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Moody waits for chance in crowded backfield

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Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008 12:00 am

The No. 1 question filtering through The Swamp during UF's 26-3 win against Miami last week was probably, "Where's Emmanuel Moody?"

The running back was high on the list of reasons to be charged up about the Gators this season after transferring from Southern Cal, where he earned Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors.

Moody rode into town with high expectations, which - fair or not - had him pegged as the first feature tailback since coach Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville in 2005.

There were reports of flashes of brilliance during the offseason, and by all accounts Moody is a high-character guy, but his season has gotten off to a less-than-promising start.

Moody watched the Gators beat the Hurricanes from the sideline, a disappointing follow-up to his 2-yard performance against Hawaii a week before, and it wasn't due to injury or for disciplinary reasons.

UF running backs coach Kenny Carter said Moody didn't play because Miami kept UF in passing situations, and Kestahn Moore is a more effective blocker in the passing game.

"We had (Moody) in the plan to play, but during the course of the game when certain things are going on, obviously (Miami) did a really nice job of stopping us from running the football," Carter said. "We knew that throwing the ball was the thing that would help us get down the field, so that put a little different spin on what we were trying to do with running the ball and using (Moody)."

As Moore has learned, the best way to get carries in Meyer's system is to perform as a blocker first, and the fact that Moody has yet to master the scheme could spell trouble for his chances of breaking out of the Gators' logjam in the backfield.

If Moody can't be relied on to block on pass plays, his mere presence in the backfield could signify a run to defenses, but Meyer said he expects "a lot more" from Moody and plans to utilize him next Saturday at Tennessee.

"He's just getting a little more comfortable in the offense," Meyer said. "We expect our guys to learn a lot."

But that's just half the battle.

No one seems to doubt that Moody will eventually master the offense - "If Chris Rainey can pick it up, (Moody) can pick it up," offensive tackle Jason Watkins said - but even then, he'll have to outperform Moore, Rainey and Jeff Demps to see the number of carries he hoped for when he decided to transfer.

He left USC amid a 10-player competition at running back and looked for a team that would feed him the ball.

"That's the reason I transferred was to be a feature back," Moody said during his visit to UF last fall. "USC is all about the rotation and getting everybody time, sharing time. I just want to be the feature back."

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