Looking for a sleeper to emerge as a budding standout on the UC football team this year?
My pick is wide receiver Chris Moore.
OK, maybe "sleeper" is the wrong word. After all, Moore was a Parade All-American two years ago at Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL. But after redshirting as a UC freshman due to a shoulder injury, the 19-year-old receiver figures that he is not well-known by Bearcat fans - at least not yet.
"I want this to be a breakout year for me and show the fans that I can make exciting plays for them for the next four years," Moore told me.
Moore's high school stats look like a misprint. As a senior in 2010, Chris had 49 receptions for 1,572 yards - an incredible average of 32.1 yards per catch. After receiving scholarship offers from numerous BCS programs, Moore did his homework before electing to attend Cincinnati.
"My mom told me that I needed to make a spreadsheet," said Moore. "She said she wasn't going to help me because she didn't want to persuade me to go to certain places - she wanted the decision to be mine. So she told me to make a spreadsheet and figure out the best school.
"I did a lot of research: Passing yards, the quarterbacks, the receivers, what the coaches did at other schools, whether they had indoor facilities. I had a spreadsheet of stuff about every school that recruited me and everything seemed to fit at UC."
Now Chris is looking to prove that he's a good fit in Cincinnati's offense. In the spring practices that I attended this year, Moore made several long touchdown catches from Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay.
"You can see the ability," said head coach Butch Jones. "He can play the ball exceptionally well in the air. It's a great knack that he has and he runs extremely well. Now it's just refining the little nuances that go into playing receiver on every down."
"I'm trying to get better at my route running and I'm trying to get bigger and stronger so that I can take hits without getting hurt again," said Moore. "Right now I'm 192 pounds which is a big improvement. When I came in I was 170, so they've put the weight on me, now I just have to keep it on."
Moore broke his collarbone in the state championship game as a high school senior and then had to redshirt last year after suffering the same injury in preseason camp.
"I'm kind of happy that I didn't play because I got to learn from everybody else and I still have four more years," said Moore. "Now I feel like I have a good chance of getting on the field and making plays for this team."
"Don't forget; he was a true freshman this year so there is a lot of room for growth - physically, mentally, and from a technique standpoint," said offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. "What is obvious is his ability to catch the ball and his athleticism. For him, it's the little things and the mental part of the game - the mental toughness of overcoming adversity and the challenges that you face on a play-to-play basis."
Chris admits that he had some growing up to do after arriving at UC.
"At first, it was a little bumpy but I'm getting there," Moore told me. "Just being on your own is a different experience. I'm used to my mom waking me up and stuff like that, and you have to learn to do things yourself. I'm getting better at it every day."
And that's an exciting prospect for the Bearcat coaching staff.
"The natural ability is there," said Bajakian. "He could be as good as he wants to be. It's truly one of those situations where if he puts his mind to it, he can be an outstanding weapon."
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