Soon enough, D.J. Moore will be a household name in the B1G
CHICAGO — As media members flocked to podiums to talk to various B1G players and coaches, Maryland receiver D.J. Moore stood beside teammate Jermaine Carter Jr. and a team spokesperson.
Moore still had roughly 10-15 minutes left of his availability session at B1G Media Days, but with nobody at his podium, he figured he had been interviewed for the last time. After all, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State player representatives were in the same room.
Instead, I approached Moore and asked if he had a few minutes to talk. The Maryland spokesperson gave us space and said something as he was talking away.
“D.J. loves talking to the media,” he said sarcastically.
He was right. Moore’s not big on interviews. Unlike his fellow B1G player representatives, he wasn’t at media days because he was a well-spoken, media-savvy speaker.
Moore was there because he’s a rising star and the Terps want to get his name out there. They know that not everyone saw the dazzling catches he made in his first two seasons. The average college football fan doesn’t know that he already did things that past Maryland greats like Stefon Diggs and Torrey Smith did.
The sky is the limit for Moore, whether he gets proper attention or not.
Moore is the perfect “under-the-radar” candidate. He plays for a team that, let’s be honest, isn’t covered the same way B1G powers are. He doesn’t play a bunch of games in primetime. He’s still only a junior, and he hasn’t had that big 1,000-yard season. Yet.
After he finished with a team-high 637 receiving yards and six touchdowns — only two returning B1G receivers had more production last year — Moore wasn’t one of the 45 players named to the Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list.
Outside of College Park, you’d be hard-pressed to find much buzz about Moore.
“I like it,” Moore said, “but at the same time, I do want to be the best at my position at all times. Being under the radar just makes me go harder, no matter what I’m doing.”
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To clarify, Moore did get a little preseason love. He cracked the Paul Hornung Watch List, which is awarded to the most versatile player in the country. That’s because in addition to leading Maryland in receiving, Moore racked up a team-best 15 kickoff returns for 334 yards (22.3 average) after Will Likely went down.
Moore in the open field is a scary sight:
That’s actually sort of a rare play-call for Moore, who has been primarily used as a deep threat. At 5-11, he’s been Maryland’s deep-ball target the last two years.
Most of his highlight-reel catches are 50-50 plays like this:
His ball skills are next-level. He can make plays all over the field. He’s been a steady target each of the last two seasons. He has a streak of 21 straight games with a catch, which is the longest by a Terp since Smith in 2010. Moore’s nine receiving touchdowns in his first two seasons seasons are tied with Diggs, Jermaine Lewis and Dan Bungori for the most ever by a Maryland player.
So why is Moore only a preseason third-team All-B1G pick?
While part of that could be his quiet personality, a bigger part of that is his quarterback situation. With Perry Hills under center, the Terps ranked 106th in passing yards per game and averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt in 2016. The year before, Maryland threw more interceptions than anyone in college football.
Getting the ball downfield and not turning the ball over has been a major point of emphasis for the Terps offense.
“Once we get those two things down pat,” Moore said, “the offense will be running smoothly and flowing real fast like we want it to be.”
Moore still doesn’t quite know who will be throwing him passes, but there’s reason for optimism. UNC transfer and former four-star recruit Caleb Henderson might be the favorite to win the job. There’s also buzz about true freshman Kasim Hill, who earned Under Armour All-America honors last year.
According to Moore, it’s a true battle between those two, Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager. Whoever wins the job will have the support of the locker room.
“And we’re gonna ride with him,” Moore said.
If the quarterback position is solidified, there’s plenty of room for Moore’s production to improve in his second year in Walt Bell’s offense. And if Maryland can get Moore the ball in space even more, he can take care of the rest.
Those Terps have some shifty moves out there. pic.twitter.com/yrbPYsOjbs
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 18, 2017
But there’s another reason why Moore’s volume was limited in 2016 (he only had 41 catches in 13 games).
Maryland’s backfield is loaded with weapons.
The Terps return 1,000-yard rusher Ty Johnson (9.1 ypc) and Lorenzo Harrison III (7.2 ypc), and they added blue-chip recruit Anthony McFarland. Like Moore, they aren’t getting enough preseason attention.
“They probably do sleep on them,” Moore said. “But knowing who we have back there, it can be an explosive play at any time.”
The Terps will need all the explosiveness they can get in 2017. In addition to a brutal B1G East schedule, Maryland has a season-opening showdown at Texas and crossover draws against preseason West favorites Wisconsin and Northwestern.
In other words, there are no shortage of quality opponents for Moore to prove himself against. A few big games against the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State could make Moore a household name in the B1G. At the very least, it should prevent future interactions like the one I had with him in Chicago.
After I finished talking with Moore and began walking away, an unnamed media member stopped and asked me a question.
“Who was that?”
“The guy I was talking to?” I told the reporter. “That was D.J. Moore, the Maryland receiver.”
I realized that the reporter couldn’t identify Moore because he was away from his podium, which was where his name tag was. Something tells me that Moore will be back in Chicago for B1G Media Days at the same time next year.
By then, he won’t need a name tag.