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Talented Moody still adjusting to Gators system

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 12:00 am

The buzz started as soon as Emmanuel Moody decided to transfer to UF.

After a promising freshman season at Southern Cal in which he gained 459 yards in nine games and earned Pacific-10 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year honors, Moody looked like an easy fix to the Gators' problems at running back.

The position has struggled since the arrival of coach Urban Meyer's spread offense before the 2005 season, with quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin leading the team in rushing last year. There were just two backs - Kestahn Moore and Brandon James - among the top seven in yards on the ground.

Moody hopes to change that, but before he can be a savior, he has to learn the offense.

"It's a totally different language," said Moody, who has played in single-back and I-formations ever since Pee Wee football. "Everything is new - the steps, how far you are from the line and the whole offense."

So far, Meyer hasn't been thrilled with Moody's progress, and the coach said Monday that Moody was fourth on the depth chart behind Moore, Chris Rainey and James, although he added that it only takes one good or bad practice to shake up that list.

"He's very talented, but it's too early to say what his role will be," Meyer said. "He has a long way to go, but his attitude is tremendous. As far as learning, he's a little behind. I didn't think he would be that far behind because he was here all fall. It seems like everything is new, and it shouldn't be that way. He is very talented though."

He may be struggling a bit with blocking schemes and consistency, but his strength is still there - making people miss.

"His moves are so quick," UF linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "If you aren't a really sound football player, he's probably going to get you with his moves. He's just really good at making guys miss one-on-one, and that's the whole thing for a running back.

"He's dangerous. If he gets in the open field, he can pop one. You aren't going to catch him from behind."

His shiftiness - displayed in dazzling high school and college highlight tapes - captured the attention of Gators fans and coaches and left them hoping he can be UF's first 1,000-yard back since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

The expectations are high, especially for someone who hasn't played a game or even earned a starting spot.

"I can only control what I do, so I'll do the best I can with my ability," Moody said. "I'll take the opportunity that the coaches give me and make the most of it, and if it's not what everyone expected… I'm sorry."

Moody said Gainesville has been the home he was looking for when he decided to transfer, but the change hasn't been totally painless. Teammates constantly razz him for being from the Pac-10, perceived as a weak league by many in the Southeastern Conference.

"He's playing against a lot of top talent now compared to that conference," Spikes said. "I think he has to turn it up a little more now to do those things here. I just feel like it's different in the Pac-10. I feel like he's just coming to the NFL."

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