Bryant Ready To Contribute In Any Way

Christian Bryant didn't start his freshman season in the starting lineup, but injuries helped him find a way onto the field. This season he isn't necessarily a starter, but he's hoping what he proved in his freshman year will land him back on the field.

On his way back to the huddle after properly defending a pass headed for the end zone in Thursday morning's practice, Christian Bryant probably expected not to be heckled by the talking heads from the offensive sideline.

He was wrong.

"Pick on the little man. Pick on the little man. That's right, keep picking on the little man," senior running back Dan Herron shouted, hoping to get a friendly rise out of his younger teammate.

Bryant didn't even acknowledge Herron with a look as he continued back toward the line of scrimmage to prepare for the following play.

Having heard the quips about his height his entire life, Herron's attempt to get inside the 5-foot-9 Bryant's head probably wasn't even worth the attempt.

"His game is a lot bigger than his height and that's all that really matters, really," defensive back Orhian Johnson said. "People may talk about it or notice it, but we know what he's capable of and that's all we care about."

What he is capable of was put on display quite a bit during his freshman season with the Buckeyes, where his hitting would often have opposing wide receivers shaking their heads after picking themselves up following a Bryant knockdown.

But Bryant didn't get his opportunity right off the bat. Instead, he was thrown into the starting lineup when Tyler Moeller was lost for the season in the Illinois game when tearing his pectoral muscle.

The Buckeyes secondary was littered with injuries a year ago, but without hesitation the coaching staff threw Bryant onto the field at Illinois in the Big Ten opener and the defensive back flourished.

He started the next two games for Ohio State — including at Wisconsin — before becoming the latest victim of injury himself. An infection in his foot led to surgery before missing the final five games of the regular season.

Though he had surgery on his foot while out, Bryant did return to the Buckeyes lineup for the team's Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas, where the freshman concluded his season with 17 minutes of playing time in a BCS bowl victory.

It didn't take long to gain the reputation of a prominent defender who plays like he's 6-foot-1, the height of a standout safety that graduated from the Buckeyes last year before continuing his career in the NFL.

"I think he's just a raw, natural, instinctive football player. Kind of like Jermale Hines was," safeties coach Paul Haynes said, who isn't known for handing out compliments of that magnitude. ""When I talk about Christian, I talk about a football player."

Just like he was a year ago, Bryant finds himself out of the starting lineup thus far during fall camp. Injuries, which littered the Buckeyes' secondary in 2010, could be his only way back onto the field in a substantial role as a sophomore.

Back are players that missed significant time last year. Taking reps with the first team at safety alongside Johnson is C.J. Barnett, who blew his knee out against Miami early last year before being lost for the remainder of the season.

But injuries happen, even to a deep team like the Buckeyes and they're occurring already this fall. Though Bryant had been spending most of his time with the second team the last two weeks, he has repped as the first team nickel back in the recent days while Moeller has sat out nursing a minor injury.

If there's anything going for Bryant it's his versatility, as he's shown the ability to play cornerback, safety, and nickel back. Given the way the coaching staff wanted him on the field a year ago, it's not farfetched to think he'll find a role this season somewhere in Ohio State's secondary.

"Christian's a player. Coach (Jim) Heacock always says we're going to play our best 11 and I think he's one of our best 11," Moeller said during an interview session during the first week of fall camp.

"So I think you're going to see him on the field. Where you're going to see him, we're not sure. He's a great player and he brings a unique style of play every time he's on the field. You'll see him on the field."

So make jokes if you'd like about Bryant's height but understand they won't get in the way of his big — or tall — plans.

He's already thinking about what he's going to bring this year.

"I'm a ball hawk — I'm a physical guy too," Bryant said. "In high school I played safety but I played a lot of corner too, so I feel comfortable at any position. "I'm a football player. I'll do whatever it takes to play on this team. I'll play corner, safety, ‘Star,' whatever it takes."

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