The biggest threat in Florida Atlantic’s passing game is a tight end.
Senior Harrison Bryant caught 45 passes for 662 yards and four touchdowns last season, presenting a mismatch for defenses with his 6-foot-5 frame.
His presence serves as a top priority for Ohio State on Saturday.
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“He's a really good football player,” said Jeff Hafley, the defensive co-coordinator for the Buckeyes. “He's a really good receiving threat from the tight end position. You have to be aware of him and what he does well, where he is on the field. You’ve got to play with great eyes if you cover him. There's a lot of different things he can do.”
Among the Owls’ returners, only junior receiver Willie Wright caught more passes (46) than Bryant.
Bryant garnered a few preseason accolades, including being named to watch lists for the John Mackey Award — as the nation’s top tight end — and the Senior Bowl.
In Ohio State’s final game last season, a 28-23 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl, it surrendered a 2-yard touchdown catch by Drew Sample, the tight end for the Huskies, on a trick play in the fourth quarter.
Hafley said a few different defenders were likely to cover Bryant, including the weakside linebacker or safety, as well as the “Bullet,” the new hybrid linebacker-safety spot.
“Whoever is on him has got to play with really good eyes, really good leverage and really good technique,” Hafley said.
As much as Bryant might pose a threat in the passing game and could be used creatively by Lane Kiffin, the third-year Florida Atlantic coach who previously was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, Hafley didn’t plan to rework the defense.
“It's just the overall awareness,” Hafley said. “When we talk about our scheme, we're more into fundamentals and technique. We talk a lot about ourselves. We talk about doing our job, not so much picking out one player and saying, 'This is the player we have to stop; this is what we have to do different.'”