Brandon Bryant was already building a name for himself early last season as a redshirt freshman by making plays in a reserve role.
But when Kendrick Market was lost for the season mid-year, Bryant assumed the starting job at strong safety and ended up leading Mississippi State with three interceptions – one of which he returned 73-yards for a touchdown.
“It helped me realize the things I could do in the SEC and could do to help my team,” Bryant said. “It helped me get a grip on the things I could do and gave me more confidence and swagger while I’m out there playing.”
Bryant finished fifth on the team with 63 tackles a year ago along with two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six pass deflections and a forced fumble. He was also featured as one of Tim Tebow‘s “Freak of the Week” on SEC Nation touting his team-best 4.24 forty time.
The 6-foot, 215-pounder entered the fall as an unquestioned starter in the secondary and is self-assured in his role as a playmaker. He made a pair of tackles in last week’s opener against South Alabama.
“I’m more confident back there because I know I lot of things that offenses like to do and what concepts they run,” Bryant said. “It’s set in with me more now because I’ve been here for a while and gone against our offense.”
Although Bryant topped the team in interceptions in his first year on the field, he isn’t worried about trying to top those numbers. He just wants to make sure he is prepared for any situation that could come his way.
“It’s no pressure, I just have to go out and execute,” Bryant said. “If you go through your keys and know what to do the ball will come to you.”
One thing that has changed for Bryant this season is working with a new safeties coach. Maurice Linguist took over the job in February after longtime assistant Tony Hughes took the head coaching job at Jackson State.
Bryant feels he has adapted well to Linguist’s style of coaching and likes the energy and work ethic he has.
“Coach Mo is one of the best things that’s happened to our secondary,” Bryant said. “He’s one of the best coaches on our coaching staff. I like the way he coaches and the way he comes and gives it his all every day. In turn, we have to come and do the same thing and lay it all on the line for him.”
The Tunica native was a former three-star prospect out of Rosa Fort High School where he excelled in all three phases of the game. He initially committed to Southern Miss but switched his pledge after receiving a scholarship offer from the Bulldogs.
“I’ve been very happy here and coach (Dan) Mullen runs a great program that develops players and develops you as a man,” Bryant said. “I think we work harder here than anywhere else in the country. We go hard every day. Our weight training is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. It builds mental toughness that helps you get through anything because you’ve been trained to go through that.”