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The Fresno connection

GARDENA, Calif. – Only one year young, the Junior Rank Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl does not have the look of a new kid on the block. A successful bowl game in January featured a roster that was headlined by two of the top prospects in the country, five-star wide receiver Deontay Greenberry and four-star cornerback Tee Shepard, both out of Fresno, California.

Hatari Byrd (left) and L.J. Moore are the newest additions to the Semper Fi Bowl.

Now Shepard and Greenberry are passing the All-American torch on to two more Fresno stars, L.J. Moore and Hatari Byrd. On Saturday, Moore and Byrd accepted invitations to play in the game while at the Junior Rank Diamond Flight Camp in southern California.

Moore is a four-star prospect on 247Sports and is currently rated as the No. 19 cornerback in the country. Byrd, also a four-star, is the No. 21 rated safety in the country. In the fall, the two join up with four-star John Johnson to form one of the top defensive backfields in the country at Fresno (Calif.) Central East.

The architect of the group is their defensive back coach Tony Perry and plenty of credit is heaped on Perry from both Byrd and Moore for their success.

“I’ve been training and working out with [Perry] since my sophomore year,” Byrd said. “I’ve been working out with him during the spring, during the summer, going to the hill and doing a lot of hill work and a whole bunch of stuff so he’s taught me a lot. I credit him a lot because without him I wouldn’t have stayed as focused to make it this far.”

The work has paid off, Byrd and Moore have become two of the most highly recruited defensive backs on the west coast and beyond. Moore recently added an offer from Georgia to go with his host of offers. Byrd has Ole Miss on top of his list but currently holds eleven offers of his own.

Perry recognizes how special the two are.

“They’re two different kinds of players,” Perry said. “LJ is turning out to be one of the premiere lockdown corners around the country and Hatari, he’s pretty unique because he’s a safety that can cover the No. 2 wide receiver. A lot of teams look for mismatches and you can’t really find a mismatch with him because he can cover.”

Perry knows talent when he sees it. Having sent numerous athletes to the Pac-12, ACC and beyond, he has a reputation that is well-earned. He will also be coaching his star defensive backs in the Bowl game and is becoming an early staple of the young event.

Byrd and Moore deserve plenty of credit themselves for their development. As a sophomore, Moore was pulled over to the defensive side of the ball by Perry after previously lining up at quarterback. Byrd joined him five games into the season at safety, making the move from wide receiver. So the two have barely scratched the surface of their potential.

Currently Moore has a wide array of schools that are holding his interest on the recruiting scene. He lists Cal, UCLA and Washington near the top of his list out of the Pac-12 but Georgia, Houston and even Tulane are all coming on strong.

For Byrd, Ole Miss is at the top of his list but UCLA remains in steady contact. The physical safety is interested in the opportunity to play in a physical brand of football in the SEC.

Byrd and Moore join an already imposing roster of players that have accepted invitations to the 2013 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. The most recent addition was Eddie Printz, a four-star quarterback out of Marietta, Ga. already committed to UCLA.

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