Saying that it was an eventful Tuesday for freshman defensive back Khalil Moore would be a colossal understatement.
Not only did Moore take his first college class, but he also found out he would be starting in his first collegiate game tomorrow for the Elon University football team as the Phoenix takes on Gardner-Webb University at 3:30 p.m.
“I didn’t really know until after class today,” Moore said. “I’m just excited to play with the guys and do my job.”
With injuries to sophomore defensive backs Tariq Lane and Greg Liggs Jr., Moore took advantage of the available reps in practice and impressed head coach Rich Skrosky.
“Khalil, he was pushing anyway. He was going to play, but now he’s going to play more,” Skrosky said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. Love him. The good thing is, he has confidence in himself.”
Moore received similar praise from junior defensive back Chris Blair, who will start at safety on the same side as Moore, who is starting at cornerback.
“He came in prepared,” Blair said. “He worked hard this whole summer. He got his opportunity when coach called his number, and he’s showed off. The rest is on him.”
Skrosky says that Moore has been around the ball a lot during fall camp, and made enough plays to earn the starting spot. He also believes that Moore is advanced for a freshman.
“He’s got an athletic maturity about him,” Skrosky said. “There’s a lot of guys that have talent — they can run, they’re big and strong. He’s a very athletic kid, but he’s got a maturity. He understands the pace of the game. He doesn’t panic. He plays with a lot of composure.”
Skrosky said Lane’s injury is currently seen as minor, but he won’t play this week. He also added that Liggs had surgery last weekend and is out until conference play at the earliest. With two veterans out, Moore feels that he has a responsibility to step up and fill in for them.
“They’ve put me in a position where one would look at it as a lot of pressure, but I see it as a chance to rise to the role and I’m ready to take on the challenge,” Moore said. “It’s big shoes to fill with Tariq and Greg not being out there to play, so I’m really trying to hone in and make sure I know what I’m doing. I want to go out every Saturday to do my job and contribute as best as I can.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
Moore and the entire defense will need to step up to stop Gardner-Webb’s 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior quarterback Tyrell Maxwell, who is a serious threat in the Runnin’ Bulldogs option-based offense.
“Maxwell is a seasoned kid. He’s played a lot,” Skrosky said. “Everything you read from spring to preseason camp, it sounds like he’s throwing the ball a lot better. If he comes out and is able to throw the ball as well as he runs the ball in their option elements in their offense, he’s going to be a handful.
“The thing we did well against him last year was the third-and-three plays, where at , he can just run you over. Everytime he has the ball in his hands, we’ve got to gang-tackle and make sure we’re being physical with him.”
Skrosky also added that Gardner-Webb runs a 3-4 on defense — meaning they play with three defensive linemen and four linebackers — which Elon doesn’t see often, but will see the twice in a row to start the season. After last season’s 21-13 triple overtime win Sept. 12, Skrosky believes the offense can do much better if they limit their mistakes.
“You hate the coach-speak of it, but don’t turn the ball over. Literally, don’t turn the ball over," Skrosky said. "I think if we didn’t do that last year, maybe it’s a little easier win than it was. We had two turnovers on their half of the field — you’d like to think we would come away with points on both of those drives. The thing I’m more excited about is seeing a lot of guys who played last year that were young and seeing their maturity on the field, as well as to see the young kids respond to their first game.”
The young guys include freshmen wide receivers Jeremiah Bridges and Cole Taylor, both of whom Skrosky expects will see some time on the field. On the defensive side, Moore will be joined by freshman defensive end Marcus Willoughby and redshirt freshmen defensive tackles Antwain Terry and Jordan Dollerson as guys who will get playing time in their first collegiate game.
Headshot courtesy of Elon Athletics.