Missouri caught the nation off guard last year with a 12 – 2 record and at one point was ranked No. 1 in the country. Entering the 2008 season, senior sensation and second-year starter at safety William Moore looks to help the Tigers realize their ultimate goal of a National Championship, as well as eclipsing his 117-tackle, eight-interception breakout campaign from a year ago.
At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Moore has the size, speed and playmaking ability that warrants his place as the top safety in the country.
In this Scout.com exclusive, Chris Steuber asked Moore about his breakout junior season, what it’s like to practice against the likes of Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman everyday, what Missouri has to do this year to duplicate their success from last season, and his goals for this season.
Chris Steuber: Prior to your junior campaign, it was obvious that you were an impressive athlete. But I don’t know if anyone would have imagined the breakout season you produced. They say that the success you earn during the season starts in the off-season, and as you flew under the radar last year, how satisfying was it for you to have the hard work pay off?
William Moore: I really worked hard during the off-season; dedicated my time and I knew I was in for a good season. I’ve been playing good since I got here, but like you said I flew under the radar a bit because of the guys who were playing in front of me. Personally, last season was really good for me, because I had a chance to show what I could really do.
CS: The individual success you had last season was outstanding. But how beneficial is it for you to be surrounded by such great talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, which features players like Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman?
Moore: That’s about 90-percent of our success. I get to practice against some of the best, and it can only make you a better player. If you hold those guys [Daniel and Coffman], you can compete against anyone in the Big 12, basically anyone in the country. Practicing against Chase Daniel everyday gives me the confidence to go out on the field each Saturday and compete against any quarterback in the country. Having the talent that surrounds me here only boosts my confidence.
Being an offensive star in high school has helped Moore become a top ballhawk in college.
University of Missouri
CS: You practice against Chase Daniel everyday, what makes him so good?
Moore: Chase Daniel is a warrior. If he throws an interception, he’s not going to lay down, he’s going to come right back at you with that same play and beat you with a touchdown. I’m glad he’s on my team, I say that everyday. He’s made all of us better on defense and makes everyone around him on offense much better.
CS: You’re a little taller than Chase Daniel… [Laughs], so I’m assuming in practice that’s a bit of an advantage for you?
Moore: [Laughs]… It’s always an advantage, and that’s his motivation. He knows he’s not the tallest guy in the country, but he’s got the heart. He uses that to his advantage, and that heart is a big reason for our success.
CS: You were an offensive star in high school, and now you’re a defensive star in college. How did your offensive prowess in high school help your transition to being a playmaker on defense at Missouri?
Moore: It helped a lot and as I was being recruited, I was praying that I would play wide receiver when I got to Missouri. In high school I wasn’t a big hitter, I was just a ballhawk. When I got here, Coach [Pinkel] just preached hit, hit, hit. I already had the eye for the ball, and being in this system and acquiring the tools to be physical added another element to my game.
CS: Over the last two years there were two safeties I enjoyed watching in the country, former Arizona State star Josh Barrett (now with the Denver Broncos) and you. The two of you have a lot of qualities similar to the late, great Sean Taylor. I’m not sure if you were a fan of his, but did you watch him at some point and try to emulate some of the things he did on the field?
Moore: Anyone who has followed my career knows that I wore No. 21 before I switched to No. 1. The reason why I wore No. 21 was because of Sean Taylor. He was always my favorite player, besides Barry Sanders. I always looked up to Sean Taylor, and when he passed away, I wrote his number on my arm for one of our games. I always watched highlights of him; he was a great player.
CS: With the success you had last year, some people believed that your value was at its highest and that you should have considered leaving Missouri for the NFL. But with Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman, amongst others, deciding to return, did that sway your decision to stay at Mizzou?
Moore: Not at all, I had my mind made up before the season was over last year that I was going to come back for my senior season. I knew all the guys who were coming back and I love this place. I also want to graduate. There were too many positives than negatives to come back. I never thought about leaving.
CS: What is it about Missouri that makes it special?
Moore: It’s a great community, and they love football here. It’s a great place, and when you’re out in the public, it’s hard not to find a Mizzou fan. The team; we’re all like brothers. I’m sure it’s like that everywhere, but here we actually preach that everyday; we are brothers here.
Last season, Moore collected eight INTs, this season he aims to surpass that mark.
University of Missouri
CS: I’m sure every year you want to continue to improve your ability, leadership and statistics. But after an eight interception season, do you think it will be hard to duplicate that success this season?
Moore: Not really, my goal is to have 10 interceptions this year. I don’t think it will be that hard. I know a lot of teams will scheme to go away from me, and that will open up chances for my teammates. That will give me some room to roam, and I will still have some opportunities to make plays.
CS: After finishing last season with a 12 – 2 record, what do you guys have to do this season to duplicate that success and ultimately challenge for a National Championship?
Moore: We have to come out and sacrifice; sacrifice a little bit more than we did last season. If we do that, we will be much better than last year. Everybody has a little bit more to give, that’s what we preach. We have a lot of new freshmen coming in; everyone is ready to step up. Like you said, the offense looks promising. They help the defense get better in practice, so things are looking good.
CS: Winning the National Championship is the ultimate team goal and that’s why you guys play this game. But for you personally, what are your goals for this season?
Moore: Of course winning the National Championship is the big goal, but personally - and this may seem a little small - I want to break the records here at Missouri. I broke the single season interception record last year. I’m tied for the most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a career, but the one I really want is the career interceptions record. The record is 15 and it has stood here for about 40 years. I only need six to break it and I plan on doing it.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.