Bryant ready for spring practice
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Bryant, a rising sophomore, took over the Mountaineers' offense midseason last year after starter Jamal Jackson struggled. Appalachian State also struggled midseason, but went 3-2 in its final games.
One of those games was a loss to Georgia, a game that underdog App State trailed 14-6 at halftime before falling 45-6.
Bryant didn't even participate last year in spring practice. He was nursing a knee injury suffered in 2012 and did not see live action until the fall of 2013.
Now, he's in charge, and he can't wait to get started.
"After probably about a week after Western, I was really waiting for Feb. 28, so I am excited to get back," Bryant said. "The way we finished at the end of the year, we kind of got a little bit of rhythm and I want to crank that back up and get on the field with the guys."
Bryant started eight games last season. He threw for 2,713 yards and 14 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Bryant also rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
But Bryant's most important statistic is his 3-2 record as a starter in the Mountaineers' final five games. App State beat Georgia Southern 38-14, then lost to Georgia and then lost to Chattanooga 35-28 when the Mocs scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a pick-six interception with 2:52 left in the game.
App State closed out its season with a 33-21 win at Wofford and a 48-27 win over rival Western Carolina.
"The way we finished last year, I want to get back on the field with a lot of those same guys," Bryant said. "I don't feel any added pressure. I definitely have expectations for myself and I think the coaches and my teammates have expectations of me."
App State's offense will not have its top two receivers -- Andrew Peacock (78 catches, 706 yards) and Tony Washington (64 catches, 939 yards) -- who were both seniors.
App State returns rising junior Malachi Jones, who had 31 catches for 293 yards, but no touchdowns. Another rising junior, Simms McElfresh, returns after catching 20 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Barrett Burns also comes back after catching 22 passes for 205 yards and a score in 2013.
The Mountaineers signed six receivers to national letters of intent in February, but they will not be in camp until the fall. Bryant said he's looking forward to reconnecting with the receiving corps that is returning on Friday.
"It's time to really work on the small details and get those things worked out," Bryant said. "It's a chance to get your timing down and get an understanding what my receivers like and what I like and meshing it all together."
One recruit that will be in camp is freshman quarterback J.P. Caruso, who finished high school early to attend App State during second semester. Caruso is a three-star prospect (247Sports.com) who led Palm Springs Gardens (Fla.) High School to the Florida 8A semifinals.
He picked App State over Air Force, Florida Atlantic and Wake Forest.
Also in camp is redshirt freshman Taylor Lamb, who has a full season of practice under his belt.
Bryant acknowledged that Lamb, Caruso and rising senior Logan Hallock will compete for the starting position, but Bryant wants to used the competition as a way of everybody improving.
"My goal, as always, is to come out being the best I can be every day," Bryant said. "I want them to be the best they can be. We're all trying to get better each day and we all want to win. They're going to push me and we all know that it is a competition. I have to go out and compete that I can play every day."
The fact that the Mountaineers are competing in the Sun Belt Conference for the first time in 2014, and that the first game of the season is at Michigan, also adds to the sense of urgency the Mountaineers need to have during spring workouts.
"Definitely it's a huge step for the university," Bryant said. "There are going to be big games every week. No team can be taken lightly in that conference, so I feel there has to be even more attention to detail that needs to be applied to this spring and I think we are up to the challenge of that. We have the guys here to be a good team, so we're excited about the opportunity."