Moore Back With Starting Unit

FAYETTEVILLE -- Clarke Moore said he felt like a freshman during Arkansas' 49-17 win against Missouri State last Saturday, but it had nothing to do with the pregame jitters that typically personify a newcomer.

Moore was talking about his health, which has been affected by knee and leg injuries the past two seasons.

"Last Saturday was probably the best I've felt since my redshirt freshman year," said Moore, who recorded 61 tackles and 6 starts in 2002. "I felt really light. I felt great. My body was 100 percent.

"When I got out there I was really surprised at how easily things came to me."

A trimmer, healthier Moore recorded four tackles, two for losses, in the opener and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring promoted him after the performance. Now, the Van Buren native is slated to start between Pierre Brown and Sam Olajubutu at middle linebacker in tonight's Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt.

"He's worked hard," said coach Houston Nutt. "He's earned it. He's running good and he's making more plays right now."

It's a big step for Moore, who hasn't provided much punch since breaking his leg against North Texas in 2003.

He recorded 29 tackles last season, but felt a step slow because of an aching knee and 10 extra pounds. Moore was bumped from the starting lineup after three games by Olajubutu and watched his playing time dwindle to almost nothing late in the year.

"Out there, when you have a knee problem, it takes a lot out of your game," Moore said. "You've got to go sideline to sideline, make cuts, take on blockers, get off blockers. Having a problem with your knee can hinder you pretty good."

Moore underwent athroscopic surgery last winter to correct the problem and missed most of Arkansas' winter conditioning drills. But he also landed in coach Nutt's doghouse after being arrested for driving while intoxicated in March.

Moore said dealing with the embarrassment after his arrest was difficult.

So was Herring's decision to move him to defensive end during spring practices.

Moore was fourth on the post-spring depth chart and wasn't sure if he'd factor into the mix for playing time this season.

"At first, I was kind of like, 'Man, they're leaving me out of this a little bit,'" Moore said. "But when summer started, I said, 'Hey, I've still got something else to prove whether its at defensive end or whatever.' I just knew I had to get my body to where it needed to be physically, to where my knee could handle it and my speed was top notch and my quickness was top notch. That's what I did.

"I just went to work this summer and I had that chip on my shoulder."

Moore lost 10 pounds and was determined to make an impact under position coach Tracy Rocker's tutelage. He proved to be a quick study and pushed redshirt freshman Zach Snider for the second-team role after the second week of preseason camp. But Herring grew uncomfortable with Arkansas' depth at linebacker and decided to slide Moore back to his familiar spot three weeks ago.

Moore has replaced redshirt freshman Weston Dacus with the first team in practice this week. Herring said both players will continue to earn playing time, but the Hogs are hoping Moore will become the solid performer they've been missing.

"We feel like he helps the team a lot at linebacker," Brown said. "I think he's more comfortable playing linebacker. You might see a different pep in his step.

"But it's nice to see that he can help the team."

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