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Insider

Byrd's the word on Semper Fi Day 2

1/2/2013

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- After a sloppy effort on Day 1, the second day of practice for the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl left the West team feeling much better about itself. The West team had a number of candidates for player of the day as Washington DL commits Daeshon Hall (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster), and Elijah Qualls (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande), Oregon commits Darren Carrington Jr. (San Diego/Horizon) and Tyrell Robinson (San Diego/Lincoln), LSU commit Christian LaCouture (Lincoln, Neb./Southwest) and Texas A&M LB commit Reggie Chevis (Houston/Sharpstown) were among the top performers on the day.

No one was more impressive, though, than ESPN 300 S Hatari Byrd (Fresno, Calif./Central East), who wowed onlookers with his overall play. The Oklahoma commit is physical and let the West offense know it with a number of big hits. Byrd can get downhill to help stop the run and also makes big plays in pass defense.

He was at his best when he introduced himself to Utah WR commit X'avier Shepard (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood) and CB Tere Calloway (Seattle/Seattle Prep) by producing the biggest hits of the day.

"If the big hits come, then that's something that people can talk about. As long as people are talking about me, it means I got the job done," Byrd said. "I just play my game every time out. I don't focus on big hits, but when you're in the right place, the pads are gonna pop."

Off the field, though, Byrd has been pretty quiet about his recruitment after committing to Oklahoma in July. According to the 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety, there has been for good reason.

"I'm ready to move on and begin my career as a Sooner, really," Byrd said. "Between the coaches, the players and the overall environment, I can't think of anywhere else I'd even want consider. I love everything about Oklahoma and can't wait to get out there."

Byrd's performances since summer 7-on-7 tournaments and through his senior season have solidified his spot among the nation's elite players. He has shined at all-star events in the past, but he has never experienced an event like Semper Fi before.

"This week has been a great experience so far. There is a lot of talent out here," Byrd said. "It's good to be able to compete with a lot of the top players in the country."

Newsmaker: A couple of Northeast standouts could make their verbal commitments in the coming days. Running back Laray Smith (Staten Island, N.Y./Xaverian) said on Tuesday at East practice in Fullerton, Cailf., that there is a chance he could make a commitment at the game on Friday, although he would have to clear it with his parents and the game’s production team. Syracuse has been pushing hard for Smith since his freshman season and seems to be the team to beat, although other programs -- including Oregon, which is talking about setting up a visit for Smith -- have increased their interest recently.

Defensive tackle Justin Moody (Philadelphia/George Washington) also said he is closing in a decision and will likely make his announcement on Jan. 8. California, Purdue and Temple are pushing for the 6-foot-3, 279-pound standout, but Pittsburgh seems to be in the driver's seat at this point, as Moody’s lone official visit was to see the Panthers in December.

Trending: With so many talented players on hand, it is hard to call out a small group, but Oregon and Washington have a lot to look forward to in 2013. Washington has a few commits in California this week and they have all impressed, but none more than the defensive linemen. One of the Huskies' biggest weaknesses in recent years has been their defensive line. It doesn't look like that will be a problem much longer as Qualls and Hall have been too much to handle this week. Qualls is undersized but makes up for it with his strength, motor and athleticism. Hall has a lightening-quick first step and a very high ceiling. Things are looking up for the Huskies up front.

Not to be outdone, the Huskies' bitter rivals to the south are looking to add to what has been their biggest weakness on offense in recent years. With one outstanding receiver committed in Carrington, the Oregon Ducks may not have to look any further than within their own class to fill the remaining wideout spot. Athlete commit Robinson is slated to play linebacker in Eugene, but he proved his versatility on Tuesday by switching to wide receiver during practice. He was far from just another body as he made a number of nice plays that showed he is fully capable of being a very good receiver on the next level.

Superlatives: West -- Baylor commit Rami Hammad (Irving, Texas/Irving) again showed that he may be the only offensive lineman on the West squad who can handle the West's standout defensive linemen one-on-one. He stonewalled Qualls and LaCouture on back-to-back plays and was recognized by his coaches for doing so.

East -- Wide receivers Jordan Smallwood (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) and William Fuller (Philadelphia/Roman Catholic) have battled it out for the top spot at theposition through two practices. On Tuesday, Smallwood came down with two nice touchdown grabs in one-on-one drills as he beat Ross Douglas (Avon, Ohio/Avon) and Devin Butler (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College) on deep balls. Fuller turned Anthony Averett (Woodbury, N.J./Woodbury) around on a stop-and-go route that drew applause from his offensive teammates. He also authored the catch of the day, as Malik Zaire (Kettering, Ohio/Archbishop Alter) found his future teammate in the front corner of the end zone,. Fuller had to go up high over Butler to make the grab.

What’s on tap: It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the trenches for the East squad on Wednesday. Several defensive linemen went to the sideline during Tuesday's practice, including defensive end Tashawn Bower (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata), who is dealing with a nagging ankle injury. But overall, the defensive line has given the offensive line more than it can handle. Offensive tackle and Notre Dame commit Mike McGlinchey (Philadelphia/William Penn Charter) has been terrific, but the defense has generated a fairly consistent push through the first two days. It's always expected that the defense will be ahead of the offense early on during all-star weeks like this, but the offensive group is going to have to begin pushing back on Day 3.