Oklahoma Sooners: Greg Bryant

ND run game still trying to get going

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly might have inadvertently left Greg Bryant out of the running back rotation when he said Sunday that Notre Dame was rotating four men in the backfield. But the Irish coach said Tuesday that the highly-touted freshmen still factors into the running game moving forward.

"We just got to four. I'd like to get to five," Kelly said. "Greg certainly has a skill set that we just haven't gotten into the game yet. But again, we're trying to get him in on special teams. He's on kickoff right now. We're trying to get him involved in some of the other running teams. But we got to four, we're trying to get to five."

Notre Dame's run-game struggles have been no secret this season, as the Irish have not eclipsed the 100-yard mark as a team since the opener against Temple. Bryant received two of his three carries on the season late in that game, tallying 12 yards. He then rushed once in the first quarter against Purdue for two yards, and received no carries in the Irish's second and fourth games.

The four-star recruit from Delray Beach, Fla., was ESPN's No. 2 running back prospect last season, and he had initially committed to the school he will face this week, Oklahoma.

"It's about scripting five and trying to get five into the game more than anything else," Kelly said of the 5-foot-10, 204-pound Bryant. "We have him scripted into certain plays, it's just really the flow of the game and the circumstances in trying to get him in."

Fellow Florida freshman back Tarean Folston, ESPN's No. 6 player at the position last season, received three straight carries during one drive Saturday against Michigan State, tallying nine yards. He has nine carries on the season for 26 yards, to go with a nine-yard catch.

All five running backs are listed as co-starters on this week's depth chart. Cam McDaniel's 45 carries for 169 yards both lead the team, with much of his work coming in late-game situations with the Irish trying to run the clock out. McDaniel received Notre Dame's final 12 carries Saturday.

George Atkinson III, the front-runner for the No. 1 spot heading into the season, has 24 carries for 121 yards, trailing Amir Carlisle's 33 carries for 157 yards.

Notre Dame is averaging just 114.3 rushing yards per game, 99th in the nation. Its offensive line, however, has surrendered just three sacks on the season.

"There are so many factors to that," Kelly said of the difference in pass- and run-blocking. "They're blocking the five guys that they're supposed to block pretty good. There are times when obviously we need to be better at it. We have to block seven and eight, and we've got to get better at that. But they're doing a great job in pass protection. We need to do a much better job as a unit, as a whole, and that's not just the offensive line, that's everybody, coaches and tight ends included, in blocking the whole play."
There’s always going to be a positive feeling for Oklahoma fans when it comes to Fresno (Calif.) Central East safety Hatari Byrd.

Byrd committed exactly when the Sooners needed some good news, as ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant had decommitted from OU the previous day.

[+] EnlargeHatari Byrd
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comHatari Byrd made a quick connection with Oklahoma, committing to the Sooners before he had visited campus.
He committed without seeing the campus. His official visit sealed the deal, as Byrd never seriously considered looking at other schools.

Prior to his arrival on campus, Byrd spoke to SoonerNation one more time to discuss the potential Fresno pipeline developing.

SN: Any idea what jersey you’re going to wear?

Byrd: I don’t know what jersey. I have no idea. I don’t really care. I just want to work.

SN: What have the coaches told you about your potential role this season?

Byrd: Playing free safety, so there’s a good chance I can get in there and play early. With Tony Jefferson leaving early, it left a spot open. I know I can be that guy.

SN: With that in mind, did that change the way you worked this spring?

Byrd: It has. My training has gotten so intense. I’m just focused on the next level. I’m getting bigger and faster. Work -- that’s all I do. Running every day. Hitting the weights. Doing all the little things.

SN: When did you know in your heart OU was the place for you?

Byrd: I knew right when I committed. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen the campus yet. I already knew I was going to some place far from home, so it didn’t matter to me. The atmosphere. The thought of playing in front of 80,000 fans. It gets me pumped just talking about it.

SN: What do you expect during your first year at OU?

Byrd: It’s going to be a big change. The biggest difference I expect is with the game speed. It’s going to be a whole ‘nother level with the speed.

SN: Who have you developed a relationship with that’s on the team already?

