SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Greg Bryant read the rumors last fall, the ones that said he wouldn't last at Notre Dame.
It was the kind of speculation that follows any hyped recruit who doesn't play in his first year on campus. Because Bryant came to Notre Dame from the Miami area rated as a five-star running back — a designation and position that often equates to playing time and success as a true freshman — it only turned up the noise.
But Bryant's still here, and said bolting from Notre Dame never was on the table.
"I used to look online and see people saying, 'Oh like he's transferring, he's leaving,' " Bryant said. "I used to look at it and think like, 'Whoa, where did that come from?' I never thought about leaving here or nothing. It's just, I guess people see the hard times I was going through and they felt like I was leaving, but it never crossed my mind to leave this place."
There were two reasons why Bryant stayed on the sidelines last fall. First, he underwent a procedure to repair a meniscus issue in his right knee — the same issue that forced former nose guard Louis Nix to undergo season-ending surgery last November. And second, Bryant needed an adjustment period to get used to the rigors of college life in the Midwest.
It wasn't just trying to carve out playing time against a deep unit of running backs. It was adapting to a college class schedule, a bitterly cold and snowy winter and to being the low man on the running back totem pole.
"When I first got here, like basically Notre Dame humbled me," Bryant said. "Because when I first got here, I thought I was gonna come in because Cierre (Wood) and Theo (Riddick), both of them left, I thought I was gonna come in and just jump right in the mix right away, but it didn't happen like that."
While Bryant gained valuable experience last fall, he's put 2013 behind him and is driven to avoid another year relegated to a limited or non-existent role. "Driven" may not be the way to put it, though, given how many times the running back used the word "hungry" over the course of his media session Friday at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
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Other words that've been thrown around depict Bryant: "Explosive" and "powerful." Those descriptors are why Bryant had scholarship offers from other members of college football's elite — Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC, among others — coming out of high school.
"Just an incredibly explosive athlete, very powerful kid," offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said. "… The power he can bring running the football inside the tackles and still having that quickness to get to the perimeter to make things happen is a pretty good thing to have."
Bryant feels poised for a breakout season this fall now that he's not solely relying on his raw talent. He's more confident in his knowledge of the playbook and isn't overwhelmed anymore.
And then there's that drive — or "hunger" — to make sure 2013 is behind him, one powerful run at a time.
"When I'm on the field," Bryant said, "it's like all the aggression that I had last year not playing and stuff, and just when I get the ball now when I'm in the hole it's like, I don't wanna go back to not playing anymore."