Now or never

CLEMSON - If there is one player who has turned the corner since last season, it has to be Martavis Bryant. Just ask Dabo Swinney.

By now you've probably heard the stories.

Martavis Bryant could be the best receiver on the planet. At 6-feet-5 inches tall and a chiseled 205 pounds, he certainly looks the part, doesn't he?

With sub-4.4 speed, he has the kind of explosiveness most players only dream about.

Heck, most people don't realize Martavis Bryant led the country last year in yards per reception. That's right, the rising junior wide out averaged over 30 yards per catch in 2012.

On the surface, everything looks great. A big rangy wide receiver with speed to burn who is set to enter the national spotlight against fifth-ranked Georgia on Aug. 31.

Unfortunately, a closer inspection reveals something quite different.

You see, Bryant missed the Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU because he was suspended. The coaching staff kept him home because he wasn't taking care of his academics.

And those 30 yards per catch a year ago? Those numbers came just 10 receptions.

In two years at Clemson, Bryant has shown all the promise in the world but has consistently fell short of the mark.

Until now.

Since his suspension, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says he's completely changed- both on and off the field.

"He's been a guy that's been the dog house a lot," Swinney admits to CUTigers. "But since January, and I was the biggest skeptic of all believe me, he's been completely consistent in everything. His teammates trust him now. They totally trust him. He's paid the price."

It started with a strong spring and continued through offseason workouts. And it's not just his head coach that's noticed. It's his quarterback too.

"The most consistent player during workouts was Martavis Bryant," Tajh Boyd said. "He's been unbelievable. And he had a good first practice today too. You can tell there's a difference with him."

"He finally realized we mean business and we have a certain way of doing things. You have to earn everything you get. He just hadn't earned a lot in his first two years."

Swinney said the suspension played a role in his turn around, not to mention he's simply starting to mature.

"Sitting at home watching us in the bowl game had something to do with it,' he said. "And us winning without him. And it was silly why he wasn't there. He was being defiant about going to study hall. That's silly.

"He finally realized we mean business and we have a certain way of doing things. You have to earn everything you get. He just hadn't earned a lot in his first two years. I can't say enough good things about him."

With the departure of Nuk Hopkins to the NFL, the possibilities for a player of Bryant's skill level this season are limitless.

He could be the deep ball threat to help take pressure off of Sammy Watkins. His size could enable him to make the kind of catches no other receiver on this team can make.

He can stretch the field in a variety of different ways.

And maybe, just maybe, he's finally going to get that chance.

"Since January, he's been tremendous," Swinney said. "I haven't had to do anything. I haven't had to chase him down for anything. He's been a fly on the wall and that's how I like it because that's how men handle their business.

"You wish some guys would catch on earlier, but it's never too late to do what's right." Indeed. Fortunately, time hasn't run out on his potential super star.

Sure he's yet to play a down of his junior season. He hasn't caught a pass. He's hasn't scored a touchdown. But he has, for the first time, turned the head of his head coach and his teammates in a way he's never done before.

Let's see if it continues the next four weeks. Top Stories