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December 2, 2013

Sleeper stars of 2013: Skai Moore

With the regular season over and a sparkling 10-2 record in the books, Gamecock Central is counting down the five biggest surprise stars of this past season, players who very few, if any, would have picked to have the kind of big years they did.

Each day this week we'll profile a player leading up to Friday's No. 1. Let's have some fun!

No. 5 Skai Moore

The biggest question mark coming into this season unquestionably was the inexperience at linebacker. Redshirt sophomore Cedrick Cooper was the favorite to start at the weakside linebacker position, and at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds he looked the part.

About three days in to fall camp, however, Cooper dislocated his elbow and wouldn't be ready to return to action until halfway through the season and never threatened for a starting role.

In his place, fellow redshirt Marcquis Roberts filled the role for the first eight games, but the player who coaches simply couldn't keep off the field was Moore, who finally started the final four games of the season and cemented his spot with superb play.

A four-star recruit out of Cooper City, Fla., all the 6-2, 205-pound Moore did as a true freshman was lead the entire team in tackles. He had 51 stops, 3.5 tackles for a loss, half a sack, recovered a fumble and had two interceptions, the last one coming against Clemson.

The reason Moore is No. 5 on our list is because it was certain one of the freshman linebackers would play better than the rest, and Moore was a solid bet to be that player. What puts him in the top five, however, is his amazing consistency and nose for the ball. He's so good that it looks as if it's going to be nearly impossible to move him from that weakside position for a long time to come, which means some other guys - Cooper, perhaps - may need to find somewhere else to contribute.

Moore came out of the gate strong, recording four tackles against North Carolina then following that with three stops against Georgia in Athens. He hit a bit of a slump the next two games, recording no unassisted tackles against Vanderbilt or Central Florida, but picked up the pace after that. His season-high came against Florida, when he led the team with six tackles. While he only had three tackles against Clemson, he recovered a fumble and snagged an interception to make his mark in the rivalry.

With so much football left in him and so much upside, what was a question mark a year ago looks to be an exclamation point until 2016, providing he doesn't go pro first.





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