Tyler Byrd

Butch probably won’t like this but you may.

It appears new coach Jeremy Pruitt has figured out what thousands of fans knew all along, that Tyler Byrd was one of the most talented athletes on the Tennessee football team and that he would be of greater value on the field than on the sideline.

In theory, Byrd was a wide receiver the past two years. He should have been a defensive back. Among friends, he is now calling himself one. Eventually, we’ll all know.

Butch heard this DB stuff long ago but chose to go in a different direction. He has since gone in another different direction.

In the beginning, Byrd was first prize in a tug of war between UT assistant coaches. Zach Azzanni won with the argument that the offense had the greater need.

Butch Jones, master of diplomacy, said Byrd was an individual who had commanded, early on, respect on both sides of the ball.

“Tyler’s extremely gifted, can change the complexion of the game in a hurry. You know he has the respect of his teammates when defensive backs are recruiting him every day (to play with them).”

Teammates were right. Butch was wrong. The young man became an ornamental wideout. He looked very good in warmups.

Byrd didn’t do much as a freshman and less as a sophomore. In 2017, he caught three passes for 27 yards and was twice deployed as a runner for a total gain of 19. No doubt you recall that Jones’ team lost eight games and set world records for offensive ineptness.

It was also bad on defense. It seemed so obvious that Byrd, generally idle, could have helped.

Right about here I need to admit that Tyler Byrd in the secondary is not exactly an original idea. Back when he played at Naples, Fla., he was one of the best all-around athletes in the high school world. He did a lot of everything, offense, defense and special teams.

He was also a sprinter in track. He twice won the Florida championship in the long jump.

In the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he intercepted a pass, blocked an extra point and returned it for two points.

Naples coach Bill Kramer was guarded in his assessment of how Tennessee has used or not used Byrd.

“I still think Tyler is an NFL corner.”

Me too.

I understand Coach Pruitt has been very busy. Watching horror movies in orange and white (and gray) was not high on his preliminary priority list. In time, he’ll discover what he has on the entire Tennessee roster.

Here’s one shortcut: There has been one heck of a potential defensive back standing around among the wide receivers. It would be in the best interest of all concerned if somebody hands him a secondary playbook.

You’re welcome.

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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Written by Marvin West