Wide re­ceiver Moore show­ing that he’s ready for prime time

Sopho­more draws praise from Durkin af­ter ca­reer per­for­mance against FIU

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

There were mo­ments as a fresh­man last sea­son when Mary­land wide re­ceiver D.J. Moore looked like a bud­ding star un­afraid of the big stage. A52-yard touch­down catch at Ohio State and a 40-yard touch­down catch against Wis­con­sin were proof of that.

Those re­cep­tions, two of the three touch­downs Moore had last sea­son, were a snap­shot of what the for­mer four-star prospect might do on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. The snap­shot be­came a full-size poster in Fri­day night’s 41-14 vic­tory over Florida In­ter­na­tional in Miami.

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of what he called “soft” manto-man cov­er­age by the Pan­thers, Moore had a ca­reer night, catch­ing six passes for 147 yards, in­clud­ing touch­downs of 45 and 40 yards. Moore also threw a flea-flicker to quar­ter­back Perry Hills for a 21-yard gain.

“He’s got great abil­ity,” Mary­land coach DJDurkin­said of Moor­einat­ele­con­fer­ence Mon­day. “Any­time you take a guy who’s tal­ented and has abil­ity and mix that with a great wor­kethic, you’re go­ing to have a great player, and I re­ally think that’s what he is.”

Moore is hop­ing to build on his break­out per­for­mance when Mary­land (2-0) plays at Cen­tral Florida (1-1) in Or­lando on Satur­day.

Michigan ex­posed some weak­nesses in UCF’s sec­ondary in a 51-14 win in Ann Ar­bor last week, as ju­nior quar­ter­back Wil­ton Speight com­pleted 25 of 37 passes for 312 yards and four touch­downs — all ca­reer highs for a player mak­ing his sec­ond start.

Durkin said he no­ticed Moore shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing from Michigan last De­cem­ber.

“He has stood out since early, early on with his de­ter­mi­na­tion, his work ethic,” Durkin said. “He brings it ev­ery day. He’s been a mem­ber of our Cham­pi­ons Club ev­ery quar­ter. It’s one of those things where he just con­tin­ues to show up ev­ery day.”

As a se­nior at Imhotep In­sti­tute Char­ter School in Philadel­phia in 2014, Moore was part of a 15-0 team that was the city’s first pub­lic school to win a state foot­ball ti­tle. Moore said dur­ing pre­sea­son camp this Satur­day, 7 p.m. TV: CBS Sports Net­work Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Mary­land by 81⁄ sum­mer that one of his goals was to “step up and be more of a leader.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond be­hind Lev­ern Ja­cobs in re­cep­tions (25) and re­ceiv­ing yards (357) and ty­ing Ja­cobs with his team-high three touch­down catches last sea­son, Moore has be­come Hills’ top tar­get. His147 yards against FIU were the most in a game by a Big Ten re­ceiver in the first two weeks of this sea­son.

See­ing that FIU’s cor­ner­backs were re­spect­ing Moore’s speed by play­ing him sev­eral yards off the line of scrim­mage, Mary­land of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Walt Bell had the 6-foot, 215-pound sopho­more run a cou­ple of curl routes — the sec­ond re­sult­ing in a 23-yard catch — to help set up what turned into Moore’s first touch­down.

“Coach Bell said we were go­ing to run the same route three times in a row to the same side,” Moore re­called af­ter the game. “He told me to be ready for the dou­ble [move] and just go for it.”

With Mary­land ahead 17-7 and the ball at the FIU 45-yard line mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter, Moore faked the curl and got be­hind his de­fender.

Hills lofted a per­fect pass to his re­ceiver in stride to help ex­tend the lead to 24-7. Moore’s sec­ond touch­down was a short pass that he turned into a 40-yard catc­hand-run for the team’s fi­nal score late in the third quar­ter.

Moore also showed a lit­tle ver­sa­til­ity when Bell called on him on Mary­land’s first pos­ses­sion of the game.

Lin­ing up on the left side, Moore ran to his right, took a hand­off, stepped back and found Hills for the fifth-year se­nior quar­ter­back’s first ca­reer re­cep­tion. It was a play Moore had tried un­suc­cess­fully last sea­son in a loss at Michigan State.

“It was a lit­tle fun to get back there and throw the ball again,” Moore said.

If Moore seems more con­fi­dent and re­laxed this sea­son, it also might be the re­sult of what he and other of­fen­sive play­ers said has been a more straight­for­ward ap­proach by Bell.

“It got eas­ier be­cause the play calls got sim­pler for us,” Moore said.

The im­prove­ment in the sec­ondary, with the ad­di­tion of sopho­more JC Jack­son and the con­tin­ued pres­ence of se­nior all-Big Ten cor­ner­back Will Likely, has also helped. Moore said there is a friendly com­pe­ti­tion in prac­tice.

“All the cor­ners want to go against me, I want to go against them,” Moore said. “That’s some­thing we got bet­ter do­ing, when we go against Will, JC [Jack­son], Alvin [Hill] and all the DBs.”


Mary­land’s D.J. Moore scores a touch­down Fri­day night against Florida In­ter­na­tional. Moore fin­ished with six re­cep­tions for 147 yards, in­clud­ing touch­downs of 45 and 40 yards.

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