One of four fifth-year players on the Irish roster, Kendall Moore has been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. Originally recruited by Charlie Weis, Moore kept his pledge when Brian Kelly took over, and the Irish landed a linebacker who has struggled to break through a depth chart that had him playing behind Manti Te’o, Jarrett Grace and now Joe Schmidt.
But while Moore couldn’t find regular playing time, he’s been a special teams fixture, and contributed last season when the defense was in need of a linebacker to play in Grace’s place. An interception against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl was a worthy reward to a solid program player, topped only by one final year in South Bend as a seasoned veteran.
Let’s take a closer look at Kendall Moore.
6’1″ 251 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 8
Moore was a four-star recruit, a first-team All-State player from North Carolina, an area that Kelly and his staff recruited hard. With offers from Clemson, Florida State, both North Carolina programs and South Carolina, Moore was a big, physical, explosive player coming out of high school.
He was inherited by the Irish coaching staff, but re-recruited, hosting Kelly first and then Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks as he stayed true to his commitment.
The Irish coaching staff saw him as a bit of a tweener, likely having the ability to play both inside linebacker positions as well as the Cat/rush backer.
“He is a defensive player for us that could probably play a couple of different positions. You can see him coming off the edge,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “Been looked at as a tight end as well. He’s got the athleticism in space. He does a great job here. You can see him play the option. Again, a guy who will complement our defensive structure.”
Freshman Season (2010): Did not see action.
Sophomore Season (2011): Played in all 13 games, seeing time primarily on special teams but also as a reserve linebacker. Made four tackles in the win against Maryland, including one TFL. Also made a TFL against Navy.
Junior Season (2012): Appeared in all 13 games, made 10 total tackles. Had seven special teams tackles, including six on kickoff coverage. Was the team’s third-leading special teams tackler.
Senior Season (2013): Played in all 13 games, made 17 tackles on the season, including one TFL. Had five tackles against Air Force. Made a diving interception against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Also contributed three tackles against Stanford.
If Moore was going to make a push to see the field, he’d have done it this spring. But with Grace still recovering from surgery and Nyles Morgan not on campus yet, the middle linebacker job was all about Joe Schmidt, with the former walk-on showing better range and athleticism than Moore.
While Moore has yet to start a game in his career in South Bend, there were early hints at a productive player. Moore’s tackles-per-snap were the highest of any defender on the roster in 2011, making a stop in over 19 percent of his snaps, and making him a trendy dark horse candidate to make a move into the starting lineup. Ultimately, those numbers looked to be a product of sample size, buoyed by his performance against Maryland. Also not helping his case? Moore was stuck behind a once-in-a-generation player like Manti Te’o.
Moore’s physical limitations likely also play a role in his playing time. At 6-foot-1 and over 250 pounds, Moore isn’t the type of lengthy athlete that Diaco preferred, and VanGorder likely wants his linebackers able to cover more ground sideline to sideline as well.
We’ve talked about transitional recruiting classes, and Moore was targeted and recruited by a different coaching staff. That helps to explain some of the difficulties he’s had at Notre Dame. While he’s had a serviceable career in South Bend, he’s yet to make an impact in the starting 11, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll do it in 2014, either.
But Brian Kelly has shown a tremendous amount of loyalty to players who are good to the program. Just as he did with Tyler Stockton, bringing Moore back for a fifth year likely says something about his value to the team, even if he isn’t projected to play much.
That being said, if there’s a position that’s still up in the air it’s linebacker. Outside of Jaylon Smith, what Notre Dame gets out of their linebackers is a huge question mark. That gives Moore a chance, especially if Jarrett Grace is slow to return, Nyles Morgan isn’t quite ready for primetime and Joe Schmidt can’t play an every down role.
Moore has always had a reputation as a big-time thumper, and that could get him some situational work in short yardage or goal line scenarios. A big play or two there and Moore’s fifth year is well earned.
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Torii Hunter Jr.