Byrd: Wide receiver Jalen Saunders. We have a pretty good relationship. He was from Fresno, too, and he was a big factor during my visit last year.

SN: When you leave OU, what do you want your legacy to be?

Byrd: Ooh, that’s kind of a hard one. That I left everything I had at OU and tried to get better every day. There was a reason they recruited me, and I showed everybody what I’m all about.

SN: You and L.J. are coming to Norman. OU would love to add ESPN 150 athlete Michiah Quick to that equation. How much are you trying to encourage Michiah to join you?

Byrd: I talk to him a lot about the recruiting process, but I’m leaving him alone now. I want him to follow his heart, but I always put that OU in his head. I think he wants to play football with us.

SN: A big influence in your life has been Fresno Central East defensive backs coach Tony Perry. Can you put into perspective what he has meant to you?

Byrd: I can’t even say any more about what he has meant to me. He has done so much for me. From the training on the field to the guidance off the field, it’s unreal. He means so much to me.

SN: Does this feel real to you yet? How hard you’ve had to work to get here and all the personal issues you had to overcome?

Byrd: Every now and then I stop and think about it. I can’t wait to get it done. This is what I want to do with my career. It’s an incredible blessing, and I’m very thankful for everything I’ve got. I can’t wait to say I’m doing it. Not that I’m going to do it but that I’m doing it -- living my dream.

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

November, 15, 2012
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Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • Juco defensive tackle planning visit to OU
  • Offensive tackle grows comfortable with Sooners head coach

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
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Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • ESPN 150 prospect enjoyed watching OU's defense vs. Texas
  • The Sooners make the top four for a former decommitment

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Video: Latest on ESPN 150 RB Greg Bryant

September, 28, 2012
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On ESPNU's RecruitingNation show, SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon discusses the latest with former Oklahoma commit Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca-Delray).

Sooner Intel: Recruiting news and notes 

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
2:00
PM ET
Every Thursday, SoonerNation releases the Sooner Intel, a sneak peek inside Oklahoma Sooners football recruiting with news and notes on the latest happenings around the program. Talk about it on our forum. A few things discussed in this week's update:

• More on OU getting back in the mix with a top tailback.
• Could a out-of-state- prospect who was in Norman last weekend visit again this fall?
• Four-star offensive tackle knows he could play early at OU
• Sooners RB commit shaking off poor performance in season debut
• What happens next with OT Matt Beyer? He isn't sure.

Read the Sooner Intel after the jump.

Sooners making push again for Bryant

It wasn’t the weekend Oklahoma fans were hoping for, either on the field or on the recruiting trail. With so many top uncommitted prospects coming to Norman, the hope was for some good news.


Tom Hauck/ESPNHS
Three schools are standing out to tailback Greg Bryant and, surprisingly, one is Oklahoma.


And maybe it didn’t happen with some of the visitors, but OU running backs coach Cale Gundy was working the phones hard last weekend to get a familiar name back into the fold.

After nearly two months of no communication, Gundy reached out to former OU running back commit Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) and the two spoke for more than 90 minutes, Bryant said.

What does it mean? It's tough to say. It doesn’t mean OU is now the leader again for Bryant, but the Sooners are realistically in the equation once again.

What’s tough for some fans to grasp is why Bryant decommitted in the first place when it seemed like he had no problems with OU or its coaches. Bryant reaffirmed that and said he still has no issues with the program. The issue, he said, was with his commitment on March 31.

“I never should have committed that day,” Bryant said. “I was just having so much fun and feeling right at home that I decided to do it. But I should have waited.

“I don’t regret the decommitment, though. I need to see what else is out there and be fair to everybody. What I should have done was taken that first visit, kept talking with Coach Gundy and then committed on the second visit.”

Of course what’s interesting about any talk of a second visit is the fact that Bryant never had a second visit to OU. He kept wanting to take one in June and July, but the stars never aligned for that to happen.

“It just wasn’t planned out very well on my end,” Bryant said. “I wanted to go, but I didn’t think about how much the plane tickets would cost, and I never got around to it.”

Bryant said he doesn’t have a top school, saying he wants to take official visits to OU, South Carolina and Auburn. For his OU visit, Bryant said he wants to be there for a game day weekend.

