Williams brings out Moores savage personality
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As soon as Alonzo Moore saw the defense playing a single-high safety before a play late in Tuesday night's practice, he knew the ball was coming his way. The junior ran a short crossing route, hauled in a dart from Tommy Armstrong, shrugged off a tackle and turned on the jets for an 80-yard score.
As he reached the end zone, he turned around to see just one man chasing him down the field - Keith Williams. At this point, it's no surprise to see the animated receivers coach tracking down his receivers after a big play, even if a long sprint is required.
"I heard a voice coming down the field, and look who it was - the gorilla himself," Moore said with a smile after Tuesday's practice. "I'll tell you right now, you're going to hear him no matter what. You can make a good play, you can make a bad play, he's coming behind you. Sometimes you might turn around too fast and he'll fight you. He's right there whether it's something good or something bad. He loves us all."
Nebraska's new coaching staff, and Williams in particular, has boosted Moore's confidence to new levels as the season approaches. The 6-foot-2, 195-lb. Winnfield, La., native's athleticism and ability have never been questioned. It's his consistency and confidence that have held him back.
Moore started seven games last year but struggled badly at times and could barely get off the bench at season's end. He caught just 10 of the 32 passes thrown his way and had a team-high seven drops.
"Obviously Alonzo is a freak athlete - everybody knows that," fellow receiver Brandon Reilly said. "But I think last year he stressed out a lot and had a few drops. But now he's playing with more confidence and he should be fun to watch."
Credit Williams for the new mindset. Moore was a popular pick as a breakout candidate last season, but his poise waned after early trails. Williams has helped inject new life into the junior's game, and he understands the stakes facing him in 2015.
"I think coach Dub (Williams) really got a lot of that out because he'll tell you the good, the bad, the everything," Moore said. "I like it because I like more criticism than anything. It's going to make me just be a bigger savage. That's how I look at it - savage, savage, savage.
"My receivers coach is a gorilla and he's got baby savages. We have to get after it out there. The mindset that he's got - I know he's behind me 100 percent, so I have to be a savage out there, a gorilla."
Moore's new take-no-prisoners mentality manifested itself when he got into a minor tussle with cornerback Jonathan Rose, one of his best friends on the team, midway through Tuesday's practice.
It also helped him rebound from a play that looked all too familiar to last season a few snaps later. Moore torched Trai Mosley on a fly route and Armstrong unleashed a perfect deep ball. But Moore bobbled the pass and failed to haul it in, robbing the offense of a 70-yard score.
But Williams was immediately at Moore's side, and the wideout recovered with a few more catches before hauling in the 80-yard catch-and-score near the end of practice.
"I try to give them all confidence," Williams said. "I just try to get guys to play to what their potential is. Sometimes that potential that I believe they have is more than they believe they have. I didn't do any magic with him. I just try to encourage guys and make them believe that they can be as good as I think they can.
"Alonzo has got all the attributes of a good wideout - now he's just got to put it all together. He's working on it."
Time will tell how much the new mentality helps Moore when the season begins. He's still NU's fourth receiver behind De'Mornay Pierson-El, Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, with veteran Jamal Turner and freshmen Stanley Morgan and Lavan Alston in play as well.
But there's no doubt his confidence is high, and that should help him approach the clear promise he's intermittently displayed during his first two years.
"My mindset is to be a savage on the field. That's all," Moore said. "Even in practice, there's no buddy-buddy stuff. I want to be a savage every play. It's a new mindset."
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