Back to Sack: Austin Bryant looking for healthy 2017

by - Staff Writer -
Bryant will be one of the anchors of Clemson's defense in 2017

CLEMSON – Clemson’s defensive line in 2017 is going to be big, it’s going to be physical, it’s going to be mean and it’s going to be good. And Austin Bryant will be right where he belongs, lining up at defensive end and making plays.

The talented rising junior out of Georgia was poised to take another step in his development last season but missed Clemson’s first six games of the year after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during an August practice.

Bryant returned against N.C. State and recorded a sack of Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley, but failed to move back into a starting role because Christian Wilkins – who moved from tackle to end with Bryant’s injury – and Clelin Ferrell were playing so well.

His snap count began to increase, however, and Bryant played a season-high 39 snaps against Alabama in the National Championship. With the start of spring, Wilkins moved back inside, but Bryant says he isn’t taking his spot for granted.

Nor has he changed the way he prepares.

“Not really. I’ve been preparing like I was a starter since before camp (last year) and then when I got hurt I had to take time out, but even when I was behind him (Wilkins) I was still preparing like I was a starter,” Bryant told TigerNet. “My mindset never really changed. Now that I am the starter, I have to prove it every day and earn it every day.

“It’s just another opportunity. I’ve still got to continue to put the work in because you’re only going to get what you earn, so you’ve got to use this time now to get what you want during the season. I just want to help the team as much as I can and be asset to the d-line and be a leader.”

Bryant also understands that he has to cherish each moment he’s on the field, saying the injury taught him that a player can’t take his health for granted.

“It definitely was difficult because you want to play. Everybody wants to play, but you just have to know that it’s what’s best for the team at that moment,” he said. “I just had to realize that and cheer on my teammates. I was probably cheering louder than anybody else over there when I was cheering on Clelin and Christian and Dexter, Carlos (Watkins) and Scott (Pagano).

“It helped me realize I have to take advantage of every opportunity because you never know when a play could be your last, even in practice. You could turn a corner and your foot break. Boom. You just have to take advantage of every opportunity you get, every practice and know you only get to play this game for a limited amount of time because of how violent it is.”

A projected starting four of Ferrell, Wilkins, Bryant and Dexter Lawrence figures to be one of the nation’s best.

“It’s great. The chemistry is definitely great,” Bryant said. “Christian and Clelin are probably my two best friends on the team, so we hang out a lot. The chemistry is there. Me and Dex hang out a lot so all four of us, we’re as tight as any unit can be.

“But at the end of the day, that’s all just talk. What makes us so special is that each guy on the d-line, they know how to work and they want to work. All of us want to be the best we can be, so the stuff that people don’t see we’re doing like working extra, watching extra film, lifting extra. I think it’s that dynamic that will help us be one of the best in the country.”

Bryant has also been getting used to a new coach – defensive ends coach Marion Hobby left for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in February, and he was replaced by Todd Bates.

“It’s different. Coach Hobby was a totally different personality,” Bryant said. “It’s been different getting used to him, but he’s a great guy, great coach. He definitely knows what he’s talking about. He’s played at a high level and coached at a high level. It’s been good getting to know him and building a relationship with him.”

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