This time last year everyone was curious if Austin Bryant was the answer for Clemson at defensive end.
Bryant, who is from the small town of Pavo, Ga., had a good spring in 2017 and the defensive coaches felt he was in line for a good year.
Potential was not an issue. After all, he showed off his potential in the 2016 Orange Bowl when he came in for an injured Shaq Lawson and registered a season-high 63 snaps while recording eight tackles, including a half of a sack.
Before the 2016 season was to start, Bryant was projected to be a starter along with Clelin Ferrell at the other bookend. But an injury to his foot caused him to miss the first nine games of the season.
Though he had his moments in the final six games coming off the bench, including in the national championship game when he filled in for an injured Ferrell, no one really knew what to expect from Bryant when the Tigers kicked off the 2017 football season.
Then the Auburn game came. Auburn had no answer for the 6-foot-5, 265-pound end. He lived in the backfield all afternoon, tying a Clemson single-game record with four sacks, while finishing the day with seven tackles overall.
For his efforts, Bryant was named the National Defensive Player of the Week as well as the ACC Player of the Week. His four sacks are the most ever by a Clemson player against an SEC opponent.
Bryant finished his junior season as a First-Team All-American by the Football Writers Association. He was also named to the Walter Camp’s and the Associated Press’ All-American Teams.
Bryant finished the year with 15.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 8.5 sacks. Both figures ranked second behind Ferrell. He also had 58 overall tackles and 12 quarterback pressures.
Not a bad season at all for a guy no one was really sure about when the year began.
In January, Bryant surprised everyone again when he announced, along with Ferrell and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, his return to Clemson for his senior season.
With fall camp just four weeks out, expectations for Bryant this time around are a little bit different than the previous two years. Now that everyone knows what he is capable of, he is expected to be just one part of a four-piece puzzle on the defensive line that will terrorize opposing quarterbacks in 2018.
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!