OU still has the commitment of No. 3-ranked running back Keith Ford (Cypress, Texas/Ranch). When asked about the possibility of adding Bryant, ranked No. 2 at the position, back with him, Ford was pretty pumped.

“I’m a team first guy all the time,” Ford said. “I want the best athletes to come with me and be a part of something special at OU. We are going to build something special there. It’s great that Greg is talking with coach Gundy again. I hope it all works out.”

Rodgers felt like part of the team on visit

Going back to the weekend, though, it was a big one in terms of official visitors. One of the biggest, both literally and from a class-need standpoint, was four-star offensive tackle Na'Ty Rodgers (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough).

Rodgers asked his father, Tyrone, to come from California for the visit, but Tyrone opted to stay home because he wanted his son to have his own experience. Tyrone played defensive line for OU in 1988 before transferring to Washington.

After talking to his son following the visit, Tyrone is glad he chose to stay home.

“We talked while he was on the visit. We talked when he got home, and he loved it,” Tyrone said. “He couldn’t stop talking about the school and the coaches.

“That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want people talking to me or for me to influence his visit. Now he has his own memories. That’s great.”

Tyrone Rodgers has spoken incredibly high of his short time with the Sooners, calling it a brotherhood that has never gone away. In his mind, he had a checklist of some things he had hoped Na’Ty would say following the visit.

This was the biggest:

“He said he felt like he was part of the team already,” Tyrone said. “That’s what I really wanted to hear from him. I wanted to hear that he felt a part of that brotherhood. He said he loved hanging out with the other linemen and felt right at home.”

But it never mattered how great the visit was because a commitment is simply not happening until after Na’Ty’s senior season. It was one of the rules Tyrone laid out after Na’Ty’s junior season. Right now Na’Ty’s commitment is tentatively set for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in early January.

“I don’t want him to get distracted,” Tyrone said. “I want him to keep working. I want him to get that 3.5 [GPA] this semester. We still have goals set for him at the high school level.”

It’s clear the OU visit has made a big impression on Na’Ty, and the Sooners have put themselves right in the mix with South Carolina and Maryland. OU has done so well that don’t be surprised to hear about a second visit to Norman.

Tyrone won’t be going on that one, either.

“No, it’s not needed. Every team needs to do a sell job, but the sell job is done with me,” he said. “I know OU isn’t a used car salesman. I know I can trust the program. But I think his mother is going to make that trip. She needs to see it, too, and be comfortable with everything.”

The game outcome obviously wasn’t what OU was hoping for. But sometimes a loss can say more about a team than a victory. That might have been the case with OU and Na’Ty.

“He kept talking about the camaraderie the team still had despite the loss,” Tyrone said. “He really liked that. Everybody was upset they lost, but everybody stayed together. I told you -- it’s a brotherhood.”

Benenoch has chance to make immediate impact

One line of thinking for a recruit after watching a team take a loss on an official visit is to say “that’s why I need to go there, to make an impact.”

That is the case for Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes four-star offensive guard Caleb Benenoch following his visit to OU last weekend.


Max Olson/ESPN.com
Offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch has narrowed his list but won't be committing anytime soon.


Ranked as a guard, Benenoch is one of the top priorities for OU at offensive tackle. For a couple of months the OU coaches have stressed how important Benenoch is because of OU’s lack of depth. Benenoch knows that’s not lip service.

“I had been told about how little depth they have, but it’s one to be told it and another to see it in person,” Benenoch said. “I think they had 10 total offensive linemen running through stuff in pregame. That’s not a lot.

“That really showed me I have an opportunity to go there and compete for a spot very early in my college career.”

Conversely, the situation couldn’t be more different at UCLA. The Bruins now have six offensive linemen commits, which has made OU offer and UCLA commit Christian Morris (Memphis, Tenn./East) contemplate if it might be time for him to look around.

Benenoch has been busy on the visit circuit although OU was his first official trip. He has made unofficial visits to Texas A&M and Baylor this season but things work a little bit differently on an official one.

