Bryant making name for himself

first_imgPurdue wide receiver Dorien Bryant wouldn’t blame anyone who didn’t know who he was last year. Just another receiver in an offense that characteristically employs four and five-receiver sets, Bryant knew last year was his learning year, not a breakout campaign. Not to mention it’s more than a little difficult to make a name for yourself while sharing minutes with the top pass-catcher in the history of college football, Taylor Stubblefield. “Taylor was obviously a big-time player for us,” Bryant said. “Last year, we kind of had him and that was our receiver group. He was our identity.”Not that leading the anonymous life seemed to bother Bryant, who rounded out his freshman campaign with 38 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was just “one of the other Purdue receivers.” But “not bad” wasn’t going to be good enough this year, not with the graduation of Stubblefield and a defense that returned 11 starters from a year ago. “I didn’t necessarily feel the pressure of stepping up,” Bryant said. “When I came here, I knew I could play, so I have a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to make plays. Just the fact that I was starting — I knew I had to make plays.”And the sophomore from Swedesboro, N.J., hasn’t disappointed. Need a little proof? Just take a glance over the last three Boilermaker contests. While Purdue has gone winless this month, it certainly hasn’t been Bryant’s fault. Three weeks ago, Bryant tore up a suspect Notre Dame pass defense, snaring 14 receptions for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Just seven days later, Bryant ran roughshod over the Iowa Hawkeyes’ defense for 10 catches, 141 yards and another score.But Bryant saved his best for last weekend against a struggling Northwestern defense, setting the standard for the 2005 season with a mind-boggling 16 catches for 153 yards in the contest. “I think me and (quarterback Brandon) Kirsch are getting a better connection with each other as the season goes along. I’ve just been working on a lot of things that I didn’t do that great last year,” Bryant said of his performance over the past few weeks. “Being able to run the route, I’ve learned really well. It makes it a lot easier to get open, and add that to my speed — it’s pretty tough to cover me. So I’ve worked on that and it’s been a benefit for me.” A benefit for Purdue, perhaps, but a headache for the rest of the nation. In his first season as a starter, Bryant has been every bit as devastating to opposing defenses as the man he has replaced. The sophomore sensation currently ranks second in the nation in receptions per game with 9.7 and sixth in the country in receiving yards per game with 111.3. “I think I’ve played pretty well. I think I’ve responded pretty decently,” Bryant said. “I just feel like I can play better in every situation. I don’t think I’m where I want to be yet, but for the most part, I’ve responded well to starting this year.”Yet, had things gone according to the original plan, Bryant wouldn’t be a Boilermaker at all — he’d be flashing his skills on the turf at Alumni Stadium for the Boston College Eagles.A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Bryant originally committed to play for Boston College, but changed his mind and ended up attending Fort Union (Va.) Military Academy for a season before deciding to attend Purdue last year.”I wasn’t really ready yet,” Bryant said of his choice to renege on his commitment to Boston College. “I could’ve [gone], but there were some things that went on and it felt like the thing to do.””I just felt really comfortable here. I knew a couple of guys on the team. I feel really comfortable with the coaching staff,” he added. “I wanted to get away from home and I was aware of the offense, obviously, and it’s a nice college town here. It’s not too much of city, because I kind of wanted to get away from the atmosphere, so this was a perfect fit for me.”last_img read more