A school that seemingly always had great talent at the wide receiver position (Michael Irvin, Reggie Wayne, and Andre Johnson to name a few) has found itself searching for a playmaker for the past few years.
Sam Shields was the latest to disappoint after being highly recruited and showing promise as a freshman, setting high marks that had not been seen from a freshman since Wayne was a Cane in 1997. Unfortunately, it has not worked out for the Hurricanes, and Shields has now moved to the other side of the ball to play cornerback.
Now, a deep, very talented group of wideouts jam the depth chart in Coral Gables, with many questioning not if, but who out of the group will be the next great.
LaRon Byrd could very well be that guy.
He certainly already has several connections he shares with the greats. He hails from the state of Louisiana, just like Wayne, and wears number 47—the same number Irvin wore at the U.
The sophomore spent the summer working out with his fellow Louisiana native Wayne, as well as safety Ed Reed, who is also from the Bayou State, drawing high praise from the Colts receiver who compared Byrd's game to former Giant Plaxico Burress.
Wayne also said Byrd has the strongest upside of all of Miami's receivers. Both Reed and Wayne also made sure that he knew to represent their state well.
Byrd was rated as the second best wide out in Louisiana despite only playing two years at the position in high school (he was a defensive back as a freshman and sophomore), and was also a standout in basketball, averaging 20 points per game.
His senior year, he caught 50 passes, 13 for touchdowns, while accumulating over 600 yards, but he still was not rated as a top 50 receiver nationally when he signed with Miami.
Despite ranking sixth on the team with 21 catches last year as a freshman, Byrd caught a team-leading four touchdowns for the Canes and was the only receiver to have a reception in at least 12 games.
Several of his catches were in tight situtations, none tighter than making the game tying touchdown grab near the end of regulation at Virginia last year. Miami went on to win the game in overtime.
He is also the second tallest receiver on the team at 6'4'' (one inch shorter than Tommy Streeter), has a vertical leap of over 36 inches, and has become even faster than last year, running a 4.43 40 time in the spring.
And with the rotation of pass catchers being trimmed by nearly half, expect Byrd to be out on the field even more after starting four games last year.
If he can be as good as many believe he can with his combination of ability, size, and speed, Byrd and the Hurricanes could very well be flying high in the near future.