Oh, no, not that he’s at the wrong position in any sense. The body, the build, the abilities, all of it suits safety as if Bryant was born to the job. Which he might very well have been come to think of it.
If the aptitude is at safety, though, the attitude…now that shouts ‘cornerback’. If Bryant were the shouting type, that is, and he ain’t. It’s simply how he oozes self-assurance expected of one-on-one cover corners.
“Oh yeah! I’ve got swag,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to play with that swagger. It’s just built-in for DB’s basically. You’ve got to have some swag.”
Even better, Bryant has skills to back up swag. So much so that this sophomore safety is already marked as a rising star not just in the Bulldog defensive backfield. This is the next Mississippi State safety who will earn all-SEC status and probably all-America in time.
If, of course, Bryant raises his play beyond even his impressive 2015 freshman feats. So, “This camp is just cleaning up execution, getting better with my reads, everything. Just focusing on my craft and just being better.”
Bryant was pretty Dog-goned good as a second-fall freshman of course. For that matter defensive backfield peers claimed he was ready for action as a true freshman. Redshirting did him no harm though and Bryant finished with 63 tackles last year, fifth-most on the team.
Where he was #1 was intercepting passes. Bryant picked off three balls and returned one of those 73 yards against Louisiana Tech for touchdown. A week earlier, making his first State start, Bryant came up hard in run support for a tackle and forced fumble recovered in the end zone.
“Last year showed me I could be a big-time playmaker at this level. Coming in young, replacing Kendrick (Market), it showed me a lot. So I took on a leadership role and it’s better for me.”
Being better matters more now that Bryant has tasted success. He showed it in summer for sure, attacking the unsupervised drills himself and pushing his safety and cornerback cohorts to do the same. It included, he said, never giving himself a down-day.
“No, I’ve got that tatted right here,” Bryant said, showing off the ink. “TNDO.” It’s also a good reminder that there can be such a thing as a ‘sophomore slump’. Bryant certainly intends to avoid this cliché like the plague.
“Just keep building every day at practice. Keep building and doing what you’ve got to do. Keep staying on the older guys, and young guys too, just being a leader stepping on the field.”
Now. About that attitude, or swag as he calls it. This really is nothing more, nor less, than pure confidence in abilities and in training. “I’ve been having it! It’s just something that’s built in you.”
Without it, Bryant wouldn’t belong between the lines, he really believes.
“You’ve got to have a lot of confidence when you step on the field. You’ve got to play with some swag, you’ve got to play with relentless effort. I mean you just have to go do what you’ve got to do every down on the field.”
So, Bryant has the skills. He’s got the swag. Thus oughtn’t he be lined up, mano-a-mano on a mouthy split end and yakking right back? Well there’s one problem with this amusing image.
“I don’t really talk too much field. I let the passion and my feet and my tackling speak for itself. I do that within the whistle, that’s how I do my trash talking.”
Or better, let others talk Bryant up for him. If the sophomore season produces more of those big plays seen in 2015 there will be lots to say. Maybe more opportunities, too, as Bryant is sure to have kick coverage duties and could even find himself in a return role, something practiced a bit in spring and preseason. For that matter, his picks and returns last year sure showed signs that Bryant could make a mighty fine receiver.
But he’s already en route to all-everything safety. To the point, even, that he and senior Kivon Coman are now the student-coaches of the safety squad and helping develop true sophs Mark McLaurin and Jamal Peters along with redshirt Maurice Smitherman and rookie John Hankerson.
“Oh, it’s some good chemistry,” said Bryant of working with older Dog Coman. “We communicate, we come here and watch film together. It’s just part of being a starter of the group.”