LINCOLN — Nebraska receiver Alonzo Moore started chuckling as he thought back to his naiveté as a rookie.
He was this always-smiling Louisianan who carried barely 170 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame — “no muscles at all, just bone,” he said. His understanding of the requirements to play receiver at a high level was as thin as his biceps.
“The only thing I remember,” he said, “is just being happy to run around, knowing that I’m playing college ball.”
My, how things have changed.
Moore is still elated to be catching passes for the Huskers, but he carries 25 more pounds of muscle, he’s a whole lot wiser and his vision is clear. He knows what he can accomplish and how he can help NU. As a senior, he isn’t satisfied just to be here. He’s not satisfied by some high points the past couple of years, nor is he content with the work he and his receiver mates have done to prepare for a productive 2016 season.
Moore is breaking down every single aspect of his game. How he catches the ball. How he changes directions. How he turns his hips. How he reads defenses. How he attacks defenders after a reception.
“I’m really hard on myself this year,” he said. “I feel like everything’s supposed to be 100 percent. … I can do a whole lot better.”
The instant he may think he’s performing well at a particular skill, he’ll pull up game tape from one of Keith Williams’ many pupils — those NFL-level talents who get tutoring from Nebraska’s receivers coach during the offseason.
Said Moore: “There’s this guy that Keith Williams works with. His name’s RG. I look at his 45-degree break and — it’s amazing. It’s unreal to see someone cut like that. I always try to compare mine to that.”
RG is the Washington Redskins’ Ryan Grant. Moore isn’t there yet. So he’ll keep pushing.
That’s the attitude Williams likes to see.
The coach said he’s already noticed considerable improvement from Moore just six practices into spring ball. But it has to carry over through April and into the fall, he said.
“You can’t ever gauge a guy’s ceiling,” Williams said. “But you can make a judgment on it just by evaluating a guy’s skillset and his desire. And he has both. He has the talent to improve.”
Moore hopes to make the type of jump he made a year ago.
As a sophomore in 2014, he caught just 10 of the 31 passes thrown his way, never quite establishing a connection with quarterback Tommy Armstrong. It often appeared that Moore either ran the wrong route or Armstrong threw to the wrong spot.
Things were different in 2015.
Moore’s 24 receptions came on 45 targets (a 53.3 percent catch rate). He ranked second on the team with six receiving touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in each of his last seven games.
He was encouraged by that progress, he said. There’s just so much more for him to do.
“If you go back and look at every game — yeah, I caught a lot of touchdowns — but if you look at the entire film, there’s some places where I didn’t do well on this or that,” Moore said. “I want to continue to go (and get better).”
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