October 14, 2009

More Moore in the future at kick return?

MADISON - If Maurice Moore was applying for a job to become a kickoff returner at a division one football program, he probably would not get it. Heck, he may not even get an interview with his credentials.

Before last Saturday at Ohio State, Moore, a junior, had only ever returned two kickoffs in his entire football career.


"I played quarterback," Moore said when asked about his kick return history Tuesday night. "I got back there two times."

So, when Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema decided to give Moore a shot in the third quarter, in favor of David Gilreath, he was putting in a player that had practiced returning kicks for only a couple of days.

"I actually just started last week," Moore said. "Coach just told me to go back there and work on some kickoff returns."

Even though Moore is incredibly new at the position, being that he was not one of the handful of players that was getting reps when the team practiced kick returns during fall camp, he still feels confident.

"It's not hard," Moore said. "I think the main thing is catching the ball first. That's my main goal. Just making sure I catch it. I think coming from quarterback I have good field vision. So, a lot of the other stuff comes naturally."

Or does it?

After Ohio State's senior kick returner Ray Small returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, it was Moore's chance to shine. But when the Aaron Pettrey kickoff sailed four yards deep into the end zone, Moore made a vital, inexperienced mistake.

"I didn't think I was that deep," Moore said. "So I'm looking in the air and focusing on the ball. By the time I take two or three steps, that's when I saw the up back giving me the stay call.

"I definitely wouldn't have run it out if I had seen the stay call earlier."

The result? A discombobulated return that ended at UW's own five yard line.

"He's his eyes and ears," Bielema said. "When you're a returner, you really don't have an understanding of how far back in the end zone you might be. And we use the bottom of the letters as a rule. If he's deeper than that with good hang time, we're not going to bring it out.

"And Chris Borland is giving him the double brakes, and he tried to come out, stepped across the line, and then, obviously, was put in a difficult situation."

With Gilreath at the helm of the kick return game for the entire season until the OSU game, the Badgers ranked 10th in the Big Ten with a 17.4-yard average per return. Individually, Gilreath ranked eighth in the league with a 21.5-yard average.

Still, Bielema thought the timing was right to give the unit a different look.

"He's (Moore) been on the verge a couple weeks in a row," You know, we've gone with David primarily over the last couple years, and just wanted to see if a change of pace would be good for that unit."

With Moore back there, he had returns of 21 and five yards respectively. As a result, the Badgers started on their own 31 yard line and own five yard line following his two returns.

"He actually did a really good job of fielding the first kick, Bielema said. "They kind of squibbed one over there hard to the left. He got over there and got in front of it and got some good return yardage out of that."

Was Moore's performance, as trying as it was, enough to warrant another chance this week against Iowa?

"Mo's been good during practice," Bielema said. "If he continues to practice well this week, on Saturday, you may see Mo in there as a punt returner or kick returner."

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