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Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant had three carries for 14 yards last season.

Notre Dame running backs eager to show stuff

Photos courtesy Notre Dame
Notre Dame running back Tarean Folston gained 401 yards in the second half of the season last year, including 78 against BYU in November.

– Greg Bryant is getting his frustrations out during Notre Dame’s spring practice.

The sophomore running back had his first season cut short because of a right knee injury that required a procedure to repair his meniscus. He also dealt with speculation that he wasn’t happy with the Irish after gaining 14 yards on three carries in three of the first four games last year and wanted to transfer.

Bryant said Friday he didn’t consider leaving the program and has dedicated himself to show he can perform.

“All that negativity just gave me the hunger now to not to go back that way and just to come and make a big impact and show people what I can do,” Bryant said. “People are asleep on me right now. I’m just hungry.”

The 5-foot-9, 204-pound Bryant is working with a group of running backs who are just as hungry as him to contribute.

The Irish return 5-10, 207-pound senior Cam McDaniel, who led the team in rushing with 703 yards last year, and 5-9, 207-pound sophomore Tarean Folston, who ran for 470 yards last year, gaining 401 of those yards in the last six games.

And the three running backs have helped motivate each other to perform.

“All of us are competitive,” Bryant said. “If I see Tarean get the ball and get a 10-yard gain, I want to get a 20-yard gain. If Cam gets a 20-yard gain, I’m going to want to get a 30-yard gain. We’re just so competitive with each other.”

Folston said he gained confidence as he became more of a factor in the game plan in the last half of the season. He had his best performance in a 38-24 win over Navy on Nov. 2 when he ran for 140 yards with a touchdown.

“Being on the sideline from the beginning of the year is one thing, but actually being in the game, running plays, trying to make defenders miss, breaking tackles, stuff like that is all totally different,” Folston said. “It’s a big step from high school. It helped me a lot coming into this spring and the fall.”

When the fall comes, coach Brian Kelly will want to use all of his running backs and the different traits that help each excel.

“Tarean is very smooth,” Kelly said. “Cam is shifty and gutsy. This kid (Bryant) is a powerful back. He brings that presence.”

Bryant’s powerful presence comes in part from not being able to show what he could do last season.

“When I’m on the field, it’s like all the aggression that I had last year, not playing and stuff, just when I get the ball now and I’m in the hole I don’t want to go back to not playing any more,” Bryant said. “That power, I guess it shows when I’m practicing now.”

Note: Prentice McKinney, a 6-2, 180-pound safety from South Oak Cliff in Dallas, committed to Notre Dame. He is rated a three-star prospect and is the fourth member of the Irish’s 2015 recruiting class.

tkrausz@jg.net

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