Bryant Brings Playmaking, Swagger To Safety

Searching for answers and perhaps a spark after giving up 240 yards rushing to Miami (Fla.) in the third game of the season, the Ohio State coaching staff turned to Christian Bryant to shore things up in the back end of the defense. He showed why with a stellar performance.

In hindsight, that Ohio State's defensive coaching staff installed Christian Bryant as a starter last week should come as no surprise given his high school alma mater.

The sophomore comes from Cleveland Glenville, a place fellow former Tarblooder and Buckeye Jermale Hines once described as, "the school of swag," so what better place to turn to shake things up after a humbling loss at Miami?

Bryant, a 5-10, 190-pound sophomore safety, made the decision pay off by contributing a team-high six tackles last week as the Buckeyes downed Colorado 37-17, but he brought more than numbers to the lineup.

He also added energy to a team needing a pick-me-up with a daunting October schedule on the horizon.

"He's got a little bit more of a natural fire to him," said head coach Luke Fickell, who compared his mentality to that of Hines, a three-year starter who earned All-Big Ten honors last year as a senior. "To me he's one of those guys that's a natural leader. He doesn't get rattled. He doesn't get frustrated. Big play, something happens, he's on to the next one. He doesn't have that conscience that weighs over him."

Cornerback Travis Howard confirmed Bryant brings something different to the huddle.

"He definitely loves to fire guys up," Howard said. "He goes hard out there and I love it. When he makes a play, he gets you fired up. It's just the whole team gets fired up and after a while it's hard to stop that when you're on the silver bullet defense."

Bryant first made his mark roughly a year ago when he had to step in for an injured Tyler Moeller at the Star position in Ohio State's nickel defense. He handled himself well that day and maintained his status as a regular for two more games until an infection and subsequent surgery sidelined him for the last five games of the regular season.

Some thought he might become a full-time starter this season, but he came out of preseason camp as a second teamer behind C.J. Barnett and Orhian Johnson.

With the defense needing more playmakers in the wake of the 24-6 setback in Miami, defensive coordinator Jim Heacock and co-defensive coordinator Paul Haynes chose to replace Johnson with Bryant in the team's nickel defense and make Bryant the Star in the club's dime set.

"He's been really good in practice and he's been very active and productive," Heacock explained. "That's the thing, last year we had a lot of production guys and when you graduate your six or seven best production guys, you're always looking for more. We're playing a lot of guys right now and a lot of it is to find guys who are going to make plays. He had a good week of practice in there and we feel like he's played a little bit better."

Bryant is grateful for the opportunity and said he feels comfortable at safety, where he provides a thump in run support for the position, and Star, where he can supplement Moeller's physicality with additional coverage skills.

"Just finally getting a starting job is great," Bryant said after the Colorado game. "Coach Haynes talked about it and he said, ‘You've just got to go out there and make plays to solidify it,' and I think I had a pretty good game today.

"I think I'm a physical player. I get to the ball real fast. I'm fast and I'm just instinctive."

He and Barnett, another physical sophomore, feed off each other's enthusiasm.

"Me and C.J. tell each other every game we've got to go out there and ball," Bryant said. "We've got to do exactly what we've been doing all week in practice, and that's making plays."

How the staff chooses to handle its personnel the rest of the year remains to be seen, but it appears Moeller and Bryant could make a formidable pair at the Star while Bryant contributes at safety as well.

"We try to match up," Bryant said. "I know the Star pretty good right now. I think I can just keep doing that whenever they need me there because that's where I was all last year, but this year I"m trying to focus on safety a little more and that's where the coaches have been putting me."

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