Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore doesn’t talk much. His football coaches won’t usually hear much more from him than “yes sir” or “no sir.” When he scores, he just turns around and celebrates with his teammates.
But the sophomore’s game demands attention. Moore is quickly coming on as the Terps’ premier wideout. He caught six balls for 147 yards against Florida International on Friday, including touchdowns of 45 and 40 yards. Through two games, Moore’s 10 receptions, 184 yards and two scores are all tops on the team.
“Any time you take a guy who is talented and has ability, and mix that with a great work ethic, you’re going to have a great player, and that’s what I feel he is,” Head Coach DJ Durkin told reporters after Friday’s game.
Moore has been an explosive threat at every level. In his senior season at Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia, 16 of his 35 catches went for touchdowns, and he averaged nearly 30 yards per reception. As a true freshman in 2015, he was at least Maryland’s second-best receiver; his 25 catches and 357 yards trailed only Levern Jacobs, and his 14.7 yards-per-target average topped that of Jacobs.
In the offseason, Moore gained 15 pounds of muscle, making him one of many Terps to bulk up noticeably since last year. He also spent a lot of time with senior quarterback Perry Hills, as the two worked towards becoming more effective as a duo.
“We worked all through the winter up until now, working on routes and the timing of them, knowing how I want the ball, how he’s gonna throw the ball,” Moore said Wednesday. “Over that time, it became easier for us to just have a connection.”
Moore’s work ethic is widely praised by his teammates and coaches. He says the physicality of outside cornerbacks Alvin Hill and JC Jackson has made him work on improving his releases off the line.
“Whatever limitations he has physically,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said, “he’s more than willing to make up for it with how hard he works and how he studies the game itself.”
Off the field, Moore’s next step is becoming more of a vocal leader. As his play continues to make him stand out, teammates will look up to him, and he can’t hide from that attention forever.
“There’s times in his life where I’d like to see a little more of him getting out of his comfort zone in terms of his leadership skills,” Bell said. “He’s a guy who has plenty of time left and will be looked at for leadership. Personally, day in and day out on the practice field, I’d like to see that growth. I’d like to see him embrace that role not only as a guy we count on for consistency.”
Bell and Moore have talked about this in the past. It’s a common hurdle for quiet personalities, and Maryland fans might recognize a similar story with point guard Melo Trimble. In both players’ cases, becoming more vocal is a challenge that seems to take time.
“I could speak up some more, but that’s really not my thing,” Moore said. “I’m more of an action person, so speaking up is gonna be a thing that I’ve got to accomplish later on in my years here.”
For now, he does have several contemporaries to look up to and learn from. Maryland’s group of experienced wide receivers includes Levern and Taivon Jacobs, seniors Malcolm Culmer and DeAndre Lane and grad transfer Teldrick Morgan. It’s a crowded position filled with veterans, and that dynamic allows Moore to focus on himself. He’s been Hills’ favorite target so far, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue as the season progresses.
Against FIU, he even moonlighted as a passer. On Maryland’s first drive, Moore took a double pitch and tossed the ball to Hills for a 21-yard gain; the play brought the Terps to the FIU 5-yard line, and they would ultimately put three points on the board.
“All through practice and everything, he kept underthrowing me and making me stop or reach down,” Hills said. “I have terrible hands as it is. I’m like ‘Dude, make it a little easier on me.’ But he got the ball, hit me in the chest and it ended up being a pretty good gain.”
Moore (276.4 passer rating) enjoys being part of trick plays like this, but he’s content playing receiver. He’s established himself as the Terps’ most prominent threat at the position, and he’s got several years ahead of him to gain national recognition. Those who see him on a daily basis know what he’s capable of, and how one mistake by the defense can be costly with him around.
“If he can get a little separation on guys,” Hill said, “I know it’s over for them.”