S.C. state of mind was lure for Larenz Bryant

Charlotte linebacker who grew up in Charleston feels at home

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 6, 2013 

— As Larenz Bryant sat at a table onstage in the Vance High auditorium on National Signing Day, he did so with a large backdrop of orange, one of the Cougars’ primary colors.

Given that he was making his decision to attend South Carolina official, Bryant said he understood this particular color isn’t accepted by the fan base that packs Williams-Brice Stadium.

“I’m going to have to give it up, maybe pass it down to my little brother or some friends of the family. Vance orange is not for me any more,” said Bryant, who was wearing a garnet USC hoodie.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker committed to the Gamecocks this past June, and he never wavered, choosing them over Florida, Georgia and Clemson. A four-star defender, Bryant is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 112 prospect nationally, the No. 4 inside linebacker nationally, and the No. 4 prospect in the state of North Carolina.

Bryant, who lived in Charleston until age 8 before his family moved to Charlotte, said he likes the idea of going back to the Palmetto State.

“The coaches were very supportive of me. It just felt like home every time I visited,” he said.

It didn’t hurt that the Gamecocks have won 11 games in back-to-back seasons while becoming a major factor in the SEC.

“It’s big-time football. You can’t get any bigger than that. You can’t get better competition than the SEC,” he said. “Having those games where you’re on TV against the best played a big role in my decision.”

His Charlotte-area youth football coach, Larry Kennedy Jr., played for Steve Spurrier at Florida in the early 1990s, which added to Bryant’s comfort level with the USC staff.

Bryant was a workhorse on the field at linebacker and running back, with his all-around ability earning him selections to the Shrine Bowl and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Texas. Keith Wilkes, his Vance High coach, called him quiet off the field but vocal on it.

“He has something special with him. You see it when he first plays. You don’t really know it until you watch him play,” Wilkes said. “Once he steps on that field, week-in and week-out, he stands way above the rest. His best suit is his speed. ... He’s a very fast kid. And he has a lot of heart and desire and leadership.”

Bryant, who expects to play weakside linebacker at USC, is excited about the prospect of playing on the same defense as All-American end Jadeveon Clowney. Bryant noted that USC’s defensive ranking nationally continues to improve.

And he’s really looking forward to running onto the field with “2001” playing.

“I can’t wait. I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s going to be a wonderful moment for me. I’m going to feel accomplished, like I made it.”

Bryant said his all-time football hero is Brian Dawkins, the former Clemson and Philadelphia Eagles safety, but he decided against continuing to wear orange so he could put on garnet for the Gamecocks in the SEC.

Wilkes said Bryant will is convinced his former player can succeed at USC.

“It’ll be a minor adjustment, but with his speed and tenacity and will to get better, he’ll do real well for them,” Wilkes said.

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