He said if he had to rank them it would be OU, Baylor and A&M in that order. And like Rodgers said, the way the team responded after the loss made an impression on Benenoch.

“On an official visit you usually hang out with your host after the game and go to a party or something like that,” Benenoch said. “Nobody wanted to go out because they’d just lost. To me, that was a good thing. They hate losing that much that they don’t even want to go out to parties after a loss.”

But they also weren’t dwelling on the defeat. Instead, the guys were already talking about getting back to practice and fixing what went wrong.

“They were already figuring out ways to fix this and how to get better,” Benenoch said. “It was a locker room that you could tell they’re used to winning and they have high expectations for themselves.”

Benenoch is going to make an official visit to Texas next weekend for the West Virginia game and said he wants to see UCLA after his senior season. This visit has changed things up as for now Benenoch said he has no favorite school.

Ford finding groove

A late season foot injury ended Keith Ford’s junior season prematurely. All he wanted to do was get back to playing football.

But for Ford, pressure and attention don’t suit him well. He prefers to be the quiet guy and simply have fun playing the game he loves. That first game of the season was not fun by any means.

Ford was ejected in the second quarter of the season opener with rumors that Ford punched an opponent. He didn’t like people thinking that of him.

“That’s not my game,” Ford said. “I play with sportsmanship. I was trying to get up, and he was holding me down. I was just trying to get up. I went straight to the bench and coach came over and said I was ejected.”

It was a learning experience for Ford.

“People are going to try to get in my head. That’s what I really learned from that,” he said.

Cypress Ranch had a bye week the following week and the Ford of old has returned in two games since. He has rushed for 263 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games.

“It’s about being comfortable and relaxed,” Ford said. “Practice and games are about having fun, loving what you do. Sometimes you get so uptight before a game you lose your focus and make a lot of mistakes. I’m trying to clear my mind.”

Ford is still in constant contact with the OU coaches and said he is aiming for his official visit to be the weekend of OU’s banquet following the season.

The one thing that has always stood out has been the family environment at OU. When he was on his unofficial to OU last season against Iowa State, he met Cale Gundy’s family and said that was really important.

“We’re very family-oriented and I love that about OU,” Ford said. “If you’re a troublemaker, you’re out. It’s all about discipline. I feel that way here at Cy Ranch. Our coaches really care for us. They make us stay on top of our school work. I get that same vibe at OU.”

Beyer hopeful to still be a Sooner

To say the last two weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions for OU offensive tackle commit Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) would be an understatement.

Beyer, a four-star prospect, announced two weeks ago he has been forced to give up football because of a neck injury.


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Sooners back in the mix for Greg Bryant 

September, 24, 2012
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The name Cale Gundy hadn’t meant much to ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) in recent months.

Bryant, ranked No. 30 in the ESPN 150 and No. 2 running back, said in the past he didn’t have a stronger bond with a coach than with Gundy, Oklahoma’s running back coach.

[+] EnlargeGreg Bryant
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comAfter decommitting from the Sooners in late July, top running back Greg Bryant says he will not visit OU.
Bryant surprised many, including himself, when he committed to the Sooners on an unofficial visit March 31. But most agreed it would be a tough chore for OU to hang onto him until national signing day.

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Greg Bryant looking at four SEC schools 

August, 25, 2012
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ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) says Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina are the four schools he's looking at, and he has no leader.

"Alabama just began talking to me a little bit recently," Bryant said. "None of the programs have jumped out front right now."

The 5-10, 195-pound senior had tough sledding Saturday in a ESPN-televised game against Cocoa. Bryant rushed for 111 yards on 24 carries but struggled to break off any big runs.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. This is why OU is recruiting Florida and California. From all reports here early in preseason camp, three freshman who are standing out are center Ty Darlington, cornerback Gary Simon and linebacker Eric Striker. Common thread? All three are from Florida with Darlington from Apopka, Simon from St. Petersburg Gibbs and Striker from Seffner Armwood. The quality of play in Florida from a high school standpoint does a tremendous job of preparing recruits for taking a step to that next level. It would almost be a bigger shock if any of the three redshirts this season.

