It’s no secret that Florida has needed offensive linemen — both of quality and in quantity — since Will Muschamp’s days as head coach, when early bungling of the numbers needed and a late spate of bad luck with medical disqualifications left the Gators in dire straits up front. Whenever the Gators land a new lineman, like Charlotte, North Carolina’s T.J. Moore, who committed late on Christmas Day, it’s cause for celebration.
Moore is a literally big get for the Gators, listed at 6’5.5” and 295 pounds by 247Sports, and he’s a well-regarded prospect, too: He’s a 247Sports Composite four-star, and a consensus four-star prospect, with ESPN, Rivals, and Scout all granting him their own four stars. Florida won Moore’s commitment over Tennessee, which held the majority of the Crystal Ball predictions for him, and South Carolina, which held the rest, and he held offers from in-state schools North Carolina and N.C. State, as well as a smattering of other big-name schools: Louisville, Penn State, Virginia Tech.
On film, he appears to deserve the acclaim.
Moore shows a strong punch at the point of impact, and the ability to engage and eliminate defenders without holding thanks to strong arms and hands. He repeatedly drives back blockers from the line of scrimmage, and often plants them on the turf. He plays both right tackle and guard in the video; while he likely played more outside for his Mallard Creek Mavericks as a result of his size, he displays feet nimble enough and a quickness good enough to be a pulling guard at the collegiate level.
I do see him being slow to get out of his stance more than a couple of times, and he — like any taller lineman — will likely need consistent coaching to keep his pad level low enough to get consistent leverage. But there’s clearly more good than bad on these highlights, beyond just the pancakes, to make Moore a promising lineman.
Moore is also following in the large footsteps of another recent Mallard Creek product, as D.J. Humphries, a five-star player in the class of 2012, is another Maverick who came to Florida.
He’s going to join what should finally be a deep Florida offensive line in 2017. While junior David Sharpe might be intrigued by the NFL Draft, he is simply not as finished as he should be before heading to the professional ranks, and is likely to stay in Gainesville for his senior season. If that happens, it would allow Florida to return not just all five starters from its 2016 line — Sharpe, Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan, Jawaan Taylor, and whatever player is factually Florida’s starting center at this point — but all 14 scholarship offensive linemen on its roster. That sort of continuity, while assuredly not unprecedented, is rare — and while it’s likely a good thing for the Gators, it may also be a good sign for the man tasked with coaching those linemen.
Rumors and speculation have bubbled about the future of Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers, whose uneven results — excellent games here and there, poor performances then and now — since being hired in 2014 and retained by Jim McElwain have made him a popular target of both fans’ ire and their imagined staff alterations. But Florida landing a commitment from a lineman — albeit one in the mold of a recent Gators starter, whose commitment comes as both a bit of a surprise because of other schools’ understood positioning and a logical result of a good lineman having the opportunity to attend a school where a local lineman became a first-rounder — over the dead period in December suggests at minimum that Summers is not totally mailing in his recruiting efforts.
Moore is Florida’s second offensive lineman commit and 15th overall commit in the Gators’ 2017 recruiting class. The Gators would still very much like to pair either or both of Florida tackles Alex Leatherwood and Kai-Leon Herbert with Moore and-committed tackle Kadeem Telfort, but Leatherwood is an Alabama commit seen as a long shot to flip to Florida despite much Twitterpation, and though Herbert is seemingly more receptive to the Gators — he will make his final official visit to Florida in January — he’s a Michigan commit, and Florida will have to flip him, as well, to get him in its class.
Florida’s recruiting class currently ranks No. 19 in the 247Composite rankings.