Notre Dame's Brian Kelly needs to see leadership, patience from his young backs

Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant are full of promise, but Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly needs more from them.

Posted on Aug. 9, 2014 at 6:11 p.m.

NOTRE DAME — If there’s one thing Greg Bryant has learned after a year at Notre Dame, it’s that he can’t just run over everyone anymore.

Not all the time, anyway, as the redshirt freshman running back quickly corrected a reporter who suggested otherwise.

“I can do it in college too, but it’s something I got to work on,” Bryant said after practice Saturday, Aug. 9.

Bryant’s trust of the offensive line is something head coach Brian Kelly is monitoring during camp. While more experienced players like Cam McDaniel know to wait for an opening, Bryant still tends to play too impatiently.

“You have to be patient and let those linemen work to the second level,” Kelly said. “Greg will have a tendency to just spurt out without that block setting up.”

Some of Bryant’s impatience comes off a dominating high school career, which boosted him to Rivals’ No. 3 running back prospect in the nation. Another part of it comes from Bryant’s eagerness to be back in the game after missing most of his freshmen campaign with a knee injury — a healing process that Bryant said made him hungry and humble.

“I just see a hole and I want to make a big play. If it’s there, I’m going to hit it,” he said. “But I have to learn to settle down and let the offensive line do the work and go with the flow.”

Notre Dame returned to its home turf Saturday after opening fall camp at Culver Academies. After a week of assessment, Kelly knows what he still needs to see from his pair of young running backs.

With Bryant, it’s trusting his offensive line. With sophomore Tarean Folston, it’s learning to take charge.

“At times, I’d like to see him be more than just who he is,” Kelly said. “It almost seems like you have to push him more than you’d like. I’d like to see more ’I’m going to take this position over.’”

Vocal leadership doesn’t come naturally to Folston, who totaled 470 yards and three touchdowns on 88 carries as a freshman.

“I’ve never been the most vocal guy,” Folston said. “I’m not going to say it’s (like) me to be a leader, a vocal guy, but I can be. I guess that’s what he’s looking for.”

Folston took the lion’s share of first-team repetitions on Notre Dame’s first day of practice. On Saturday, the only other day of media access so far this August, Folston lined up with the No. 2 offense.

Torii Hunter Jr. out with groin injury

Torii Hunter Jr.’s college football debut is on hold a little while longer.

The redshirt freshman receiver suffered what Kelly called a “fairly significant” groin injury and will miss four to six weeks. Hunter missed the entire 2013 season after breaking his femur at an Army All-American Bowl practice that January.

He will undergo Platelet Rich Plasma therapy to accelerate the healing and should return in September. Hunter is expected to land a spot in the two-deep of a loaded receiver depth chart.

Fellow receiver DaVaris Daniels is also battling a groin injury. Daniels did practice Saturday, but he was limited and started off with the second-team offense.

Denbrock back at practice

Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock returned to the practice fields earlier than expected following a surgery that was expected to keep him away from football for a few weeks.

Kelly said Denbrock is back on a limited basis. He will spend about an hour each day with the team for the next week and gradually increase his time from there.

“He was yelling at the officials, so I know he was starting to feel a little better,” Kelly said.


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