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September 5, 2013
A week after coming off the bench for an impressive collegiate debut, freshman linebacker Skai Moore is already looking forward to his next challenge: taking down All-SEC running back Todd Gurley and No. 11 Georgia.
Moore, a former four-star prospect out of Cooper City, Fla., was listed as the third-string Will linebacker coming into preseason camp, but an injury to Cedrick Cooper and the suffocating heat of Thursday night's contest helped him onto the field in a supporting role against the Tar Heels. Thrown into the fire in his first college game against an up-tempo offense, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder looked sharp, finishing second on the team with seven tackles - including one for loss - and half a sack.
"It felt great," said Moore of his game after Tuesday's practice. "I was a little nervous at first coming out but the nerves went away and I think I performed pretty well, so I was happy with it."
Moore isn't surprised by his quick path onto the field, however. The former national signing day commit said USC linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and defensive backs coach Grady Brown told him during his recruitment that he could play right away if he earned it.
Cooper and redshirt sophomore linebacker Marcquis Roberts helped Moore hurdle the learning curve after his arrival on campus, Moore said.
"I listened to [Cooper] as well as Marcquis Roberts," Moore said. "Those two guys really took me under their wing and taught me what they knew, so it's a blessing to have those two guys on the team."
Along with fellow freshman linebackers Larenz Bryant and Jonathan Walton, Moore quickly grasped the defensive schemes and began to impress the coaches in practice.
"Coach Botkin was telling me that if I just kept it up throughout fall camp that I'd be seeing a lot of playing time, so I've just been doing my job in practice and getting a lot of reps in," Moore said. "I was prepared."
Now Moore and the rest of South Carolina's defense are preparing for a whole new animal, Georgia's high-powered offense and the two-headed running attack of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. After reviewing film of the North Carolina game with Botkin and correcting some of his own mental mistakes, Moore watched the Georgia's game against Clemson Saturday night.
The numbers were eye-opening. Gurley had rushed for 154 yards and two scores on 12 carries, Marshall added 43 yards and a touchdown of his own, Murray threw for 323 yards and the Bulldogs generated 545 yards of total offense in an otherwise underwhelming performance. But Moore came away with a simple scouting report for the 'Dawgs.
"They're a good offense, but they're beatable," Moore said. "I think our defense is going to be prepared this week especially with the coaching this week, so we should be good to go.
"We've just got to wrap [Gurley] up and bring him down," Moore added. "I think we're all capable of doing that on this defense, so it shouldn't be a problem."
The Floridian doesn't think his playing time for Saturday's 4:30 p.m. kickoff will decline significantly with Cedrick Cooper's return from injury. With his first game under his belt, Moore is excited to show off what he's learned.
"I feel like I'll be a little more comfortable (against Georgia) because I got to experience the college speed and the size and everything," Moore said. "I'm a little more prepared for this week."
"I have some family in Georgia too," Moore added, "so I'm ready to show out in front of them as well."
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