KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — True freshman Tyler Byrd could impact Saturday’s game against Florida from more than just the receiver position, Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Wednesday night.
“I think the next evolution in his development is not on the offensive side of the ball but on all of our coverage teams on special teams,” Jones said on his Vol Calls show from Calhoun’s, ”and punt return, and kickoff and kickoff return as well and maybe returning some kicks as well.”
Byrd, from Naples, Fla., was originally a Florida commit as a freshman in high school.
Will Muschamp’s firing at Florida led him to later commit to Miami, Fla., where current Tennessee tight ends coach Larry Scott was then working.
The Hurricanes made a coaching change, too, firing Al Golden. When Scott went from interim head coach at Miami to Tennessee, Byrd followed.
Jones is excited with the gifted Byrd, who was Florida’s prep long jump champion in addition to being a U.S. Army All-American selection.
“Tyler is one of those individuals, he’s very special, very competitive, and some of the catches he makes in practice, you shake your head,” Jones said. “He’s extremely gifted, he can change the complexion of the game in a hurry.
“You know he has respect when the defensive backs are still recruiting him to come over to their side of the ball every day.”
Jone said he thinks Byrd could ultimately evolve into a two-way player, taking snaps on offense and defense.
Byrd, allowed to speak publicly for the first time since reporting to camp in late May, said he has accepted whatever role helps the team most.
“I really settled into (receiver) when Coach told me that’s where I was playing, and I embraced the role,” Byrd said. “I have a great teacher in Josh Smith. It’s truly a blessing to have those upperclassmen take me in and show me the ropes.”
Byrd has clocked in as the fastest player on the team according to the team’s GPS metrics.