“I feel great. I feel like the coaches have prepared me in the right way to go out and do what I’ve got to do to make this defense a better defense,” said the Sanford, Fla., native, and Seminole High School product. “By playing behind Denzel (Nkemdiche), I feel like I can give Denzel a breather and still go out there and perform the same way as he will. I feel it’s a great role I’ll be playing this year.”
Why does he feel that way? Because the 5-foot-9, 215-pound junior linebacker is in the best shape he’s been in since coming to Ole Miss.
“Just running. I ran with the skill guys during the workouts. I didn’t run with anybody else,” he said. “I ran with the skill guys to try to keep my speed up with them. So running with the skill guys, I’ll be in better shape to work hard. Just working out, and I got on a diet. I’ve lost a little weight and now I feel like I can move and fly around.”
He’d already been doing that for the most part in the past couple of years. He was named to the All-Southeastern Conference Freshman team two years ago. Last season he was a reserve linebacker that played in every game.
But this year is different. Under second-year head coach Hugh Freeze and staff, Bryant believes he’s just so much more prepared to play.
He had or assisted with 28 tackles in 2012, but in the previous regime when he was a freshman the year before he was a part of 61 tackles.
“Last year I didn’t know the defense at all, to tell you the truth,” Bryant said. “I feel like that was one of the reasons I didn’t play (as much as the previous year). The coaches were telling me I didn’t know the defense. So I sat down, learned the playbook, and watched film, so I can just go in there and do what I’ve got to do. Now all of that is making me play better and a lot faster.”
Bryant likes the position he plays and says you have to be versatile and able to cover a lot of territory to get the job done.
“The stinger position, sometimes you cover wide receivers. Sometimes you cover running backs, tight ends. You cover guys all over the field,” he said. “The stinger position is a hard position to play. You’ve got to be fast. You’ve got to be able to blitz. You’ve got to be able to get around blocks. It’s kinda hard, and I feel that spot fits me and Denzel just right.”
As for the season opener now less than a week away, Bryant said the team already is preparing for the Vanderbilt Commodores. He knows they’ll be ready.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film,” he said of Vanderbilt. “They’re a very original team. They run original power, toss, things like that. Vanderbilt’s a good team, and I know their coach is going to have them ready to play. I know Coach Freeze is going to have us ready. We’re going to go out and give it all we’ve got.”