Terps' Moten Makes Meteoric Rise to Starter
The linebacker core was expected to be the deepest unit on the team. But Alex Wujciak, who was expected to compete for the starting spot at MIKE, moved to LEO at the beginning of camp and tore his ACL a week in. Chase Bullock, the expected starter at the position, suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago and his back-up, Dave Philistin, pulled a hamstring last week.
So it was up to Moten because there was, simply, nobody left. "I was the next one in line," he said. "It was like, hey, bust my butt, and that's what I've been doing. I think when they went down, it was time to shine."
Moten played SAM through his red-shirt year and the first week of camp, challenging Moise Fokou for the starting spot there. The switch was made to MIKE during the second week of camp and Moten was forced to almost start from scratch.
The MIKE linebacker is an inside position requiring more size and strength. Moten, at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, is anywhere from 10 to 25 pounds lighter than anyone else at the position. It also requires him to take on different assignments, including an increased role shedding the blocks of offensive linemen. No longer is he keeping outside containment or setting the edge, he is among the big boys in the middle.
And he hasn't missed a beat.
"He has a lot of football instincts," head coach Ralph Friedgen said. "A lot of things come very easy for him. He's a very intelligent football player. He learns football very well."
"I don't know what it is about me," said Moten, a red-shirt freshman from Suitland. "A lot of guys say I'm a smart guy because it's hard to switch from SAM to MIKE because they're two totally different positions. I just caught on to it."
"Caught on" might be an understatement. Moten has thrived at the position, recording 11 tackles in a scrimmage last Thursday. He's a natural football player that can pick up new positions quickly, similar to Wujciak, Friedgen said.
Moten had plenty of experience playing all over the field in high school. At about 195 pounds at Gwynn Park, Moten played in the secondary as well as at linebacker. He was versatile, but size concerns led Friedgen to question where he would fit in college.
"When we recruited the kid, I was worried if he was going to be big enough," Friedgen said. "I watched tape of him and he was just all over the place. But I didn't know where he would be."
Friedgen had the recommendation of Gwynn Park head coach Danny Hayes, who told him "he was one of the best football players he's ever coached," Friedgen recounts. Moten committed to Maryland the July after his junior year.
His decision to come to College Park bucked the trend at the time. Many top prospects from the area—some his friends—opted to go north to central Pennsylvania. Moten was at the ESPNZone in Baltimore when Antonio Logan-El and teammate Phillip Taylor committed to Penn State. Five others from Maryland joined them in Happy Valley.
Moten never felt the pressure to join them, though.
"It's a big family here. I came from Gwynn Park where we were nothing but a big old family. Another thing is that its home. There's nothing better than home," he said.
Moten may have found a home at SAM too. Bullock and Philistin are expected to return soon and it remains to be seen how the depth chart will shake out. One thing that's certain—Moten isn't going anywhere.
"I've been here all summer, I've been here all spring and all winter. I haven't taken a break yet," he said. "I've been fighting trying to get a starting spot and that's what I'm here for. I don't want to be a backup guy my whole career."
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