SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Greg Bryant doesn’t like being Notre Dame’s No. 3 tailback.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound sophomore from Delray Beach, Florida, isn’t disgruntled; he’s just doing his best to make it hard for Fighting Irish coaches to keep him behind senior captain Cam McDaniel and sophomore Tarean Folston on the depth chart.
”I don’t want to be just a third-string running back ever,” Bryant said. ”I’m going to just keep making plays and see what the coaches do from there. If you make plays, they have no choice but to move you up.”
Bryant has been making plays. He’s fourth on the team in carries behind Folston, McDaniel and quarterback Everett Golson. Yet Bryant leads the eighth-ranked Irish (3-0) in rushing with 119 yards, averaging 5.4 yards a carry heading into their game against Syracuse (2-1) on Saturday in East Rutherford, New Jersey. He also had his first two catches for 17 yards each against Purdue.
Coach Brian Kelly said Bryant still has work to do to move up the depth chart.
”He’s only played three college games and there are a lot of things that go on with being the guy that takes reps away from two very experienced players. Nothing that he’s not capable of doing. But he’s got to unseat two guys that have played a lot of football and are really good players,” Kelly said.
Bryant arrived on campus last season as a five-star recruit and expected to take over the starter’s job immediately, especially with the top two runners from the previous season gone. But he struggled with the mental aspects of the game and had just three carries through the first three games before tearing the meniscus in his right knee and missing the rest of the season.
Bryant calls it a humbling experience.
”It made me just more hungry to come back this year and make an impact,” he said.
Bryant accepts that the Irish are going to use all three backs. He endorses the idea.
”We all can come in on different situations and make plays. So it’s a blessing to have us three back there,” he said.
McDaniel is the veteran, gritty back. Folston is a smoother runner who gained valuable experience last season rushing for 470 yards, with 401 yards coming in the final six games. Bryant is a powerful runner who also has elusive speed.
Kelly likes having three backs to choose from. So far he’s been doing it on a rotation basis, with each back going in for a series at a time – and Bryant is always the last one in. Kelly said that could change depending on the situation.
Bryant has shown he’s versatile. His two catches against Purdue came on plays where Golson was scrambling.
”We’ve got a good chemistry back there,” Bryant said. ”It’s more like playing backyard football when you’re out there with him. You see something, you react to it, he’ll throw you the ball.”
Bryant also has returned punts when Cody Riggs was winded against Rice, averaging 10.3 yards a return. But he also made Kelly a bit nervous because he won’t call for a fair catch. Bryant said that’s because he doesn’t want to pass up a chance to get his hands on the ball.
”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,” he said.
Bryant squandered one chance to get his hands on the ball when on third-and-3 from the 4-yard line against Rice when he ran on the wrong side of Golson on a handoff. Golson ran it in himself.
The mistake hasn’t hurt his confidence. He believes he can consistently make plays if the coaches give him the ball.
”I’m not cocky, I’m just confident,” he said. ”I’m just confident I’m going to make the play.”