Notebook: Greg Bryant's twisted path perplexes Brian Kelly

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Greg Bryant’s venture into limbo has left a trail of confusion.

Add Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to the ranks of the befuddled.

“I’m following it like you guys are — third hand,” Kelly said Thursday after practice, a day after the academically ineligible junior running back reportedly enrolled at a Florida junior college to join its fledgling football program.

“My feeling is I want Greg back here if he wants a Notre Dame degree and if he’s committed to a Notre Dame education,” Kelly continued. “From what I’m hearing, that’s not what he’s interested in. I think he’s interested in playing football, and at Notre Dame you have to do both.”

Bryant, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound five-star prospect from Delray Beach, Fla., battled injuries, homesickness and stiff competition in his first two years at Notre Dame before getting suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season in late June, then losing the entire season to academics after receiving his summer school grades.

He was ND’s second-leading rusher in 2014, with 289 yards — 600 shy of leader Tarean Folston’s total — on 54 carries with three touchdowns. He also shared in the punt return and kickoff return duties for the Irish last season.

Bryant’s father, Greg Bryant Sr., reportedly told Irish Illustrated just a few days ago that his son was committed to remaining with the ND program, attending school this fall to get his academics in order and rejoining the team with an eye toward the 2016 season.

Then, to the surprise of his father, the running back reportedly enrolled at ASA Miami, which opens its inaugural season Aug. 29 against ASA New York in Hialeah Fla., with an all-home schedule that includes the likes of Elite Sports Academy, Advance Prep and the University of God’s Children.

The team’s head coach is Ernest Jones, who worked as the director of player development at Notre Dame from 2012 to 2014. Kelly said he and Jones have exchanged texts in the past 24 hours, but they haven’t had the chance to talk on the phone yet.

Kelly noted that Bryant’s decision to play junior college football doesn’t necessarily close the door to returning to ND, but it doesn’t build optimism that it would eventually happen.

“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Kelly said of Bryant. “I’d love to have one. But he seems to be a bit elusive right now in terms of trying to get a hold of him.”

Russell, Williams updates

Repatriated cornerback KeiVarae Russell continues to make progress with the NCAA in terms of getting a final stamp of approval to play for the Irish in 2015.

The senior from Everett, Wash., was one of five Irish players suspended for academic dishonesty last season. Only safety Eilar Hardy eventually worked his way back onto the active roster in 2014.

Russell, who attended classes January through May at a junior college in his hometown, and defensive end Ishaq Williams both targeted returns in 2015, with Russell’s clearly on track. And he opened camp with the Irish last Friday. Williams, who did not attend classes while away from ND, has been held out of practices while awaiting a decision from the NCAA.

“KeiVarae has passed one of the hurdles with the NCAA and now has one left,” Kelly said Thursday, “which is more of an academic-waiver situation that has been submitted, and we should hear something pretty soon.

“Ishaq’s still pending, and there is not much to report on that other than that one is still pending.”

ehansen@sbtinfo.com

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Notre Dame’s Greg Bryant (1) is tackled by the Notre Dame defense during the Blue and Gold Game Saturday April 18, 2015, in South Bend. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