Once again we are counting down the Georgia football team's most important players for the upcoming season. A reminder: This is not a ranking of the team's best players, or a prediction on who will be most productive. Rather it's a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
The list began with No. 12, who was freshman Isaiah McKenzie.
And it continues with ...
11. COREY MOORE
WHY HE’S VITAL: The new administration, well Jeremy Pruitt, is not going to anoint anyone a starter yet in the secondary. But if Moore can nail down one of those two starting spots and then have a good year – not great, just good – then it would huge for the defense. There’s reason to think Moore can do that: He was a four-star prospect coming out of Griffin High School, and sat for two years behind Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo. But last year was a step back for Moore, as it was the entire secondary, and spent much of the first half of the season on second team. But Moore finished strong, starting four of the final five games, and his sack against Florida was one of the few highlights of the year for a member of Georgia’s secondary. There’s also the leadership factor: The secondary sorely needs it, and as the lone seniors on what could be a very young group (again), Moore and Damian Swann can go a long way towards making this a much calmer year. It didn’t happen last year for Moore because he was also trying to improve his own play. While Moore’s spring didn’t wow Pruitt, if he can carry his play from late last season into 2014 it would be an important step for the defense.
QUOTABLE: “I think they’re (Moore and Swann) already kind of gearing up for that (leadership role). You do need at least a couple guys to take ownership of the group. And it is nice to have at least the guy in the safety area and in the cornerback area to lead the way. I think when you get that happening, and plus guys are understanding what it takes as individuals, you gain a lot of momentum that way.” – Mark Richt.
BEST CASE: Moore emerges quickly as one of the two best safeties in preseason, starts against Clemson, and as the season goes on provides dependable play in the back. Having finally secured the first-team role, Moore moves into the mentoring role for the other safeties, as he and Swann become the anchors of a resurgent Georgia passing defense.
WORST CASE: Moore doesn’t earn a starting job in August. The safety spots are occupied by two youngsters and the inexperience shows in the opener, and onward as the season goes. The safety spots prove to be an eyesore once again.
FINAL WORD: There’s also the possibility that two youngsters (Quincy Mauger? Dominick Sanders?) beat out Moore and emerge as dependable starters all year, and the senior finishes his career in a reserve role. Pruitt isn’t going to lean on a veteran just because he’s been around awhile. That could actually be a strike against Moore. So Moore needs to use his experience as a virtue this August by playing the way the previous staff thought he could when it recruited him. Perhaps – not likely, but perhaps – the defense can feature two underclassmen safeties. But if the secondary is going to improve this year, it’s more likely that Moore will be part of the solution.