SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant is eager to show his doubters he can be an elite college running back.
The five-star recruit from Delray Beach, Fla., had a disappointing freshman season, getting just three carries for 14 yards through the first three games before a knee injury ended his year.
He spent the rest of the season and much of the offseason hearing people describe him as a bust, especially after seeing his classmate Tarean Folston flourish at the end of last season, rushing for 494 yards on 88 carries.
“They’re like, ‘What happened? You’re not the same player that you were before,’” Bryant said. “All that stuff, all that negativity, gave me the hunger not to go back that way and to just come and make a big impact and show people what I can do. “
Bryant concedes last year was a struggle. With Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood leaving Notre Dame after the 2012 season, he thought he’d step into the role. Instead, he was competing for time against five other backs, and most of them knew the playbook better.
Running back coach Tony Alford said he needed to show Bryant he didn’t know the playbook as well as he thought. Alford brought Bryant in a room and Alford played the role of quarterback. He called a play to see where Bryant would line up and then called another and Bryant adjusted. Then Alford quickly called a third play and said, “Set, go.” Bryant hadn’t adjusted to the last play.
“I said, ‘That’s what I’m talking about. Now we have a sack fumble because you’re still thinking,’” Alford said.
Bryant got into the game late in the season-opener against Temple, running for 10 yards on his first carry, 2 yards on the next play and had an incomplete pass thrown his way two plays later. Against Purdue, in the third game, he had a 2-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. Bryant said his right knee began bothering him the next week and doctors discovered he had a torn meniscus.
Bryant said he wasn’t fully healthy until December. He said he worked on his speed and got help from running back Amir Carlisle, whose father runs Purdue’s strength and conditioning program.
“I improved my speed dramatically,” he said.
It’s not Bryant’s speed that has impressed Irish coaches, though, it the power of the 5-10, 204-pound back.
“When he hits something, it moves,” Alford said. “When he hits things, things start flying.”
“If I see Tarean get the ball and get a 10-yard gain, I’m going to want a 20-yard gain. If Cam gets a 20-yard gain, I’m going to want a 30-yard gain. We’re just so competitive with each other,” he said.