Byrd's game not just speed

Freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd arrived at South Carolina with everyone talking about his speed. But Byrd has quickly proved he's more than just a track star trying to play football.

Freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd claims he's a football player who also runs track rather than a track star trying to play football.

And in his first two weeks of practice at South Carolina, Byrd has proved his case multiple times.

The 5-foot-9, 161-pound receiver from Sicklerville, N.J. arrived in Columbia for the Summer II session with a reputation that preceded him.

Byrd was fast. Really fast.

Timed under 4.30 seconds in the 40-yard dash multiple times and as fast as 10.42 seconds in the 100-meter dash, there was no doubt about that.

But Byrd proved from day-one that his game is more than just speed.

Rarely does head coach Steve Spurrier talk to the media without mentioning Byrd as someone who caught his eye.

That was the case again Saturday evening after the Gamecocks' first scrimmage of the fall -- Byrd caught three passes for 84 yards including a 65-yarder for touchdown from Connor Shaw on a post route.

"Damiere caught three or four tough catches too," Spurrier said. "He's making some good grabs."

"I just wanted to go out and make plays," Byrd told after the scrimmage. "Whether I had that touchdown or not I just wanted to make plays and I felt like I made the plays that I had to."

Byrd's position coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. has taken notice of his ability too.

At USC's media day a weekend ago, Byrd mentioned one of the hardest part of his transition to major college football would be learning to get off the press at the line.

But while smaller players are sometimes affected by the addition of pads and stronger players pressing them at the line of scrimmage, Spurrier, Jr. hasn't seen that as a problem with Byrd.

"Damiere's got really, really good hands [and] for not a big guy, he's got good balance," Spurrier, Jr. said. "People come and shove him around and he kind of maintains his center of gravity really well. For a smaller guy, I thought he's done an excellent job of that."

And then there's the speed.

Byrd has proved he's not all speed. But it's that speed that makes him stand out among his peers. And it's probably what will get him on the field as a freshman.

Byrd is currently part of a log jam at the "slot" receiver position in the Gamecocks' offense along with Jason Barnes, Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington -- all three project to play a part in the offense.

But Byrd's speed should also get him on the field.

"I'm trying to identify what you do better than anybody else," Spurrier, Jr. said recently asked how he would determine his best six to seven receivers. "And as a player make sure that you own one of those skills. ... What do you do better than everybody else?"

Byrd not only is clearly the Gamecocks' fastest receiver, but may be their fastest player. Track star Marty Markett previously held that distinction but Byrd recently defeated Markett by two steps in the unofficial race for that title.

"I've been very impressed with his speed," said Sanders who doesn't possess the top-end speed of Byrd but is one of the Gamecocks' quickest players.

Just how fast is Byrd? Could he be the fastest receiver Spurrier has ever coached?

"I don't know, his time in the 40 is probably as good as any of them," said Spurrier, who added he wants his freshmen to prove themselves in a game before he brags too much. "We've got to let him go play [in a real game] though now. We know he can run and he's caught the ball pretty well out here also, we've got to let him go play. He's a talented young man."

A speedster, but also a football player.

"Whether you're the fastest player on the team you still have to make plays," Byrd says.

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