Friday, March 29, 2013
Buckeyes' Bryant raises the bar in 2013
By Adam Rittenberg
At some point before Aug. 31, Ohio State safety Christian Bryant will compile a goals sheet for his senior season and hang it in his locker.
Bryant is still formulating the specifics, but he'll undoubtedly list items about interceptions, leadership and limiting big plays. He might write down something about big hits, although it's one area where he needs no reminders.
"If you love football," Bryant told ESPN.com, "you love the collisions."
Safety Christian Bryant plans to provide more big plays for the Buckeyes this season, like this game-clinching interception against Cal last September.
Bryant loves football and wants to be at the top of his game in his final year as a Buckeye. He's entering his third season as a starter for a secondary that could be the strength of Ohio State's defense in 2013.
The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cleveland native earned second-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches) in 2012, when he finished second on the squad in tackles (70) and added 12 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. It's hard not to notice Bryant on the field, especially because of the hits he delivers. But he's still looking for the right blend of big plays and consistency.
"I'm trying to be known for more than just being a physical player," Bryant said. "A playmaker at all times, that's what I’m trying to be known as."
Bryant wants to make a variety of impact plays, not just big hits, and interceptions is at the top of his list. He boasts 21 career passes defended, including 13 last season, which tied him with Northwestern's Ibraheim Campbell for the most among Big Ten safeties (1.08 per game). But Bryant has only one career interception, a fourth-quarter pick against Cal last season that sealed a 35-28 Buckeyes win.
"I dropped probably three or four picks last year," Bryant said. "When I looked back on them, I should have made the plays. Those are things I'm looking forward to this season."
On the advice of former Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith, Bryant makes sure to catch 50-100 footballs each day in spring practice. If a quarterback is available to throw, Bryant summons him. If not, it's the JUGS machine.
Other items on Bryant's offseason checklist include improved footwork and tackling technique, and doing a better job of reading the run-pass keys offensive linemen give away. He also studies NFL safeties like Charles Woodson, Ed Reed, Dashon Goldson and former Buckeye Donte Whitner.
The season is more than five months away, but Bryant gets a feel of what's to come by practicing against a dynamic Buckeyes offense led by Heisman Trophy contender Braxton Miller.
"It keeps you in shape," Bryant said. "Just the fast-paced offense, us just flying around to the ball, keeping leverage, forcing the ball back to our help. All that helps in the season, leveraging the football, running to the ball as a defense and eliminating big plays."
Bryant describes himself as "instinctive football player" and loves the defensive calls where he can roam the deep middle, read the quarterback's eyes and attack. But he also wants to be a more complete player and leader.
One of only four seniors on Ohio State's defense -- fellow starting safety C.J. Barnett is another -- Bryant hopes to be named a captain. This spring, he's trying to blend vocal leadership with on-field performance so younger players can follow him.
Although Bryant's goals list is still a work in progress, he's willing to share one item.
"To be one of the best secondary players in the country," he said. "That's what I'm shooting for."