Clemson University Tigers
Calhoun Falls, South Carolina
Hargrave Military Academy
T.L. Hanna High School
While split end Sammy Watkins garnered most of the media attention during the Tigers' pair of receivers three seasons together, Bryant never seemed to mind much about not being in the limelight. Bryant never came close to matching his teammates' lofty numbers of 240 receptions for 3,3391 yards and 27 touchdowns, but once he secured a starting job as a junior, Bryant put together an impressive season that has thrust him into the elite receiver prospect section of the 2014 NFL Draft.
One look at Bryant's career numbers of 61 receptions for 1,354 yards, it is just a shade better than Watkins' worst season as a Tiger (57 for 709 yards in 2012), but the flanker made the most out of his limited opportunities. Eleven of his 13 career starts did not come until his junior season, but among players that appeared in at least two seasons of competition, his career average of 22.20 yards topped the previous NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and Atlantic Coast Conference record of 21.96 yards by Herman Moore of Virginia (114 for 2,504 yards; 1988-90).
Bryant also became just the third player in Clemson history to average at least 20 yards per reception, joining tight end Joe Blalock (20.34 ypc; 38 for 773; 1939-41) and flanker Gary Cooper (20.145 ypc; 79 for 1,592; 1985-89) to establish a new Tigers all-time record. He also converted 21.31% of his receptions into touchdowns, as his 13 scoring grabs are tied for tenth on the school career-record list.
Thanks to quarterback Tahj Boyd, Bryant and Watkins, Clemson led the Atlantic Coast Conference and ranked ninth in the nation in passing (333.1 ypg), finishing tenth in total offense (507.7 ypg) and eighth in scoring (40.2 ppg) in the FBs during the 2013 season.
Bryant and Watkins combined for 143 receptions for 2,292 yards (16.03 ypc) and 19 touchdowns last season. The only ACC tandem to register more receiving yards in the same season were North Carolina State's Torry Holt (1,604) and Chris Coleman (876), who totaled 2,480 yards in 1998.
While the media has yet to embrace Bryant and his impressive athletic ability, the two Clemson receivers certainly impressed NFL decision makers with their almost identical performances at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. In their own personal version of the game show, "Can You Top This," Watkins ran 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but Bryant beat him with a 4.42 time. After Watkins delivered a 34-inch vertical jump, Bryant performed the event at 39-inches.
Bryant measured 10'-4" in the broad jump, with Watkins delivering 10'-6". Both met at 16 reps during the 225-pound bench press. Watkins was timed at 4.34 in the 20-yard shuttle, giving way to Bryant, who performed it at 4.15 seconds. The three-cone drill saw Bryant come in at 7.18 seconds, but Watkins ran a scorching 6.95-second event.
Before he arrived on the Clemson University campus in 2011, Bryant was rated the third-best player in the nation by 247Sports.com during his senior season at T.L. Hanna High School. Scout.com ranked him ninth among the state of South Carolina's high school prospects.
Bryant moved into the starting lineup for head coach Kenya Fouch during his sophomore season, producing 47 catches for 803 yards, eight kickoff returns for 208 yards, and eight punt returns for 107 yards. In 2008, he recorded 44 receptions for 776 yards and six touch-downs, adding 13 kickoff returns for 348 yards and a touchdown.
Rated ninth in the state by the Charlotte Observer, Bryant played in the Shrine Bowl and U.S. Army All-American game after receiving first-team all-state honors from The State and the High School Sports Report as a senior in 2009. He had 70 receptions for 722 yards and 11 touchdowns during his final campaign. He did not qualify academically after his senior year and attended Hargrave Military Academy to improve his academic standing.
At Hargrave in 2010, Bryant was the top receiver for an offense that was quarterbacked by Doug Williams, Jr., the son of the former Super Bowl Champion. He had five catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his first game, including touchdown catches from Williams that were 60 and 74 yards.
Bryant enrolled at Clemson University in 2011 and he was immediately inserted into the receiving corps rotation. In 14 games, he started twice, but managed just nine receptions. However, he made the most of those few chances, scoring twice while averaging 24.56 yards (221 total) per catch. He also averaged 22.5 yards as a kickoff returner.
Much like his teammate, Sammy Watkins, Bryant experienced a few "roadblocks" during his sophomore season that would limit him to 10 games in reserve action. He missed the Boston College and Wake Forest contests after he injured his groin working out in the
Tigers strength facility in September and missed the Chick fil-A Bowl when he was ruled academically ineligible. He finished with just 10 receptions, but his average of 30.5 yards per grab (305) was the best for any non-qualifier in the major college ranks. Four of those catches resulted in touchdowns and he also averaged 19.77 yards on 13 kickoff returns.
Bryant's breakout season would come in 2013. He rededicated himself to not only the game of football and his class work, but also wanted to show the coaches that he was willing to "buy into the program." Seeing his change in attitude and work ethic, head coach Dabo Swinney would send the junior flanker out for 11 starting assignments. Bryant rewarded his coach's faith by finishing second on the team with a career-high 42 receptions for 828 yards (19.71 ypc) and seven touchdowns.
There was one "brief" moment during his junior season when Bryant was temporarily in his coach's doghouse. After he scored the first of two touchdowns in the North Carolina State game, Bryant was caught on tape making a "throat-slashing" gesture after hauling in a 30-yard touchdown reception from Tajh Boyd during the third-ranked Tigers' 26-14 win. Bryant escaped a 15-yard flag, but was not free from the coaching staff's wrath.
Bryant was suspended for the first half of the Tigers' next game, vs. Wake Forest. "He'll play this weekend, but it will affect his playing time a little bit," head coach Dabo Swinney announced during his Tuesday press conference prior to the Wake Forest clash. "Just an unacceptable gesture after scoring a touchdown that nobody even knew about until after the game, but it's not representative of what we want. So there will be some team discipline for him."
"Listen, he's been good. Just one of those situations that you're always growing and teaching," Swinney said, referring to Bryant. "It's just unacceptable behavior, and he knew it. I wish I had seen it during the game. I wish the refs had called a flag. There's no better punishment than immediate. Everybody missed it, but TV sure didn't miss it. He'll be fine. I don't think he'll do it again."
On January 5th, 2014, two days after Clemson defeated Ohio State, 40-35, in the Orange Bowl, Bryant told the Post & Courier that he was leaving school and filing paperwork to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. In a text message, he stated the decision was "best for me and my family."
Bryant fit comfortably into the role as Tajh Boyd's number-two big-play option threat in 2013, with 17 of his 42 catches going for 20 yards, including eight for 30 yards and four for 40 or more. The Calhoun Falls native led the ACC in yards per catch (19.7) for a second consecutive season. He exceeded his prior two-year receiving total in 2013's first 10 games en route to 828 yards and seven touchdowns. Bryant finishes his Clemson career with 61 career receptions for 1,354 yards and 13 scores.
Bryant started 13 games, appearing in a total of thirty-seven contests during his Clemson career…Caught 61 passes for 1,354 yards (22.20 ypc) and 13 touchdowns, adding 338 yards on 17 kickoff returns (19.88 ypc) and 17 yards on a reverse…His receiving average of 22.20 yards topped the previous NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and Atlantic Coast Conference record of 21.96 yards by Herman Moore of Virginia (114 for 2,504 yards; 1988-90)