Receiver anxious to lead by example on the field
By the Associated Press
Missouri receiver T.J. Moe never expects to be covered during a play, and he lets quarterback James Franklin know as much in the huddle.
Moe has the numbers to back up his expectations after leading the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2010 and 2011. This year, he looks to do it again as both a senior and a captain.
“I like being at the top of the totem pole,” he said. “You’re captain, you’re a senior leader, guys listen to you. You can really lead them in a direction. And if you know what you’re doing, it’s a good place to be.”
Although it took three years for Moe to reach the top, leadership isn’t necessarily a new concept. He played quarterback in high school, amassing more than 4,500 yards and a combined 61 touchdowns through the air and on the ground his senior year.
Two years later, as a sophomore at Missouri, he caught 92 passes for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns, leading the team in each category. Last year, he had 54 receptions for 649 yards and four touchdowns.
“I know he’s going to go out there and he’s going to do his job to get open,” Franklin said. “He’s a fast guy and we love getting him the ball.”
Gaudy stats and being atop the depth chart for the third consecutive season have likely contributed to Moe’s outspokenness. But aside from witty sound bites given to the media, what Moe does outside the spotlight commands the greatest respect from his teammates.
“The amount of time he puts in the weight room, the way he works on the practice field, the way he studies to get himself ready to play,” offensive coordinator Dave Yost said. “It’s at the utmost, highest level you could ask from a guy.”
A third-team selection in the Southeastern Conference coaches’ preseason poll, Moe wasn’t sure he’d be able to start in Missouri’s first game in its new league. After hurting his hamstring in June during a workout, he has been withheld from contact drills since practices began Aug. 2.
Moe has also sat out both of the team’s scrimmages during camp as a precaution, but coach Gary Pinkel expects him to fully participate starting Tuesday. A final scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday.
The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver said he isn’t missing anything that will cause him to not be ready for the season opener Sept. 1 against Southeastern Louisiana. Football is football, and he’s been playing it for 15 years.
“It’s just people aren’t hitting me yet, which is good,” Moe said. “If we had a game two weeks ago, I’d have been playing.”
But being on the sideline at times during practice has changed his style of leadership.
“Guys haven’t seen me, it’s hard when you’re not doing the same thing everyone else is doing and leading by example,” he said. “So it’s been a lot more words this camp. But up until this point, it’s always been by example. The best leaders are the guys who have them both.”
Moe isn’t the only experienced receiver, though. Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington saw extensive playing time last year — both played all 13 games and combined for 43 receptions, 778 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gahn McGaffie, a senior listed second on the depth chart behind Moe at slot receiver, has been playing with the first-string offense in practice and is likely to improve upon his career totals of nine receptions and 58 yards.
That experience translates to a sense of ease for a quarterback trying to find an open man.
“It definitely helps James,” McGaffie said. “Because he trusts everyone on the field. When you build that trust factor with everybody on the field, it makes him more comfortable out there.”
Moe called Franklin, a second-year starter, one of many leaders who make the Tigers a pretty good football team.
“Everything (Moe) does is for the Mizzou offense, for the Mizzou football team,” Yost said. “And that’s why I think the team voted him a captain. He got a lot of votes from a lot of guys because that’s the respect he has on the team, not just the offense but as a whole team.”