Shrine bowl: larenz bryant

Bryant impresses with athleticism, work ethic

pobley@thestate.comDecember 12, 2012 

  • SHRINE BOWL Who: South Carolina vs. North Carolina football all-stars in 76th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas When: Saturday, 1 p.m. Where: Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg Tickets: $15

— Larenz Bryant lived the first six years of his life in Charleston before he and his family moved to Charlotte. As he gradually developed into a difference-making football player, he looked around at his adopted state and came to a conclusion.

“North Carolina doesn’t have SEC football,” Bryant said on Wednesday following practice for this week’s Shrine Bowl.

Bryant arguably is the crown jewel of the 2013 USC recruiting class. His senior season statistics at Vance High certainly speak to his athleticism.

As a running back, Bryant rushed for 1,694 yards. On three occasions, he rushed for 192 or more yards in a game. On four occasions, he scored three or more touchdowns. He also broke off runs of 85, 83 and 73 yards.

As a linebacker, Bryant amassed 10 or more tackles three times. He had nine sacks, an interception, defended four passes and recovered a pair of fumbles.

But if there’s any issue as to which side of the ball he will play …

“Defense, yes sir,” Bryant said with a laugh. “I just like contact.”

With the Gamecocks, his most likely destination is the “spur.”

“I studied him a lot on film, evaluating linebackers across the state, and the first thing that pops out to you is that he’s a playmaker and he’s fast,” said Davie County High coach Doug Illing, who is coaching the linebackers on the North Carolina Shrine team.

At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Bryant will have to put on weight if he is to play the spur or any linebacker position. Illing had no doubts that he could successfully add 15 pounds without losing any of his speed. He runs the 40-yard sprint in 4.4 seconds.

“I think the spur is his spot,” Illing said. “He has played inside linebacker in high school because that’s where your best player usually plays, but out here he’s playing outside and looks very comfortable. (The spur) is a good fit for him because he’s a playmaker across the line of scrimmage and he’s a playmaker when he’s dropping in coverage.”

Bryant will be coming into a defense that is losing its top four linebackers to graduation. He said he was aware of that fact during his official visit. That, along with proximity and the coaching staff sealed his decision swiftly.

“My family can come see me play and pretty much the coaching staff was brilliant. Excellent,” Bryant said. “Just having those coaches and it just felt like home to me, choosing (USC).”

There is one other attribute Bryant will provide, according to Illing.

“Now having the chance to watch him in practice and work with him, he’s got work ethic,” Illing said. “Not only is he working himself, he’s pushing people around him.”

While other players marked time during their turn on the scout team Wednesday, Bryant took his role seriously. He could be heard pushing the rest of the scout team to play hard in order to give the North Carolina offense a worthy challenge.

“When you see a superstar like him not shy away from being on the scout team? Do you see him saying he’s too good to be on the scout team, I’m going to do my own thing? No,” Illing said. “He’s trying to make the people on the other side of the ball better. That shows who he is as a person.

“He’s got a great leadership ability in that aspect of it,” Illing concluded. “He’s mighty special.”

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