Gamecocks’ linebacker Skai Moore off to a flying start to career

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 19, 2013 

Freshman linebacker Skai Moore led USC in tackles this season.

MELISSA HARMON — special to the state

When Skai Moore was being recruited one year ago, he was looking for playing time.

Steve Spurrier didn’t know what the young linebacker wanted. Heck, he didn’t even know where Moore was.

“We went down there and visited with him and we thought we were in pretty good shape with him, and then he visited Rutgers,” South Carolina’s coach said. “Rutgers and Vandy were really hot after him, and he didn’t answer his phone for about three weeks.”

Ohio State, Arkansas, Wisconsin, lots of schools wanted Moore, a three-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Few, though, needed him as badly as did the Gamecocks. With plenty of playing time to sell, South Carolina liked its chances if it could only get Moore to listen to its pitch.

“I couldn’t get in touch with him,” Spurrier said.

South Carolina secondary coach Grady Brown is the chief recruiter for the Fort Lauderdale area and, thus, was given the responsibility of finding Moore.

“It was a process where communication was spacey at times, but I guess that’s par for the course when you are dealing with guys who are recruited by a lot of different schools and have a lot of options,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, it came down to a couple of different places and he was wavering back and forth, but that’s just a part of recruiting. When you are 16, 17, communication skills may not be at an all-time high, so there was a point in time where he was kind of hard to get on the telephone.”

Finally, four days before signing day, Moore called Brown to say he had chosen South Carolina.

“Grady Brown said, ‘Skai’s coming with us,’ ” Spurrier said. “I said, ‘Really? Why didn’t he tell me?’ But he did, he signed up, and he’s really a good player.”

Moore finished the regular season as No. 8 South Carolina’s leading tackler with 51 stops, including 3.5 for loss. He played in all 12 games and started the final four at weakside linebacker. It might be a spot he holds down for the next three seasons.

“When I saw him at (preseason) camp, I said, ‘Oh, he’s going to be a player,’ ” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “I am looking forward to him doing big things in the SEC.”

“He is going to be something here,” Spurrier agreed.

Moore, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, also has two interceptions.

“During recruiting, I was looking around and trying to find a team I would be able to contribute early, but I never really thought it would happen as soon as this did,” he said. “It was something I didn’t expect but it’s a blessing, and I’m going to keep working off that.”

Moore and the rest of South Carolina’s linebackers will face a stiff test in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl against No. 19 Wisconsin as they face the nation’s eighth-ranked rushing offense.

“It’s just another challenge,” Moore said, “and we all live for challenges out here.”

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