Wide receiver Moore showing that he’s ready for prime time
Sophomore draws praise from Durkin after career performance against FIU
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.