Illinois has been actively recruiting the state of South Carolina since outside linebackers coach Ron West was hired. West has his eye on junior defensive tackle Devontay Moore, who shows no shortage of heart when he's on the football field.
"I try to take it one play at a time. I just put my all into it. Whatever I'm going through, I let it all out on the field."
Moore isn't the biggest defensive tackle out there, but he uses his explosiveness and strength to make up for it.
"I fight off the ball quickly. I have good hands, good footwork, and a good motor. And I'm strong. My most important principle is trying to knock people off balance as soon as I first hit them."
Moore played both linebacker and defensive end as he progressed toward a more fixed role on the inside. He realizes two aspects of tackle play he needs to improve.
"I would like to get my hands working a little bit better, and get my footwork better. My coach always tells me my footwork and hand placement can always be better."
Moore has no problem assuming the underdog role. After all, he's just 6'-1" tall and 260 pounds right now.
"I think everybody overlooks me because of my height, but the thing is, how I feel about it, if you can play, you can play."
Moore's teammate and Clemson commit Ronald Geohaghan serves as a mentor and motivator to Moore and the rest of the Allendale-Fairfax defense. Moore knows they'll need their leader, especially when they play against a rival that produced current Illini Zeph Grimes.
"This year with Ronnie and everybody else, when Ronnie gets fired up, it rubs off on everyone else. We're going to have a pretty good season this year. The only tough game we'll probably have is our rival Bamberg-Ehrhardt. We have a nice leading senior class this year. It's a good group."
The rivalry between Allendale-Fairfax and Bamberg-Ehrhardt has also brought about a relationship between Moore and Bamberg defensive tackle David Deleon. Moore says the two are similar in a lot of ways.
"Yeah, I know almost all of them, especially David Deleon. We have a nice little friendship. Last year we lined up against each other almost every play. I kind of compare myself to him. At first he was real small, then he got big really fast. I did the same exact thing."
At the rate he's putting on muscle and weight, getting to Division One size should be no problem for him."My freshman year I was about 190 pounds. Coming into my sophomore year, I was there too. But then I started gaining weight my sophomore year. I'll be able to keep my playing weight and not be too overweight so I can play to my potential. I guess about 270 or 275 would be good."
And that weight isn't empty mass either. Part of the reason Moore is so effective is because of his strength. He combines a powerful lower body with an explosive upper body.
Right now, I'm squatting about 575 and benching about 375. My strength is really working for me. I had a little arm injury before the season, and my coach wanted to make sure I healed well. After that he unleashed me.
And that's when Moore went to work. In his most recent game, he had 17 tackles including 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Prior to that game, Moore had collected 5 sacks in just two games.
As for schools he's been hearing from already, Illinois was one of the first he mentioned. Still, he's awaiting that first offer.
"Illinois, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, UCLA, Stanford, Nebraska and Notre Dame. So far no offers yet."
It will be a huge relief to get that first offer. He's driven to play at the college level and is ready to put in whatever work is necessary to achieve his goal.
"I just really want to play football on the next level. Wherever I get my opportunity, I'll take advantage of it. I guess I can't really get a grasp on having to decide until I am in that situation."
Moore hasn't been traveling a whole lot for visits, but he has gotten around to a couple of camps and combines so far.
"I've just been to camps so far. I went to Clemson's camp for a couple years. The rest have just been combines."
A couple of weeks ago, Moore saw someone he hadn't seen for about a year in his coach's office. Illinois coach Ron West dropped by Allendale-Fairfax to check in, and while he was there, Moore got a chance to meet him.
"That was the first time we ever talked since the last time he was at school. It kind of caught me off guard. Coach West was in my coach's office, and he introduced himself and gave me some information and said to call.
"He was talking about how the season was going so far and was asking if my coach had moved me to defensive tackle yet. We just talked about the team and everything. I'm planning to keep calling Coach West and have some good conversation with him."
Geohaghan's advice for Moore extends beyond the field of play. Having gone through much of the recruiting process himself, Geohaghan can offer Moore encouragement and advice as he is just now starting his journey.
"Ronnie tells me every day to not get discouraged and stick around. He tells me that my name will get called sooner or later. He tells me to be grateful for what you do get in recruiting instead of worrying about what you don't get."
So while he's waiting on that first offer to come in, Moore's plan is simple.
"I'm just going to keep hitting the weight room hard and keep working hard."