February 23, 2010

First offer arrives for Louisiana athlete

Ryan Byrd had been flying under the proverbial radar a bit in the early portion of the 2011 recruiting season.

Until late last week, that is.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete from Greensburg (St. Helena), La., finally got what he was anxiously awaiting last Thursday when Ole Miss extended a written scholarship offer.

"It was exciting," Byrd said. "I was happy. It showed me that all the hard work I've put in has paid off."

Byrd, who is being recruited as a wide receiver by some schools and a free safety by others, said he doesn't know much about the Ole Miss program. However, he plans to make the trip to Oxford as some point either this spring or summer to learn more.

"I'm interested in them," Byrd said. "I was telling my coach I hoped I would get one from Ole Miss. I heard they have good academics and they're losing a lot of receivers. I was hoping I could come in and play."

Byrd is also seeing interest from Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, Duke, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, and Minnesota. The home-state Tigers would likely poise a major threat to Ole Miss or any other school if they offer a scholarship, but Byrd said he wouldn't necessarily jump at an invitation from Les Miles to join the LSU program.

"I can't say that," Byrd said. "I'm trying to go to a place that would fit me best and where I could play immediately. LSU is going to have receivers. I'm not just going to take that offer."

First, Byrd has a basketball title to pursue. His team is in the Louisiana state playoffs this week, thanks in part to Byrd's 15-points per game average. When his hoops season ends, he's going to focus this spring on his speed on the gridiron. Currently, Byrd runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.55-second range. He's hoping to cut at least one-tenth of a second off that time, while focusing on refining other aspects of his game as well.

"I have to work on my blocking down the field," Byrd said. "That's the most important thing for the next level. On all the other stuff, I'm all right."

Last season, Byrd was a first-team All-District 8-2A performer at both wide receiver (22 catches, 657 yards, 7 TDs) and at free safety (63 tackles, 5 interceptions, 19 pass break-ups). He also averaged 29.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns.

Over his career Byrd has caught 62 passes for 1,557 yards (25.1 per-catch average) and 21 touchdowns. He's also registered 119 tackles with 13 interceptions and 44 pass break-ups to go along with a 25.8 average on 31 kickoff returns.

"I enjoy offense more," Byrd said earlier this month. "They put me on defense my freshman year and I didn't really enjoy hitting that much. I've learned to hit more. I'll play any side of the ball. I just want to play in the SEC somewhere."

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