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July 18, 2014

Byrd close to 100 percent

South Carolina wide receiver Damiere Byrd isn't yet back to 100 percent after suffering a torn meniscus during Capital One Bowl practice, but he's not far from it.

The speedy senior wideout underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the knee, but missed USC's New Year's Day bowl victory over Wisconsin and was limited in spring practice as a result.

After a frustrating few months rehabbing the knee, Byrd is back to the same speed that's made him one of the SEC's top deep threats.

Byrd is back to working out with his teammates this summer. His most recent 40-time was clocked at 4.31 seconds, the same mark it was before the injury.

"It feels good," Byrd said Friday at Pigskin Poets. "It's taken a while, but my trainers and my coaching staff have progressed me the right way, and it feels good. It's close to 100 percent."

Now, all that bothers Byrd is that his knee tends to swell up after workouts.

"Other than that, everything's fine," he said.

Byrd is South Carolina's leading returning receiver, finishing second on the team - behind Bruce Ellington - last season with 33 receptions for 575 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught South Carolina's longest touchdown pass of the season, a 76-yard strike from Connor Shaw in the Gamecocks' 23-21 loss at Tennessee.

But Byrd was limited in spring practice, and often could be found wearing a yellow jersey off to the side, where he participated in strength and agility drills as he continued to recover.

That was a tough time, said Byrd, adding that things began to turn around by the end of spring.

"Just being a competitor, I want to be out there with my team," said Byrd. "I want to be able to play in games, want to be able to practice.

"It was frustrating, but it happened for a reason, and I'm back to being with my brothers, working out and doing everything. So I'm happy."

Byrd, whose 17.4-yard per catch average was second only to Shaq Roland's 18.2, was listed as a co-starter at two of the Gamecocks' three receiver spots when USC released its latest media guide this week at SEC Media Days.

He was listed as sharing those two spots with Roland and sophomore wideout Pharoh Cooper, though Byrd said his specific role in the offense won't be determined until closer to the start of the season on Aug. 28.

"Right now, I have no clue," Byrd said. "It's always up in the air in the beginning of the year until we find out what kind of team we have and the logistics of what's happening during the season."

Byrd was confident South Carolina's receivers would be able to collectively fill the shoes Ellington left behind when he departed for the NFL Draft.

Ellington led the team in receptions (49), yards (775) and touchdowns (eight) a year ago.

But Byrd said that between the returning veterans and incoming freshmen Shaq Davidson, Tyshun Samuel and Terry Googer, the Gamecocks should be just fine.

"We have backups that are ready to jump in at any point in time," Byrd said. "Bruce has given us the production that we loved and that we needed, but as he moved on, it's time for the younger guys and other veterans to step in and take his place."

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