Terps' freshman WR D.J. Moore emerges as spark on offense

Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore (1) tries to break free from Indiana defensive back Jameel Cook Jr. as he rushes the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in College Park, Md.
Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore (1) tries to break free from Indiana defensive back Jameel Cook Jr. as he rushes the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in College Park, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

During his standout high school career at Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia, Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore grew accustomed to playing into late November and early December.

The final game of his senior season last fall was on Thanksgiving. In his junior year, Imhotep Charter played two games in December.


So with Maryland gearing up for its season finale at Rutgers on Saturday, Moore isn't in uncharted territory 11 games into his freshman year. But there is one new thing for Moore this week as the Terps go through their usual preparation despite the holiday.

"Yeah, my first Thanksgiving away from my family," Moore said Tuesday. "My mom said she was going to come down, so that should be good."


Despite his youth, Moore has emerged as a spark for Maryland. He has a catch in 10 of 11 games, and he's been a starter since the third game of the season. On a team that lost the majority of its receiving production from last season, Moore ranks tied for first in touchdown catches (three), second in catches (21) and second in yards (308).

Because Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Marcus Leak, Juwann Winfree, and Jacquille Veii left the program for motives ranging from declaring for the NFL draft to transferring to personal reasons, Moore knew there was going to be a void for him to help fill when he arrived in College Park.

In his debut against Richmond, he had two catches for 23 yards. A week later, he had a 42-yard touchdown catch against Bowling Green. Moore's career had taken off, and he has since experienced starting in hostile environments such as West Virginia, Ohio State and Michigan State. On the larger stage, the most significant change he had to make was reacting to what was in front of him during the game.

"The biggest adjustment was reading coverages on the run," Moore said. "That was like a new thing I had to learn to do."

Moore is a former four-star recruit who had 29 touchdown catches in his final two years of high school, and that nose for the end zone has translated to college with a trio of long scores. His touchdowns have come on catches of 42, 52 and 40 yards, and each has come in a big spot.

His score against Bowling Green put Maryland ahead 20-13. He gave Maryland a surprising 7-0 lead at Ohio State less than five minutes into the game with his 52-yarder. His tightrope act down the sideline in the final minute of the first half against Wisconsin tied the score.

This weekend at Rutgers, his tendency to get open and find the end zone could pay off against the Big Ten Conference's 12th-ranked pass defense as Maryland tries to end an eight-game losing streak.

"Just end the season with a win to send our seniors out happy," Moore said. "That's our main goal, just to get a win and make sure our seniors have a good memory of winning."

Moore has carved out a place with the Terps and looks likely to be a major contributor in the future. He's asserted himself in the offense and provided a reliable target, no matter which Maryland quarterback is in the game.

Moore has been just one part of a solid freshman class for Maryland this fall. Tight end Avery Edwards scored two touchdowns in a win over South Florida, and running back Ty Johnson scored in the season opener. Wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport joined Moore on the depth chart this week as redshirt junior Levern Jacobs' backup at slot receiver.

"Those guys pick things up pretty quickly," interim coach Mike Locksley said earlier this season. "They've been productive in practice, which leads you to believe they'll have that type of success when given the opportunities in games. I've been pleased with all those guys ... and expect them to get better."

Moore has seen his own growth and advancement, too. He has made plays at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and held his own in some of the country's toughest venues.


"I looked back on it," Moore said. "At the beginning, I progressed a lot from where I'm at now. I was happy with that positive outcome."



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