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August 20, 2013
Mention Damiere Byrd's name around Gamecock fans and you'll hear it all. He's fast. He's quick. He's a deep threat. He's a world-class sprinter. He's got a good head on his shoulders. Oh, and did we mention he's fast?
Most players his age would kill to have his speed, his ability to turn upfield and pull so far ahead of the secondary that he has to sit and wait on the football. Being labeled a speedster isn't usually derogatory, but Byrd wants to be known for more than his ability to beat defenders deep. He said after Tuesday morning's practice he wants to be the complete package.
"Growing up I always was just a speed guy," said Byrd. "So that's my main goal, realizing that [I'm] not just speed. I'm a complete football receiver and complete football player."
The junior wideout who also competes on South Carolina's indoor men's track team had a breakout 2012 campaign (14 catches, 366 yards and three touchdowns), evolving from a garbage-time deep threat into the team's third-most productive pass-catcher. Byrd still operates under the deep-threat umbrella though, as the former four-star prospect out of Sicklerville, N.J., led all Gamecock receivers last season with 26.1 yards per catch.
Byrd has five career starts under his belt, but he should add to that total in his third season on the field. He is listed as a co-starter with Shaq Roland this season - alongside Bruce Ellington and Nick Jones. Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., likes to rotate his top six wideouts onto the field, and Byrd will find out soon if he will be among them.
"I feel like I am [one of the six], but coming out of camp nobody is too sure right now," Byrd said. "The spots are open, I guess we'll figure that out in a couple of days.
"Right now we're just still filtering, everybody is going in different types of places so we're not totally sure yet."
Byrd is spending time at the 'Z' spot in practice while Ellington sits out with a hamstring injury, and he doesn't know where he'll line up when the team's leading receiver returns to the field. No stranger to nagging hamstring injuries himself, Byrd says he's comfortable playing on the outside - where he can burn the defense deep - or in the slot, where he can take shorter passes and try to make defenders miss between the hashes.
Byrd said he hopes his versatility will help him fill the shoes of dynamic receiver and punt returner Ace Sanders, who laces up his cleats for the Jacksonville Jaguars nowadays.
"Just becoming larger than what it was," Byrd said when asked how his role will change from last season to this one. "Being more consistent, being in the game more and making more plays."
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