September 18, 2008

Moore is better for Vols

There are bigger, taller and perhaps faster receivers on Tennessee's roster than Denarius Moore, but it's doubtful there are any more tenacious than the Vols' improving sophomore.

Moore and unranked Tennessee (1-1) host fourth-ranked Florida (2-0) Saturday at Neyland Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).

"Denarius has got a great combination of strength and speed and he gives us another guy on the field that can run," said first-year wideouts coach Latrell Scott, whose stern practice-field demeanor appears to have translated into his unit's downfield blocking. "He's been working his tail off and continuing to develop and that's why he played a significant amount of snaps on Saturday (against UAB)."

After positioning himself to be a major contributor with a four-catch, 86-yard performance in the Outback Bowl and then a dazzling effort in the Orange & White spring game, Moore started slowly this season. The 2007 Freshman All-SEC selection played sparingly at UCLA but started to generate more playing time last Saturday in the Vols' 35-3 win over UAB.

"I think I'm coming in pretty good with the wide receivers, backing up Lucas Taylor. Whenever they need me, I'm there to step up and make a play," said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Moore. "It's pretty important to let (quarterback Jonathan Crompton) know that the receivers he has, he can trust all of us no matter what time of the game it is."

Gradually, Moore is climbing toward the top of Tennessee's second wave of receivers who are building that trust. He caught just one pass -- a 12-yard gain -- against the Blazers but has pushed to become the Vols' first option behind Taylor, Gerald Jones and Josh Briscoe.

Briscoe, for one, knows Moore can be a difference-maker.

"Denarius, we're going to really count on him and he knows that he has to go out and be consistent during the week so that when the game comes he can go out and make plays for us," said the senior Briscoe. "He's taken the challenge after UCLA, and he came out and worked his tail off last week and he played a lot more against UAB. We know the more plays you make, the more reps you're going to get during the game. He's taken that challenge upon himself, and he's ready to go out and help this team any way he can."

Displaying his physical resolve could be one such way this week. Everyone -- particularly UT's coaches -- expects Florida's secondary to dare -- almost taunt -- the Vols to throw downfield against the Gators' tight coverage.

"Miami tried to throw it. They tried to have a mix," offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. "Their quarterback didn't have a lot of time and their receivers were not very open. They really locked them down pretty good. (The Gators) are giving up an average of 190 yards per game and one touchdown the whole year. (Tuesday) I was watching their orange area film, watching the Miami game, and I was staring at blank screen. Miami didn't have one snap in orange area."

Moore, according to his position coach, could help the Vols generate drastically different results.

"It's tough to take Lucas off the field, but we don't feel like there's any dropoff when we play Denarius," Scott said. "He gives you that vertical threat and is a very physical kid in both the passing game and the running game."

For Moore, that's what it's all about.

"I'm a physical wide receiver," said the Tatum, Texas, native and prep teammate of Vols tailback Lennon Creer. "I can come in and make a block on any DB or linebacker. Catch the ball when it comes my way, get up field and get extra yardage."

Against the Gators, the Vols will need all that they can get.

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