COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- In this day and age of the eccentric skill position player, particularly at the wideout position, D.J. Moore is an anomaly. He barely utters a word on the field, doesn’t say much more around his friends and talks even less around the media. Not that the fast-rising Maryland wideout is an introvert by any means. He just never saw the point in running his mouth, even as a much-ballyhooed recruit at Imhotep High (Philadelphia, Pa.) and now as a star sophomore in College Park.
“I just don’t like to talk much,” laughed Moore as reporters chided him for his typical short-winded answers. “In practice, [offensive coordinator Walt Bell] tells me something and I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll just do it.’ (laughs). Just going by my actions.”
Those actions most definitely do not include any sort of on-field eccentricities. Receivers are well-known for their creative touchdown dances, but Moore’s only ever flipped the ball to the back judge or hugged a teammate.
“I just kind of score, turn around, and OK, that’s it,” Moore deadpanned.
The Maryland staff isn’t about to advocate a Terrell Owens-esque display, but the coaches would like to see Moore come out of his shell (no pun intended). Just a bit more exercising of the vocal cords from time to time during practice would do.
“He’s a very level-headed kid. There are times in his life where I’d like to see him get out of his comfort zone, be it in practice and be it in terms of his leadership,” said Walt Bell, who uttered these words to the media with Moore in clear earshot in the back of the room. “He’s a guy who, as he matures, he’s going to be looked to for leadership. Me personally, I’d like to see that grow day in and day out.”
Moore said he’s trying to “embrace the role,” while teammates, from his fellow wideouts to quarterback Perry Hills, have mentioned they’ve heard the Philly native speak up more often this year.
For now, though, the Terps are content with Moore’s production. Through two games this season, the second-year has 10 receptions and is averaging 23 yards per catch. Last week, against FIU, he hauled in a career-high six balls for 147 yards, including a pair of 40-plus yard passes, both going for touchdowns in the 44-14 UMD victory. He’s well on his way to topping his freshman numbers, when Moore pulled down 25 receptions for 357 yards and three scores.
“That’s the first time I did this in college,” said Moore, referring to his standout six-reception, 147-yard game. “But I look forward to contributing even more going forward.
“It’s getting easier. The plays are getting simpler.”
Moore has proven he can do more than just make plays up top, underneath and after the catch, however. Against FIU, he ran a reverse before showing off his arm, hitting his quarterback, Hills, for a 21-yard pass. Immediately thereafter, Moore took another handoff and attempted to pick up yards as a pseudo-running back.
Apparently this was nothing new to the former four-star recruit.
“I did that in high school,” Moore said. “So it really wasn’t that big a deal. I was just happy to get the ball back in my hands.”
Moving forward, it’s likely Bell will attempt to get the ball in Moore’s hands as much as possible, as a receiver; runner; or maybe even as a thrower once again.
Of course, Moore would prefer the former to the latter two options.
“It’s fun to have trick plays,” Moore laughed. “But at the same time we just want to move the ball.”
Moore’s showed out without the ball in his hands too. His route running has become more precise, Moore executing higher-level patterns during the season’s first-two games. Plus, he’s become a potent blocker, sealing the edge for the likes of Ty Johnson and Trey Edmunds in the running game.
“Just knowing you’re going to help the team running the ball. Helping them get the yards they need for the team, that’s big,” Moore said.
It’s a testament to Moore’s feverish training regimen that he’s quickly improved his fundamentals during the course of one offseason. Not only did he work extensively with Hills to gain more of a chemistry with the starting quarterback, but Moore spent time before and after practice honing his footwork, hand placement and the like. Then, during practice, Moore credited cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Alvin Hill for challenging him to raise his game.
“Any time you take a guy who is talented and has ability, and mix it with great work ethic, you’re going to have a great player,” head coach D.J. Durkin said of Moore. “And that’s what I feel he is.”
Bell, for his part, said Moore has been “incredibly consistent” with his work ethic. The offensive coordinator couldn’t recall a day this year when Moore went less than 100 percent in workouts or practice.
“He’s a head down, yes sir type of kid. He’s a doer,” Bell said. “But there’s not a better kid I’ve coached. Whatever limitations he has physically, he’s more than going to be able to make up for it with how hard he works.”
Now, if Bell and Co. could just get Moore to talk . . .