The News & Observer
DURHAM, N.C. — Mike Elko showed that massive, positive change is possible over 12 months when he took over the worst team in the ACC and led it to a bowl win in his first season as Duke’s football coach.
Under Elko’s tutelage, Jordan Moore offers one of many examples from the players’ perspective.
Just 12 months ago, Moore was competing with Riley Leonard for Duke’s starting quarterback job. When Elko and his staff knew Leonard would get the job, they asked Moore to move to wide receiver two weeks before the season opener.
Moore did so, despite having never played the position. Yet he not only won a starting job, his 60 catches tied for seventh in the ACC last season, during which he amassed 656 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns.
Twelve months later with not only that game experience but the benefit of working an entire offseason as a wide receiver, Moore is poised to be one of the ACC’s breakout stars as Duke looks to build on last season’s surprising 9-4 record.
“I mean, he hadn’t run a route as a wide receiver in his life, and started the opener,” Elko said.
“And so I think now, going into the second season and getting all the fundamental work and the footwork and some of the strength development, I think he’s got a tremendous upside this year to what he can be.”
Jordan Moore confident in his abilities
Heading into his junior season, the Baltimore native and psychology major offers no surprise in his success. That’s not arrogance, but rather a product of his upbringing.
“In my life, every goal I have just brings it back to what my parents taught me,” Moore said. “That you can be anything you want. You’re really limitless. So with the amount of hard work I put in, I feel like I can be one of the best receivers I personally can be, and if that translates to the best receiver in the ACC, then my hard work paid off.”
That hard work has added much-needed upper body strength to help him escape press coverage at the line of scrimmage. That should allow him to get past an initial defender and get open more often. He’s improved his route-running through repetition to become more precise.
Those things, combined with the speed and elusiveness he brought to Duke as a dual-threat quarterback prospect, have his coaches and teammates eager to see what he can produce.
“I think he’s light years ahead of where he was a year ago,” Duke offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said.
Learning on the fly
Moore learned the position on the fly last season, taking instruction well and gleaning information in games and practices. While that was admirable, it proved difficult, too, because the opposition quit treating him like a novelty and paid more attention to stopping him.
“He was constantly learning as the season was going on,” Johns said. “And it wore on him. I think it got hard on him because as the games got tougher, so did the defenses that he faced.”
His offseason plan was designed to get him mentally and physically ready to be even better. That meant a workout regimen designed for a wide receiver, not a quarterback.
“I wasn’t very strong in my upper body last year,” Moore said. “Now that’s more of an emphasis. Barbell benching and stuff like that. So it’s been good to see my body transform over all these months.”
All through the process over the last 12 months, Elko said, Moore attacked it without any reservations or regrets. He made the move to make the team better and now he’s a more productive player.
“What you love about Jordan is that he’s an unselfish player,” Elko said. “He’s doing the things that you need to do to help this team be successful. And I think he’s now realizing that that’s also the best way for him to become successful. And so one year later, at wide receiver, I think you’re seeing a much improved version of him in every aspect of what he’s doing.”
Moore knows he’s better, too, which could mean trouble for opposing defenses this season.
“His confidence,” Johns said, “has really gone through the roof.”
©2023 The News & Observer. Visit at newsobserver.com. Distributed at Tribune Content Agency, LLC.