Whether or not the sting of a disappointing 4-8 season has started to wear off for Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore, the magnitude of what he accomplished the past few months is beginning to seep in.
It has been reinforced the past two days, when Moore’s season that included a school-record 80 catches for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns was recognized twice by the Big Ten Conference.
A day after being named to the All-Big Ten first team, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound junior from Philadelphia was named Thursday as the league’s Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year.
As is his understated nature, Moore did not get caught up in the individual accolade as the first Maryland receiver to be named first-team all-conference since Torrey Smith did it in the Atlantic Coast Conference seven years ago.
To be Receiver of the Year in the Big Ten was like a surprise. It just boosted my confidence on my ability level.
Maryland's DJ Moore
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“I was happy when I found out,” Moore said in an interview Thursday at Maryland Stadium. "I really don’t get too excited, because I’m still humble at the same time. I never get too high or too low about anything.”
Not that Moore didn’t think about reaching his current status when he came to Maryland from Imhotep Charter School three years ago.
“When I first started [at Maryland], that was a goal of mine to be All-Big Ten,” Moore said. “Just to be Receiver of the Year in the Big Ten was like a surprise. It just boosted my confidence on my ability level.”
Moore, who led the Big Ten in receptions and receiving yards and finished tied for fourth in touchdown catches, became only the third Maryland receiver in history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, joining Marcus Badgett (1,230 in 1992) and Smith (1,055 in 2010).
Despite the Terps losing their top two quarterbacks in the first nine quarters of the season, and playing five overall, Moore broke Geroy Simon’s 23-year-old school record of 77 catches, eclipsing the mark by catching eight passes for 100 yards in a 66-3 loss to Penn State on Saturday.
Asked what about Walt Bell’s offense has helped him become so productive despite the revolving door at quarterback, Moore said: “Anyone can make an explosive play at any point in the game. Just all the play calls are set up for someone to make a big play, whether it’s a 6-yard gain or a touchdown, somebody’s going to make a play, no matter what.”
Moore has certainly made his share of big plays throughout his Maryland career.
It started with a 42-yard touchdown catch against Bowling Green in his second game as a true freshman and a 52-yard touchdown catch a few weeks later at Ohio State. Moore finished with 25 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns.
As a sophomore, Moore’s year of catching 41 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns was highlighted by a 92-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown at Nebraska.
There were no shortage of big plays from Moore this season.
He started the year with a 20-yard touchdown from sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome early in Maryland’s season-opening win at Texas and, after Pigrome suffered a season-ending ACL tear, caught a 40-yard pass from freshman Kasim Hill, who later scored on a 3-yard run.
Moore would become only the fifth receiver in school history to reach 200 yards in receptions in a single game when he caught 12 passes for 210 yards against Northwestern, including a 52-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that was the receiver’s favorite this season.
Despite the changes in quarterbacks, Moore never wavered in his support of whoever was playing the position, even sophomore walk-on Ryan Brand for a game against Michigan while sophomore Max Bortenschlager was held out because of an injury.
“Looking back on it, I probably would have had some more catches,” said Moore, the first receiver at a Power 5 conference to have over 1,000 yards for a team playing with a quarterback to throw for fewer than 1,500 yards since North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks in 2008. “It would have been about the same because they [Pigrome or Hill] would have had designated runs.”
Said Bell: “If we’re healthy and at full strength, not only do we have a chance to be a better football team, but specifically for DJ … he could have had an all-time type year as opposed to an 80-catch year.”
As he said often throughout the season, Moore’s ability to get open was affected by what was happening at quarterback.
“It kind of goes twofold — not only did you go through the amount of quarterbacks that will limit how many times you throw it, it’s going to limit the throw game period in terms of scheme and how much you can really do. and that’s going to take catches away from him,” Bell said.
“Number two, when you lose a portion of your run game when you know that’s what we’re built to do, it creates a lot more disadvantage situations, a lot more man-to-man coverage, some double-team stuff on normal downs.”
Moore, who is within four touchdown catches of tying Jermaine Lewis’ all time mark of 21, said he would meet with coach DJ Durkin and other members of the staff before deciding whether to return for his senior year or enter the NFL draft.
Nothing has changed in the past few days.
“Just going to have a sit-down with Coach Durkin and my position coach [Chris Beatty] and the rest of the staff,” Moore said. “It’s not planned out, but the decision is going to come soon.
Said Bell: “He’s a kid who’s mature enough to make the right decision for him and his family. If that means he’s back here, that’s awesome for us, we’d love to have him. … They’ll make the right choice.”