Freshman Focus: Damiere Byrd

In this new feature, breaks down multiple freshmen and the chances they will either play this season or redshirt. Today's Freshman Focus takes a look at national champion track star and former four-star wide receiver prospect Damiere Byrd.

Former Timber Creek (Erial, N.J.) standout Damiere Byrd brings something to the Gamecocks that they haven't had in some time: pure raw speed. The 5-foot-9, 161-pound competed for Team USA in Japan in the Germany-Japan-USA Trilateral Indoor Junior championships in February and finished second with a 6.76-second 60-meter dash to break a New Jersey record. Byrd bested his own mark with a 6.74-second 60M to win the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March. Byrd also has a personal best 10.36-second 100-meter dash. Byrd amassed 1,500 yards from scrimmage as a senior playing both running back and wide receiver while also returning punts and kicks.

Why he'll definitely contribute

Byrd's speed is undeniable. He'll be one of the fastest freshmen in the country and gives the Gamecocks an element they haven't had in some time. While there are a lot of talented bodies with more experience than Byrd at wide receiver that will be ahead of him, the kickoff return job is wide open with Chris Culliver exhausting his eligibility and Bryce Sherman choosing not to return as a walk-on. Byrd, with his speed and elusiveness, will have every opportunity to step right in and take that spot.

Curb the enthusiasm

As fast as Byrd is he's likely to be third at-best and likely fourth on the depth chart at the "slot" wide receiver spot in the Gamecocks' offense. With the bodies ahead of him, it's going to be hard for him to make a major push for playing time on offense. At kick returner, Byrd will likely have to go through current listed "starter" D.J. Swearinger and Bruce Ellington, who is dynamic with the ball in his hands. While it's hard to see Swearinger hanging on to that job, at 197 pounds Ellington is much more physically built than Byrd and may be the type returner new special teams coach John Butler prefers if the fact he listed Swearinger as the guy there after the spring is any indication of his preference.

Post-spring Depth Chart

"Slot" WR
4 Jason Barnes 6-4 213 SR-3L Charlotte, N.C.
9 Ace Sanders 5-7 173 SO-1L Bradenton, Fla.
23 Bruce Ellington 5-9 197 SO Moncks Corner, S.C. (projection)

Kickoff Returner
36 D.J. Swearinger 5-11 206 JR-2L Greenwood, S.C.
9 Ace Sanders 5-7 173 SO-1L Bradenton, Fla.
31 Kenny Miles 5-10 184 JR-2L Lawrenceville, Ga.

Quote to note

"We're extremely excited about what he can do for us, specifically in the return game. There hasn't been a kickoff returned for touchdown since (Spurrier's) been here, and I know Damiere has made the statement one time or another, 'I'm going to change that here shortly.' When you have a great returner, you'd be surprised, all of a sudden the same hole (is a lot more effective). Trust me when I tell you, this guy coming in, he can get through holes that most normal people can't."

Byrd's recruiter G.A. Mangus -- Charleston Gamecock Club Meeting

The final word

Byrd is a player unlike any other on the Gamecocks' roster and should be utilized as such. While it will be hard for Byrd to get meaningful playing time as a receiver, especially early in the season, he should be able to work himself into the mix in the return game. Byrd is a special talent with a bright future as both a receiver and a returner but his best chance to make an immediate impact is obviously returning kicks. Ellington is likely his biggest competition there and each player will get the chance to prove he's the better option. Spurrier has said he wants a touchdown from special teams this year and if Byrd is the best returner he should play, regardless of his freshman status.

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