Kam Bryant showed his ability to accelerate quickly on two third-and-long running plays last Saturday that resulted in big gains. For Bryant, who has assumed the role of starting quarterback for Appalachian State, the process has been like going from zero to 60 in an instant.
Bryant, a sophomore from Cary, was at a standstill a little more than a year ago. He tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee while making a cut on a run against Coastal Carolina and had surgery to repair the damage. His redshirt-freshman season ended after just 13 snaps.
He sat out spring practice this year while recovering but knew he was good to go by the time preseason camp arrived. He resumed his role as the backup to starter Jamal Londry-Jackson and said he felt even better than he did before the injury. He dropped from 210 to 197 pounds and gained strength with focused work in the weight room.
Things progressed quickly from there. Londry-Jackson – who had offseason knee surgery to repair a torn ACL in January, nearly two months after Bryant had surgery – struggled to pick up where he left off after a banner 2012 season.
Bryant, an honors student pursuing a double major in finance and banking and risk management, has proven to be a fast learner. He saw extensive action in the opening game against Montana, then basically split time with Londry-Jackson the next three games before taking over as the starter last Saturday against The Citadel.
Although the Mountaineers have had an unusually poor early stretch – they’re 1-4 for the first time in 20 years, heading into Saturday’s game against Samford – Bryant has made inroads at quarterback.
He leads the Southern Conference in passing efficiency. He has completed 72 percent of his passes and, although he didn’t play full time in the first four games, he has thrown for 900 yards and six touchdowns, with two interceptions. And his running ability has given the Mountaineers’ spread offense a needed dimension.
“He does give us a little more in the running game,” Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said. “We were able to run a little option with him last week and get some key runs from him. He’s throwing the ball very well. He’s making good decisions in the passing game, and he’s an accurate passer.”
Bryant rates his cumulative performance as “average” but believes that he’s progressing, and he’s feeling more confident since his entry at Montana.
“That was kind of like a whirlwind,” Bryant said. “I have a lot more reps under my belt, and the game is starting to slow down for me, and I’m picking up on what defenses are doing.”
Frank Ponce, the Mountaineers’ quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, said that Bryant is adept at running a zone-read offense and is an efficient passer with more than adequate arm strength.
Bryant, who chose Appalachian over William & Mary and had offers from other FCS programs, ran three types of offense at Panther Creek High School. He now appears to be factoring heavily in the Mountaineers’ future and move to the FBS, and he might be able to apply for a medical hardship to regain the year of eligibility lost last year in limited play.
“He’s a smart kid,” Ponce said. “He understands what defenses are doing. And, obviously, he’s able to run the ball well. He gives us the ability to do some things on the perimeter with quarterback runs and inside the tackles as well.”
Bryant, who is friends with Londry-Jackson, said that displacing him has been a bit awkward but isn’t something to dwell on.
“I want the best for Jamal,” Bryant said. “It has been tough. I want the best for him. I’m rooting for him to do well, and he’s doing the same for me. It’s nothing me versus him, it’s nothing personal. We’re both just trying to do our best to get the job done… .
“We’re good friends. The situation that’s going on isn’t going to change that. We’re adults, and we understand, and we’re going to keep pushing each other. It’s about the team and getting wins. That’s the main goal.”
Bryant hopes he can play a part in helping Appalachian quickly reverse course.
“We’re not used to losing,” he said. “But out of frustration comes motivation. We’re going to get this turned around.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer.