Josh Kendall

Moody’s return a boon for South Carolina’s secondary

The season that Chris Moody didn’t want at one point is now the best season of Moody’s career.

Moody, a senior safety at South Carolina, participated in the Gamecocks Senior Day ceremonies last year with the intention of transferring and using his final year of eligibility at another school.

“I have been here a long time, since I was 17 really,” Moody, 22, said this week. “My last year I was going to have a scholarship so why not just try my luck somewhere else?”

That’s when D.J. Smith and a few other South Carolina teammates started working on Moody.

“We just kept bugging him and bugging him and eventually he gave in and came back,” Smith said. “I obviously talked to him a good amount along with the other players. I feel like it wasn’t that hard. He loved football.”

The Gamecocks (5-4 overall, 3-4 SEC) are glad he did as they prepare to face No. 22 Florida (6-2, 4-2). Moody has started seven games and had a career-high 11 tackles and an interception last week against Missouri. He now has a career-high 40 tackles this year.

“Chris is extremely bright, and he’s very adaptable to different coverages and how we switch and do things,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s a good communicator. He has a very good work ethic.”

Moody, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound native of McDonough, Ga., is a great fit in Muschamp’s defensive system because of his understanding of the concepts used in the secondary, but he didn’t know any of that when he decided to return.

He was accepted back in the program in the middle of spring practice, after he had missed the team’s grueling new winter workout program, a fact his new old teammates didn’t let him forget.

“I was way behind (on conditioning),” Moody said. “Physically, I felt like a 65-year-old man to be honest with you. I felt all stiff and stuff. But once you start playing consistently I feel like it comes back. It’s like riding a bike.”

Muschamp wanted to make sure Moody was truly committed to the team upon his return, Moody said.

“We tested him early, and he responded very well. He had a very good summer,” Muschamp said. “He has really blended in with what we want to do and how we want to do things.”

Moody played safety each of his first three seasons at South Carolina but was moved to linebacker briefly upon his return. When an injury to starting safety Chaz Elder led to a return to the secondary, Moody felt much more comfortable, he said.

“It has been a lot more than I expected,” he said.

Moody’s size has been helpful in the secondary, Smith said.

“He’s real smart. He’s versatile. He can get down in the box and tackle, and he also can cover for his size,” Smith said. “He’s a smart all-around player. He can do anything.”

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