2.The news on the progress of LaColtan Bester has to be promising. He seems to be a little forgotten at this point. Courtney Gardner was supposed to be the big-time junior college product and now Penn State transfer Justin Brown is getting a lot of attention. Bester is quietly going about his business. Remember Bester has only been a full-time receiver for one season. The more time he puts in with Jay Norvell, the more improvement will be seen and OU fans have a reason to be a little bit giddy about that.

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RecruitingNation 411: Midlands Region

August, 4, 2012
8/04/12
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In this segment of RecruitingNation 411, Brandon Chatmon from SoonerNation breaks down what the decommitment of Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) means for the Sooners.
Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every week. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

SoonerNation subscriber charlescitymosaic asks: It seems to me we should have pushed harder upfront with the local kids (Texas) and not so hard on the nationwide aspect. I could be wrong, but it looks like our philosophy this year bit us in the butt.

Bob Przybylo: This aspect of OU’s recruiting is going to be scrutinized immensely at all times. I still think it’s working. I do think the toughest part of evaluating this national recruiting state of mind is what makes it a success?


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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. And let the recruiting for the 2014 class officially begin. Texas, known for not offering any prospects until after the previous year’s signing day, had the recruiting world buzzing with offers to more than a dozen recruits. Several of them are OU offers and maybe the most intriguing one is Las Vegas Bishop Gorman running back Nathan Starks. Starks has been a huge OU fan for a long time and has been in constant communication with OU running backs coach Cale Gundy this summer. Either way, with Texas letting the offers be known, the dominoes should fall a lot sooner than they have in the past.

2. He’s now OU’s top-ranked recruit, but Cypress (Texas) Ranch running back Keith Ford is far from the class’ most vocal commit. However, with the departure of Greg Bryant, Ford let everybody know Thursday afternoon he is not going anywhere. Ford tweeted he was OU all the way. Ford is the third-ranked running back in the nation and No. 32 in the ESPN 150.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. ESPN 300 safety Hatari Byrd's (Fresno, Calif./Central East) commitment to OU on Tuesday was the good news Sooners fans needed after a disastrous Monday. But how will Byrd be utilized when he gets to Oklahoma next summer? ESPN.com scout Billy Tucker says Byrd's strength is his physical style around the line of scrimmage. Tucker thinks Byrd could be moved up to help run support or even play the nickelback in Mike Stoops' defense. Remind you of anyone, Sooners fans?

2. Assuming Courtney Gardner gets his grades in order this fall and enrolls at Oklahoma for the spring 2013 semester, Gardner could play a similar role to freshman receiver Trey Metoyer in that he'll have a chance to practice for the entire spring with the Sooners before the 2013 season. With Gardner in 2013, OU's receiving corps could be elite.

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Scouts: Sooners rebound with Byrd 

July, 31, 2012
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The Sooners lost a big one offensively in ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) but got a boost defensively with the pickup of ESPN 300 prospect Hatari Byrd (Fresno, Calif./Central East), a complete safety prospect at a position of major need.

Oklahoma stretched into California to land Byrd who has a physical style that defensive coordinator Mike Stoops likes in his defensive backs.

Byrd brings very good size, range and aggressiveness to the safety position; he can make plays in all three levels of the defense. He is a fast pursuer who will close on the ball in a hurry and clean up on the underneath pass limiting RAC. More of a zone guy but he is athletic and quick enough to match up in space and utilize his length to press and reroute smaller slots.

Also a strong run supporter and stout box defender, Byrd's physical and versatile skill-set and overall hybrid type qualities likely attracted Stoops to Fresno. Oklahoma's new defensive coordinator and secondary coach likes to utilize his safeties in run support and also employ them in sub package 4-2-5 schemes as the Nickel back. Byrd has those qualities. His scheme versatility and major need for young talent in the secondary make it very likely this young man will compete for early playing time upon his arrival in Norman.

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ESPN 150 running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) decommitted from Oklahoma on Monday night and wasted little time renewing contacts with a couple of schools that would be closer to home for the nation’s No. 2 tailback.

“I talked to Georgia and South Carolina today,” he said. “That is about it.”

The four-star tailback would be a big catch for the Bulldogs, who do not have a running back committed in the 2013 class.

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