It’s been a coming-of-age summer for Dre Moore and Travis Ivey, two wildcard components of a defensive tackle corps the Maryland coaching staff quietly believes has great promise. For Moore and Ivey, it was a summer of growth both personal and physical, ushered along by Maryland assistant strength and conditioning coach Corliss Fingers.
The two 300-plus pound defensive tackles became a pet project for her this summer, and the result, while incomplete, appears to be an unbridled success. Start with Moore, a likely starter at defensive tackle. He’s streamlined his footwork and re-worked his attitude, which the coaching staff believes has been the only thing holding him back from being an all-conference caliber player.
The only question about Moore, coaches said, has been his mindset, whether or not he’ll ever start playing with a full motor all of the time.
“He had to step up and be a leader. He always wanted to follow somebody else, but being a leader has helped him grow,” said Fingers, who admits it required some time to get through to the Charlotte, N.C., native, who picked up football in the 11th grade.
“His view of weight loss was along the lines of, ‘I’m not a D.B. [defensive back],” she says. “He would bully people, but it didn’t work with me … I’m not easily intimidated.”
Before this summer, Moore, a 6-foot-4, 312-pound junior who’s bench-pressed almost 500 pounds and set the all-time record for UM defensive lineman with a 365-pound clean, was never much for having someone else’s will imposed upon him.
A snapshot of his resistance: On June 9, Moore’s birthday, his teammates began in on their custom of holding down the birthday boy and somewhat playfully getting in their birthday licks. But Moore wasn’t having it.
“It took all the guys that were here,” Finger recalls, “and they still couldn’t get him down.”
He decided early in the summer to finally let his guard down with Fingers, and the two of them worked together day-in, day-out. While he still has work left to do, she says, he’s come a long way.
“It’s been a maturing process for him,” defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo says. “I think he’s starting to put it all together now. I see that look in his eye. He knows it’s time to step up.”
Says Moore, who started the last three games of last season: “I see it as my breakout year. I did a lot of extra work over the summer.
“I dropped weight, did a lot of footwork drills, ran hard, and I feel like I’ve waited my time and been patient and now is my time to do what I’m capable of doing. There’s no more excuses to be made.”
Ivey, similarly, came to Maryland as a fixer-upper project, so to speak. He’d played two years of football at Riverdale Baptist, a private school in Upper Marlboro with a small, nondescript football program. He’d transferred there from DeMatha, where he’d been a touted young basketball player who never got in good enough shape.
“He was just eating whatever his mom put in front of him,” Fingers says. “He liked a lot of late-night snacks and pastas and sweets and breads.”
Still, he had an enormous frame at 6-4 and 330 pounds, and was athletic for his size. But he was a novice on the field, which was apparent by the amount of time the fiery Sollazzo spent in his ear during practices last season.
“This time last year, I wasn’t even in practice. I was doing up-and-downs all practice,” says Ivey, who will backup all-ACC candidate Conrad Bolston, a senior. “It took for me to mature as a person, as a young man, as a player, to take coaching from him. It’s all been downhill so far. He doesn’t say much to me, because I get the job done.”
Sollazzo can thank Fingers, in her 12th year assisting head strength coach Dwight Galt, for that. She completely renovated his diet, at times commandeering packs of peanut butter crackers from him and cutting all sweets in an effort to shock his system. Ivey, who had blown off similar advice from star tight end Vernon Davis a year earlier, butted heads with her many times before succumbing to the change.
No matter how long the players had worked out outside, he was to come inside and spend 20 minutes with her. Every. Single. Day. She accepted no excuses.
“I had to break him down physically and mentally,” she explains.
“A lot of times, people say you go on a diet. It’s not even a diet; It’s a lifestyle change. When you’re an athlete, you’re supposed to eat a certain way,” says Ivey, who has lost more than 20 pounds and cut his body fat in half from about 20 percent last year.
“When I saw the results, I just took it and ran with it and it was easy to do.”
It appears Moore and Bolston will start in the middle, backed by junior run-stuffer Carlos Feliciano, Ivey and converted end Omarr Savage. With mammoth junior Rob Armstong a likely academic casualty, it’s a thin but promising corps.
“The defensive line, I’ve been very impressed with,” head coach Ralph Friedgen says. “I think Conrad Bolston’s playing well, I think Dre Moore is playing extremely well right now. I see Omarr Savage doing good things, of course [end] Jeremy Navarre’s doing good things [and] Travis Ivey’s a guy I really see coming up.”
“The defensive line had a great summer. I felt like they worked and trained very, very hard this summer,” he says, “and they developed pride.”