All the great Canes had it. It was part of their DNA. People have tried to use other words for it in the past. But when it comes to green and orange and that U, it should only be called what it is: Swagger.
Sophomore receiver LaRon Byrd is one of those new Canes who are covered in it. Before you judge or jump to conclusions, understand what swagger means. It isn't being cocky. It isn't being boastful. It isn't running underneath the stadium and firing imaginary guns like Randal Hill at the Cotton Bowl. It's confidence. The kind you are not afraid to show because you can back it up. Byrd -- a chiseled 6-4, 218 pounds -- is all of that. He's not scared. He believes what he says and -- thankfully for us in the media -- isn't afraid to say what he believes.
But it's not Kayne Farquharson swagger. It's Michael Irvin swagger. The kind that if you listen to him talk, you believe he can back it up.
Say what you want about the lack of talent, the terrible coaching and recruiting that has led to Canes mediocrity of late. Swagger is a big part of what you cheered for at the Orange Bowl when times weren't just good, but great. And it's what guys like Devin Hester and Antrel Rolle (who spend their summers working out at the U and mentoring young Canes) have said has been missing from Miami's mental makeup. But you hear it in Byrd. You hear it in Jacory Harris and Sean Spence. It's like a flicker of Canes hope, a spark maybe (think Transformers), that something special might really be brewing instead of the traditional pot of preseason coffee talk that is followed by the same old losing and frustration.
Think I'm full of it? Just listen to their voices and compare them to the guys who haven't gotten the job done. Today, as we inch closer to the start of fall practice Aug. 8, we were once again given access to three Canes players (we've got one week left). Byrd, kicker Matt Bosher and cornerback Sam Shields. You tell me who sounds like the guy you believe will get the job done? Who is the player oozing swagger?
As usual, its pretty hard to get much in the way of news when you attend these preseason interviews. But if you like player observations and thoughts here are a few nuggets from today...
> Byrd said he's picked up a full 10th of a second of speed in the 40 -- going from a 4.52 as a freshman to a 4.42 in recent testing. "I think I've got a little more `X' button," Byrd said, making a video game reference. "There's a big difference."
> Former Canes Ed Reed and Reggie Wayne have apparently been spending a lot of time in Byrd's ear this offseason. "Reggie coaches me up a lot when he works with us," Byrd said. "And I get a lot of the leadership role from Ed Reed. He inspires me a lot, the way he talks to me, the way Reggie talks to me. `Don't embarrass Louisiana,' that's the first thing he'll say. And the second thing he'll say is `When you play for Miami you represent the right and take every play like it's your last because you never know when it's your last.' He said always approach the game serious. Reggie, he says represent the receiver spot right, that every time you run a route run it full speed, always expect that the ball is coming to you, never take off a play because you never know what will happen."
> Byrd said it's not just a rumor that the Canes will be shortening their receiver rotation this year. "They've told us the bus is going to be shorter," Byrd said. "I love it. It's going to bring out the best of both worlds. You're going to see who really wants it, who is going to back away from the competition and if it gets the drive out of you. You cut the list, say only three are going to travel, pand eople are going to work harder. I love it, love the challenges."
> While Miami hasn't had any recent 7-on-7s, I asked Byrd what some of them were like in the spring and who on the defensive side of the ball has impressed him: "To me, Brandon Harris is our best cornerback. He's very physical, he's smart, he knows the game. Brandon is my roommate, so every day I go out there and try to embarrass him, and he tries to embarrass me. Demarcus [Van Dyke] is more versatile - he can pick you off, undercut your route. He's very quick, moves off instinct. Chavez [Grant] knows the game."
> Shields, who switched over from receiver to cornerback this spring, said he expects to be a target of opposing offenses. When I spoke to a few UM staffers after today's press conference, they told me they believe Shields will probably get most of his snaps in dime situations and on the outside. "When we go to that, Brandon will move inside," I was told.
> Shields said he's been getting most of his help adjusting to defense from fifth-year senior Randy Phillips. But he's also been working with Reggie Wayne. "I ask him questions like who was the toughest corner he went against and how they play, who was the weakest and how do they play. What do I have to look at when looking at a receiver, how far they are out or in, what they're going to run - he helps me with things like that," Shields said.
> I asked both Shields and Byrd how much time they spend breaking down film during the summer time. While Shields said he goes about twice a week, Byrd said he's at UM nearly every day. "Usually when I'm walking out, I'm handing the keys to Aldarius [Johnson]," Byrd said. "We're just excited about this offense and learning it more and more."
> Bosher, who won last year's Team MVP award, said roommate and former Cane Francisco Zampogna had to sneak the trophy out of his room and into the living room. Bosher, who has always shied away from praise, said it is now on the table next to the TV in the living room. When asked if being MVP of the Hurricanes has helped him with the ladies, Bosher said: "I'm still with my girlfriend. So, no."
> I asked Bosher for a progress report on Jake Wieclaw and where he thinks the redshirt freshman might be closest to helping the team. "Field goals," Bosher said. "He's really starting to become a lot more consistent with those."