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November 12, 2013

Something Moore to prove

Much has been said about how sophomore tailback Mike Davis runs angry, but he won't be the only player with a chip on his shoulder when South Carolina takes the field against Florida at 7 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Enter Skai Moore, the true freshman linebacker who recently earned the starting job at Will linebacker. A former four-star prospect who chose South Carolina over Rutgers on National Signing Day, Moore racked up 103 tackles, six sacks and four interceptions during his senior season at University High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He led the Suns to an undefeated season and state title his final year and recorded 14 tackles and a sack in the championship game.

But unlike a few of his friends who now play for the Gators, the Cooper City, Fla., native was never recruited by Florida.

"I've got a chip on my shoulder about that, too," Moore said after Tuesday's practice.

Moore has become one of the bright spots on South Carolina's steadily-improving defense this season, recording nearly half of his 38 tackles this season in the Gamecocks past four games.

The freshman was happy to get his first collegiate start last week, something he considers a testament to the hard work he's put in, the time he's spent studying film and his improved knowledge of his assignments and responsibilities on every play.

"It feels good that all that is paying off," said Moore, who recorded six tackles -- third-most on the team -- and his first career interception in the 34-16 win over the Bulldogs.

But Moore's recent successes haven't helped him forget about how Florida passed over him during his recruitment, something he's had additional time to think about over the bye week.

"Being from Florida and not being recruited by them, I've got something to prove this week," Moore said. "I'm ready."

Moore said the fact that Florida enters the game 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the conference won't change the Gamecocks' approach to Saturday's game. South Carolina still needs a win to finish its SEC slate 6-2 and preserve its chance to reach the Dec. 6 SEC Championship Game.

"It's a different year for them, but we don't take any opponent lightly, so we're going to come out here and treat it like it's a championship game," Moore said. "We're going to put in 100 percent effort and take it like any game."

The significance of South Carolina's tilt with Florida to the SEC Eastern Division race will depend on the outcome of Georgia and Auburn's 3:30 p.m. game Saturday. An Auburn win would leave the Gamecocks in need of a win over Florida and a loss from Missouri in order to reach Atlanta, Ga., while a Georgia victory would all but eliminate South Carolina's SEC title hopes. It's a game South Carolina fans will keep an eye on, and USC athletics department marketing director Eric Nichols posted on Twitter Tuesday that the matchup would be displayed on Williams-Brice's scoreboard when the gates open Saturday.

But Moore is adamant about focusing on the Gators no matter what happens 316 miles away in Auburn, Ala. Moore said it might be hard to tune out the noise from the other game, but that beating Florida is his primary concern.

"We're going to have to tune it out because we have to focus on our game that night and take care of business," Moore said. "Whatever happens, happens. We'll find out the result after the game."

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