015, the graduation of Cam McDaniel means that the Irish lost their most proficient pass blocker in the backfield. This is an obvious area, that if Bryant can excel, can force the hand of Coach Kelly, in having Bryant more involved. If Malik Zaire is named the starter at quarterback, the Irish will need a back who is consistently strong in the pass-blocking department. I’m not suggesting that Bryant needs to be the starter in front of Tarean Folston at this point, but rather hope that he can have just as big of an impact as Folston does in 2015, because that’s what the Irish need to be consistently strong on the offensive side of the ball.
There is no denying the ability of Greg Bryant on the field, and while he has struggled adapting to the college game, it’s not because of talent. Bryant’s biggest struggle has been his ability, or lack thereof, to find his hole and hit it. Indecision has been his biggest nemesis so far in his short time in South Bend, and as Irish fans already know, when he relies on his natural ability and acts, instead of reacts, he has the potential to be as electric as anyone in the country.
With the additions of Dexter Williams and Josh Adams in the 2015 class, there is no doubt that Bryant will be feeling the urge to perform stronger, better, and more consistent than he ever has before. Wanting to and doing so are two very different things however. Brian Kelly will most definitely keep an open mind to Bryant being the back-up to Folston, as freshmen backs tend to struggle in the pass protection department. So, it would seem the proverbial ball is surely in Bryant’s court. Now it’s up to him to decide what to do with what conceivably could be his final opportunity to make his mark while at the University of Notre Dame.