Bryant on verge of big year for Notre Dame football

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

Little more than a month remains until Notre Dame opens its season with an Aug. 30 visit from Rice. Throughout camp, various players will earn kudos from the coaches and build intrigue with the fans. Some likely will evolve into legitimate contributors while others could fall under the flavor-of-the-week category.

Here are three that could play big roles for the 2014 Irish.

RB Greg Bryant

Of the two sophomore running backs, Tarean Folston being the other, Bryant was the more ballyhooed upon arrival, but it was Folston who registered more playing time last season. Folston played in 12 games, with two starts, and ran for 470 yards on 88 carries with three touchdowns.

Bryant played in three games, carrying three times for 14 yards, before a knee injury truncated his freshman season.

But don't even think about forgetting him.

The 5-foot-10, 204-pound Bryant may be the smallest of the three scholarship running backs (Folston and Cam McDaniel each outweigh him by three pounds), but he might be the most powerful. That's taking nothing away from the other two, but Bryant is a blend of speed and strength that earned him five-star status as a high school senior in Delray Beach, Fla.

All three will get their carries, but expect Bryant to show drastic statistical improvement on his way to contributing heavily.

WR Will Fuller

Quick quiz: Which Irish player had the highest yards per-reception last season? OK, the answer is now slightly obvious, but Fuller's 26.7 per catch is a number that jumps out, even if the sample size (six receptions) is small.

Fuller came in a little under the radar, but he quickly won the trust of the coaches, as evidenced by his three starts and action in all 13 games.

If there's a knock on Fuller, it's his 6-foot, 171-pound frame, which makes physical corners a challenge, particularly at the line of scrimmage. A year in the weight room, not to mention a year learning under crafty TJ Jones, whose No. 7 Fuller will wear this season, will no doubt help.

Fuller isn't a big name, but his 4.4-secondish speed in the 40, and his ability to make difficult catches, should make him a candidate to become one of ND's top receiving targets in a balanced group begging for a breakout star.

CB Cole Luke

Luke was a big get in the 2013 recruiting class, and he leapfrogged some older teammates to win playing time last year.

The addition of Florida transfer Cody Riggs could put a crimp in some of Luke's playing time this year, but having too many corners isn't a problem many coaches will complain about. Riggs could see some time at safety, and Notre Dame's long-yardage packages will no doubt include numerous corners.

The 5-11, 190-pound Luke has a nice blend of size and speed to be an effective corner for the next few seasons. He played in all 13 games last season, but with Bennett Jackson gone to the NFL, expect Luke's playing time to go up significantly.

BWieneke@SBTinfo.com; 574-235-6428

Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Will Fuller makes a catch against Air Force last year. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)
Cole Luke tackles Purdue running back Akeem Hunt during last year's game. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)