Aided Path

Both on and off the field, Philander Moore has come a long way since his days at Blinn (Texas) Community College.

But he didn't get this far alone.

Moore often found trouble at Blinn. He couldn't keep his nose clean. He needed guidance, because he wasn't putting enough into football.

One of his teammates, some kid named Cam Newton, stepped in and took Moore under his wing.

"He taught me, like, stuff about life and about football," Moore said. "He showed me that the game, you only get what you put into the game, really."

Newton, of course, left Blinn for Auburn, eventually leading the Tigers to a national championship in 2010-11, his only season. Newton was awarded the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation's best player. He was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Moore, meanwhile, has since moved on to Ole Miss. And he is markedly different. He enrolled in January and participated in spring practices, where he quickly established himself as a potential play-maker for a developing offense.

"There's a big difference, coming into an SEC school," Moore said. "But at the same time, my junior college, we were the best junior college in the nation. Hands down. They wanted nothing but excellence, (Ole Miss) wants nothing but excellence. I'm just taking my step further every day. That's really what it is. The expectation level hasn't changed at all."

Philander Moore
Chuck Rounsaville
"Every day at practice, I think about what (Newton) told me," he added. "I do every rep and do everything my 100 percent, that way when I play the game, it gives it back to me."

If spring was any indication, Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt plans to use Moore in a variety of different roles this season.

He played four positions -- outside receiver, inside receiver, running back and return man -- at different times in the team's 15 allotted practices.

"Coming into a new system and new coaches and new environment, you've got to earn some respect and confidence in your teammates," he said.

"As spring went on, I got more confidence in them and they got more confidence in me. I'm real comfortable in the offense."

He currently weighs in at 5-foot-9 and 192 pounds, and his goal this off-season is to improve on his flexibility. Or, put simply, to touch his toes.

"Coming in here, I was never able to touch my toes," Moore said. "The thing is, I have all the body weight and the potential to be at what speed I want to be at. But you can't necessarily get there without flexibility. You have to flexible in order to be fast. That's where it comes from."

Like Newton, albeit to a lesser extent, Ole Miss' primary candidates for its starter at quarterback, Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti, are of the dual-threat variety. When asked, Moore said he would have to go with Mackey right now.

"Those two, they're the same kind of quarterback," he said. "They can both run, they can both throw. I really couldn't tell you. I like ‘em both. They both throw the ball, they both make good decisions. It's going to come down to who wants it more."

There is also the possibility that both quarterbacks could play, as well as third contender Zack Stoudt, a junior college transfer.

Ole Miss opened last season against Jacksonville State with Nathan Stanley and Jeremiah Masoli splitting time, though Stanley was the starter. However, Masoli eventually took over the job two games later at Tulane. Stanley never started again. He transferred in April.

"You've seen plenty of championship teams, in the SEC anyway, have two quarterbacks," Moore said. "Florida, they had Chris Leak and Tim Tebow, and they made it to the National Championship.

"I have chemistry with both of them. I don't need (just) one. If all of them can play, they can all play. That's coach's thinking, that's the team's thinking. We're a team. It doesn't matter who goes in there, we'll get the job done."

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