"I've improved a whole lot from this past spring," Bryant told BamaMag.com in an interview yesterday. "I'm playing hard and moving to the ball. I think I've made a big step."
Always one of the strongest players on the team, Bryant's biggest step this past summer was a step back from the dinner table. By working out twice a day and altering his diet, he managed to lose 12 pounds without giving up any strength.
Defensive tackles Coach Buddy Wyatt talked about the improvement. "Anthony is doing really well. His endurance is way up. His quickness is better. It's night and day from spring to this fall. He's been doing well with the new weight."
Bryant never had any trouble playing the role of "immovable object" on the inside, but now he's getting off the blocks and running to the football. "It helped my quickness a whole lot," Bryant said. "Conditioning-wise I'm holding up better. I'm running extra hard and doing more on my own. Losing the weight helped my quickness and everything (else). I feel much better."
In Monday's scrimmage the big man totaled two tackles, one behind the line of scrimmage, and garnered a quarterback sack.
"A quick Anthony Bryant is scary," Bryant said laughing. "Very scary."
Wyatt agreed, "Anthony played well in the scrimmage. He's had a good camp so far."
Bryant was a partial qualifier coming out of high school, so even though he's only played two seasons he's listed as a senior on the roster. If he graduates before school begins in the fall of 2004, he could potentially earn back that fourth year of eligibility. During warm-up drills he stands in line with the seniors.
Last season working mainly as a backup, Bryant played in all 13 games. He finished with 32 tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Bryant had four quarterback pressures; he recovered one fumble and forced another.
The three senior linemen that were the bell cows of that 2002 defensive unit are all gone now, and it falls to Bryant (among others) to take up the slack.
"We needed him to come on and step up, and he's answered the bell so far," Wyatt said. "We've still got a ways to go with him, but he's working hard to get there."
"This is my year to step up," Bryant said. "I need to help lead the defense."
In all, the Tide defense lost six starters from last season's nationally third-ranked unit. Can that many gifted bodies be replaced?
"We've got plenty of talent," Bryant replied. "We'll be ready. All the seniors are working hard. We're going to be pretty good."