Smooth Transition

Philander Moore isn't a natural wide receiver. His ability to catch a pass or run a route wasn't the reason major college coaches came calling last fall.

Rather, Moore was a standout kickoff and punt returner at Blinn Community College in Austin, Texas. He signed with Ole Miss in December, after setting a school record with six kickoffs returned for touchdowns in his final season. He was named an NJCAA All-American, and even earned All-Conference honors.

But as Ole Miss nears the end of spring practices -- which conclude with the annual Grove Bowl Saturday -- Moore is proving himself more than simply a return man.

"Boy, you can see him getting better at route-running and catching the ball. All the plays are coming to him now. He's gotten better," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. "He's always had natural hands. But he seems like he's gotten faster as it went along.

"He was out of shape when he got here. (Strength and conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker did a good job getting him in shape. And then you see him getting more confident now with the offense, you can move him around a bit."

Moore said the transition to wide receiver has been fairly easy.

"I enjoy running routes and I enjoy catching the ball. My dad used to always play catch with me when I was real little, so catching the ball is nothing to me," he said.

Philander Moore
Chuck Rounsaville
Ole Miss is thin at wide receiver, though its top two receivers statistically last season -- Melvin Harris and Ja-Mes Logan -- return. Harris and Logan combined for 59 catches in 2010-11. No other player currently on the roster managed more than nine.

The 5-foot-9, 192-pound Moore was brought in to make an immediate impact.

"At first, cause it's how recruiting is, they'll tell you anything you want to hear. But Coach Nutt and Coach (David) Lee, they're both straight-up guys, and they told me I could really come in and help. Ever since, that's what I've been doing," he said.

Moore said despite some new faces, chemistry has been developed amongst the wide receivers this spring.

"We all have that big brother, little brother role. The older guys take care of the younger guys. We play around, we joke around, we have a good time," Moore said. "We're a family as a receiver corps. Last year or the years before, that's what they had, that's what made them great. They had some kind of chemistry at wide receiver, and we're building that as we go along."

Still, inconsistency at the position -- drops, missed assignments, etc. -- has made Lee's evaluation of his quarterbacks difficult. Randall Mackey, Zack Stoudt and Barry Brunetti are vying to be the team's starter come August. Nathan Stanley left the team Wednesday.

Moore said all the quarterbacks are doing well. And the wide receivers now have better footing as the group looks towards next season.

"Coach Lee doesn't want to say that we have a starting quarterback, but all the quarterbacks are doing great, and they're all starting to learn the offense and the receivers are getting used to it," Moore said. "We're meshing as a group, as an offense. No matter who starts, no matter who he puts out there at quarterback or receiver, we've got tempo, we've got timing, we've got everything right."

OM Spirit Top Stories