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Maryland's DJ Moore quietly developing into one of Big Ten's top receivers

As his name keeps moving up the career lists for a Maryland wide receiver, little changes around junior DJ Moore. A player with many moves on the field, he is a man of few words off it.

Put it this way: To get an accurate assessment of what Moore has done to become the Big Ten’s top receiver through his first four games this season, it might be best to ask someone else about him.

Ask Walt Bell, and Maryland’s 33-year-old offensive coordinator will make reference to Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon, who played at Oklahoma State when Bell was a graduate assistant there.

“He’s as good as I’ve been around,” Bell said Wednesday of Moore. “I didn’t recruit any of them, but I’ve been really fortunate to be around some really good ones. … He’s as good as any of those guys.”

Maybe better in another way.

“More importantly than that, he’s as good a human being as I’ve ever been around, from the way he works to the way he acts to the way he lifts to the way he studies," Bell said. “He is first class. All the good things that happen to him and anytime anyone brags on him, it’s awesome. Because he deserves all of it.”

Moore goes into Saturday’s game at 10th-ranked Ohio State leading the Big Ten in nearly every statistical category for a receiver: total receptions (30), touchdown receptions (5), reception yardage (403), receiving yards per game (100.8) and receptions per game (7.5).

Moore’s five touchdown catches leads by one over seven Big Ten players. Playing one fewer game, Moore’s total receptions leads Penn State running back Saquan Barkley by three.

It is a testament to Moore that he has done it with three quarterbacks, and that the Terps are relying more on their running game since sophomore Max Bortenschlager took over after freshman Kasim Hill followed sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome to the sideline with a torn ACL.

“There’s some great receivers in this league, and there are guys that may catch more balls, and the only reason he hasn’t caught more balls is that we’re not throwing it a ton right now going on our third quarterback,” Bell said.

Bell said that covering the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Moore is like “Where’s Waldo?” given the way the Terps use him and his ability to be a possession receiver, a deep threat and even a running back, as evidenced by his 21-yard touchdown on a jet sweep against Towson.

“What makes him special is that he can do anything,” Bell said. “He’s not just a post takeoff guy. He’s not a win-at-the-rim-but-I-don’t-block-anybody-guy. You can really do anything with that guy.

“If we lost Ty [Johnson] and [Lorenzo Harrison III] and we didn’t have the great young backs that we have, the guy probably, legitimately — like he does in practice for us — can just run inside and outside zone and be a 100-yard-a-game tailback.”

Moore doesn’t seem to know or care about his accomplishments, with his 14 career touchdown catches tying him for fourth place with former star Stefon Diggs among all Maryland receivers. Moore has 11 in his past 16 games.

With catches in 25 straight games since starting college career, Moore trails only another former Maryland star, Torrey Smith, who caught passes in 30 straight during his career. Moore has at least seven catches in each game this year after never having more than six.

“You can say I’m in a groove,” Moore said Wednesday. “It just comes with practice and timing with the quarterbacks. It just builds throughout practice and throughout the week.”

Moore won’t go as far as to say that he is impossible to cover, knowing how the Buckeyes shut him down in last year’s 62-3 win over the Terps at Maryland Stadium. As a freshman, Moore caught a 52-yard touchdown in a 49-28 loss at Ohio Stadium.

While acknowledging that he has become tougher to cover with experience, Moore said he isn’t out to prove anything against the Buckeyes or try to beat them single-handedly.

“Just stay with the game plan,” Moore said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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