The ability to run fast helped land DJ Moore a scholarship offer from Maryland. But once he got to campus he found out that speed to adjust on the fly is needed to keep up with changes off the field in college football.
Five weeks into the 2015 season, Randy Edsall, the coach who recruited Moore out of Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia, was fired. That December, Michigan defensive coordinator DJ Durkin was hired as his replacement.
There was no great turmoil for Moore, and he played that way in helping get Maryland to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
“I wasn’t too bothered about the change because Coach Durkin brought so much energy,” he said. “He has everybody ready to go during the season, offseason and training camp. He has made everybody feel that their time was now. People have listened to him and what he has to say. We see what he has to offer.”
This week, Moore will try to catch passes from the third starting quarterback of the season, Max Bortenschlager, when the Terrapins (3-1) play 10th-ranked Ohio State (4-1) on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Late in the third quarter of a 51-41 upset of 23rd-ranked Texas in Austin on opening day, Tyrell Pigrome was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In a 38-10 loss to Central Florida the third week, four-star freshman Kasim Hill also suffered a torn ACL.
“A man went down and another man had to step up,” Moore said. “Kasim was ready to go and so was Max. It hasn’t been hard. I’ve worked well with all three. I do have pretty good chemistry with Max. Max knows how to place the ball on the outside. He has been improving.”
Moore, a junior, leads the Big Ten in receptions (30), receiving yardage (403) and receiving touchdowns (five) and is second behind Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin and Saquon Barkley of Penn State in touchdowns with six. He ranks fifth in punt returns with a 13.6-yard average.
It was news to Moore that he’s the top receiver in the conference. He also has caught at least one pass in 25 straight games.
“I don’t pay much attention to stats, and I don’t worry too much about that streak,” he said. “My job is to find ways to get open. I watch a lot of film, but you always have to see things on the run and react.”
Maryland strength and performance coach Rick Court has compared Moore’s work ethic to players he worked with elsewhere, Braxton Miller at Ohio State and Dak Prescott at Mississippi State. Moore is 5 feet 11, 215 pounds.
Moore has been a plus player from the start. He caught 25 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. Last season, he caught 41 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns and returned 15 kickoffs for an average of 22.3 yards. He led the Big Ten in average yards per play at 15.3.
The goal, Moore said, is for the Terrapins to become a national power.
“It is possible for us to be a football power, but we have to stay with the plan,” he said. “Things are on the up right now.”