In the Film Room: Byron Moore

With the departure of David Bruton the free safety position at Notre Dame has been left thin. Last year the Irish signed a good one in Dan McCarthy and this year E.J. Banks has the potential to be a safety. But Banks also could be a cornerback, which would leave just McCarthy manning the free safety position in the younger classes. More depth is needed.

If the Irish were fortunate enough to land Byron Moore they'd be getting much more than a player to provide depth. They'd be adding one of the nation's top free safety prospects, and an athlete who was a playmaker at wide receiver, returned kicks, and often lined up at cornerback in high school. It would also be another big time California player the Irish have taken away from the might Southern California Trojans. Moore would be a huge addition.

Moore doesn't have what many call the "prototype" height for a rangy free safety, but listed anywhere from 6-foot to 6-foot-1 he has enough height. He is taller or as tall as the two best free safeties that I saw over the last ten years in Ed Reed (6-foot) from Miami, Fla. and Laron Landry (5-foot-11) from LSU. The 190 pound Moore is a lean athlete and reminds me of David Bruton coming out of high school in this regard. Moore also has long arms, which affords him a bit more reach and range when breaking on passes. He will need to continue to develop his body, get stronger, and especially improve his lower body strength. His frame is such that quite a bit of additional strength and size are possible.

Moore shows good speed but is more quick than fast at this point. The Narbonne High standout has very quick feet. This allows him to quickly plant and turn or plant and drive on the football or a receiver. At times Moore will let his feet get wide and will have to keep his feet underneath him when turning. Moore is also a very smooth runner and shows fluid hips. He's quick and smooth in his backpedal and quickly breaks out of his backpedal and into his zone or to a football or receiver that threatens his zone. I like his balance, which you see more as a wide receiver and kick returner. Moore doesn't have a great vertical but shows good timing and quick jumping ability that allows him to break up passes at the highest point possible. As a wide receiver Moore was a big playmaker who averaged 19.7 yards per catch over the last two seasons on his 81 receptions.

Moore combines excellent instincts with his athleticism, which makes him dangerous as a defensive back. During his junior and senior season Moore rotated between free safety and cornerback. As a free safety he showed those excellent instincts and reads quarterbacks very well. He is quick to recognize what is going on and breaks quickly on routes and the football. Moore's closing speed is very good, and his quickness and fluid hips allow him to show excellent range, as does the fact he has a nice late burst to the football.

Moore gets off the hash quickly in reaction to receivers or thrown passes. He showed good hands as both a wide receiver and safety and catches the ball high. During the past two seasons the senior prospecte broke up over 20 passes and picked off 8 passes. He's a playmaker on defense as well. At this point Moore is a much better cover player off the ball than he is in press situations. He uses his size and instincts to break on throws in front of him. He is quite physical, and once he engages receivers, he uses his size to knock them off track. Moore's one weakness in man coverage is that he is susceptible to double moves. Moore will need to learn to read the body (hips and/or feet) of the receivers rather than reading their eyes and upper body. Once he does this he'll be able to read the routes much better and not get beat on the double moves.

Moore will need a lot of work with the press. He doesn't use his hands well at this point, doesn't use his strength, and lunges far too often. He has the size and agility to be effective pressing, but he needs technique work. But as I mentioned, athletically Moore has the ability to play cornerback. As a safety covering slot receivers and tight ends I see Moore being able to dominate in coverage.

If there is one weakness in Moore's game it is as a tackler. The effort is there but he needs a lot of work. One aspect I like is that Moore does play low and goes low. It's not cheap shot low, or afraid to tackle low, but he goes low to the knees and thighs, which is what you want to see. He also does a nice job attacking the ball carrier, coming to balance, and putting himself in position to make the tackle.

Where he struggles is that he doesn't drive his body through ball carriers and often ends up trying to arm tackle. The reason is that once he does square up the ball carrier he'll sort of fade back on his heels rather than be up and ready to explode through the ball carrier. Once again he doesn't lack the physical ability or effort, he simply needs to improve his technique. Moore is solid taking on blockers, and I love that as he engages blockers he keeps his eyes downfield trying to find the ball carrier. He uses his hands well and with additional strength will be even better at shedding blockers.

Byron Moore is a true dual threat free safety prospect. He is a very good athlete, he shows excellent zone instincts, great ball skills, and has potential to be an outstanding man coverage safety. He shows good effort in the run game, and with increased strength and technique, he has a chance to truly be a dominant safety at the next level. It seems Moore is down to Colorado and Notre Dame. The fact that he was wanted by teams like USC and LSU shows the kind of talent Moore possesses. He'd be an excellent addition to the Notre Dame backfield and would provide depth, a talent upgrade, and one more outstanding West Coast prospect, something the Irish don't have much of in their secondary.


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