If South Carolina’s football program continues its upward ascension, it will likely become more and more difficult to find true freshmen capable of making an instant impact.
The Gamecocks aren’t quite there yet, meaning that players currently committed from the Class of 2011 and others that might ultimately sign with USC could make contributions next season.
Of the players currently in the fold, some have projected that offensive tackle Brandon Shell may be forced into early action.
But Scout.com recruiting analyst Miller Safrit said during practices for last week’s NUC All-World Gridiron Classic in Charleston that he believes receiver Damiere Byrd and defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles will have the biggest impact among the players already committed to USC.
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The Gamecocks certainly have a need for a game-changing defensive lineman. That’s why Jadeveon Clowney is so important to their recruiting class, and why Quarles, a versatile player who could be tackle or end, could make an impact in 2011.
It was a little surprising to hear Safrit say that Byrd would be an instant impact player since USC already has a returning player with a similar skill set in Ace Sanders. However, he feels that Byrd’s electric speed will trump his raw skills and obvious lack of size and strength.
“I think I can make a good impact on special teams first,” Byrd said. “I feel comfortable with that. Then I’ll try to learn the system and come in on offense hopefully.”
Byrd made a big impact in the inaugural All-World Gridiron Classic, becoming the second USC commitment in this senior class to take home offensive player of the game honors from an all-star event (Shon Carson – Shrine Bowl). The 5-foot-8, 162-pounder had five catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
His 12-yard touchdown reception was the first in the game’s history and his 22-yarder with 49 seconds remaining clinched a 20-17 victory. He did it all from slot receiver, the position he’s likely to fill with the Gamecocks. He’ll also get a shot to return kicks and punts in Columbia.
As a kick returner, Byrd would get the opportunity to showcase his speed. One of the top prospects in all of New Jersey, Byrd has run the 100-meter dash in sub-10.3 seconds. He has legitimate sub-4.3 speed in the 40, running an electronic-timed 4.26 at a Nike combine last spring, the fastest time ever recorded in one of those events.
If nothing else, Byrd, who plans to also run track at USC, brings an element of excitement to this recruiting class. Though the team desperately needed to add linemen on both sides of the ball, 300-pound guards and tackles don’t exactly work to create fervor among the fan base. A player with Byrd’s athleticism definitely should.
He’s definitely excited to step on campus this summer.
“South Carolina is a good program, up and coming,” Byrd said. “Coach [Steve] Spurrier and his staff have really done a good job of taking the program from what it used to be to what it’s going to be now.”