A.J. Moore/Petre Thomas

Husky/Nickel Back A.J. Moore taking advantage of 'second chance'

After Tony Conner got hurt last year in the Alabama game, then-sophomore A.J. Moore got an opportunity to take over the critical Husky spot, but things didn't pan out that great for him. He didn't get discouraged - he just went back to work and now he is an important, productive piece of the Rebel defense.

Nobody expected iron man Tony Conner - one of the toughest players on the Rebel defense - to get injured in the third game of the year last season, but it happened.

Suddenly his backup, sophomore A.J. Moore, was thrust into the Husky spotlight as the Rebels prepared to take on Vanderbilt at home and then Florida on the road.

The Vandy game went OK for Moore. The Dores didn't have much of an offense, and even less of a passing attack, so nothing was "exposed." 

Not so much at Florida.

Moore had one of those nights only a relative could love. Yes, he had four tackles, and while he wasn't the only one who had a tough night on defense that night, Florida worked him over pretty good, enough so that the coaches opted to go with veteran Mike Hilton at Husky for the most part from that point on.

Fast forward to last Saturday. As a backup Husky and nickel back, Moore was second on the team in tackles against mighty Alabama with nine and he also had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage for a seven yard loss.

So how did he get from Gainesville's not-so-spiffy play to where he is now? He never got down on himself.

"I guess some people would lose their confidence, but that just made me stronger," said Moore, who is rarely without a smile on his face. "That showed me what I had to do, what I had to work on and improve and I went about doing that.

"It was a great learning experience for me and I just went to work."

All through spring, he still was not really breaking through, but during fall camp, the light switched on.

"I was determined to improve day by day, little by little and then it started to click," A.J. added. "Experience is so important with a position like Husky and any secondary position really. I'm finally comfortable back there with my assignments and I can turn loose and play."

For his improvement, he is getting more opportunity and he is producing. He has 14 tackles through three games and is the fifth-leading tackler on the squad even though he is not a starter.

"The more experience I get, the more confidence I get," he explained. "The more confidence I get, the more plays I am starting to make. The experience factor is the biggest difference in me from last year, but we also tackled more in fall camp than we did last year and that helped my tackling skills."

While Moore is finding his way, the defense has struggled against the offenses it has faced, especially on third down.

"It's all about communicating better. We were better against Alabama with our communication, but we have to get our eyes in the right places and make proper fits. It's all about focus. We have to be focused on our assignment on every single play. It's about executing and making every play as important as every other play," Moore stated. "We broke down too much in that our eyes were in the wrong places at times. We broke down against the run, especially defending their young quarterback. Our next opponent (Georgia) has a great running attack too, so that will be our focus - to get better stopping the run. We didn't get it done against Alabama."

The Rebel pass coverage was better against the Tide and Moore knows why.

"Since the Florida State game, our practice emphasis has been on pass coverage and being more aggressive. I think we are doing better there but we still have work to do," he closed. 

Tony Conner is back now, but he's feeling his way through the comeback trail, still healing from a bad knee injury. Redshirt freshman Montrell Custis is learning the ropes and is improving weekly.

In the middle is A.J. Moore, redeeming himself from not getting the job done like he had hoped a year ago.

So far, so good and that's why Rebel fans are seeing more of Moore.

OM Spirit Top Stories