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Chris Hine | Chicago Tribune | August 13, 2014

Irish RB Bryant eager to get past waiting game

  Previously frustrated by an injury setback, Greg Bryant figures to be in the backfield mix for the Irish.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Before he really knew what football was, Notre Dame sophomore running back Greg Bryant was playing football.

It might just be a street game with some neighborhood friends, or just him and his dad throwing the ball to him as Bryant ran around the block.

"Whatever my dad told me to do I did it," Bryant said. "I really didn't know. I was just out there having fun. He could have told me, 'Go run around the corner and I'll throw you the ball,' I would just do it because I was having fun. I didn't know better."

For as far back as the self-assured Bryant can remember, touchdowns were a frequent occurrence in his life, which is why Bryant went through withdrawal last season when he barely played in the first four games (three carries) and not at all after injuring his right knee.

"I haven't scored a touchdown in a whole year. That never happened in my whole life since I was 5 years old," Bryant said. "That just made me hungry now to come back and just ball out, honestly."

The reasons for the touchdown drought were varied.

Bryant had trouble adjusting to the academic rigors of Notre Dame and the knee injury set him back. And by the time Bryant had everything squared away, the Irish were off and running with Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and George Atkinson III serving as their tailback triumvirate.

The frustration led to speculation that Bryant, a former five-star recruit out of Delray Beach, Fla., was considering a change of scenery.

"At first I was like, 'What did I get myself into?' I felt like I was going to come here, play right away and jump in the starting lineup," Bryant said. "But it didn't happen that way and they humbled me. Coach [Brian] Kelly, everybody humbled me because I was just athletic but I didn't know the mental part of the game."

Now, Bryant figures to play a significant role alongside Folston and McDaniel. The three have been rotating reps with the first team in camp, with Bryant possessing game-changing ability thanks to his speed and pass-catching ability. Bryant is fine-tuning his game, like learning not to be too anxious when he gets the ball.

"You have to be patient to let those linemen work to a second level," Kelly said. "Greg will have a tendency to spurt out without that block setting up. Greg has to trust his linemen and not just let his athletic ability take over."

But at some point, Notre Dame hopes Bryant will be able to do that. Both the Irish and Bryant have waited long enough.

"I just want to make plays," Bryant said. "I know with the ball in my hands I'm going to make plays, easy."

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