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The San Francisco 49ers had a personal stake in coaching the South squad this past January at the Under Armour Senior Bowl that encouraged them to draft three players from that game with the electrifying performances that were unveiled throughout this game in which the North defeated the South 27-0.
Looking back on that game many of us as 49er fans were disgusted at the announcements that were made of six players that were attributed honors in that game for the merit of their performance in that game. One player was clearly ignored and not recognized for being the best defensive player on the North squad in that game while Mike Nolan observed from the opposite sideline.
Penn State's Tony Hunt, was made the game's overall Most Valuable Player and did put in a strong performance, so did North's defensive player of the game in Leon Hall of Michigan. Trophies were awarded to six total players while Nebraska Cornhusker defensive end Jay Moore stood by and observed as well with clear frustration over the ceremony that didn't include recognition of his hard work.
" I was a little surprised, too, to be honest with you," said Moore, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive end from Nebraska.
Mike Nolan was a bit surprised as well after being a main observer to what this young athlete had just proven within one game that was the highlight of every senior playing inside this particular game. Despite, not winning any trophies or formal recognition in this game Jay Moore did gain something that is more valuable to him than anything else; he became a San Francisco 49er.
Most of the NFL's coaches and scouts when considering a defensive player looked at the performances of fellow Nebraska teammate Adam Carriker, whom was the opposite defensive end from Jay Moore on his team, and Louisville's 19-year old defensive tackle Amobi Okoye where both received the accolades and praises alike from professional observers and scouts.
In the week prior to the Senior Bowl NFL draft observers from around the league had converged to watch the practice regimens of these defensive players in speculation they would raise the bar on their individual draft statistics so as to warrant second and even third looks.
Jay Moore believes this to be a contradiction though in light of what he recorded in this game of three sacks that were recorded by him for a total loss of 21-yards to the South's offensive unit. Moore believes that it is the actions out on the field and not during practice that warrant the consideration for elite status rather than watching someone simply practice at a high level with anticipation of doing well also in the game.
"All week we were talking about Okoye and Carriker and we all forgot about the other guy," North head coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said of Moore. "He made some plays."
"Anytime you play well, I think that's good and I think people see that," he said. "Having a good time (Saturday) will help me, I think, when scouts take a look at the (game) film."
The North's defense piled up eight sacks in all, which knocked the South's offensive unit for a loop that was a total net loss of 52 total yards that doesn't even allow blitzing on the quarterback. Mike Nolan who was the head coach of the South squad came away with a shopping list of would-be-defensive prospects that would later make it on our draft board come April of which Jay Moore would become a part.
The Senior Bowl turned out to be the defining factor for Jay Moore because the San Francisco 49er coaching staff came away with much more than an eyeful. They came away impressed that this little guy on the opposite end of Adam Carriker was not only underrated but utterly overlooked by many.
"It feels good to get out there and make some plays," said Moore, who had 45 tackles this season for the Cornhuskers, including six sacks for a loss of 43 yards. "It was a tough week of practices, a big week for me, and it was good to have a chance to go out there and make some plays."
The San Francisco 49ers went on to choose Nebraska's Jay Moore in the fourth round with the (104th) overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft this past April and he hasn't let anyone down yet. The 49ers are already working with him in mini-camps and recent organized team activities to convert Jay Moore from the 4-3 alignment position of defensive end he was accustomed to, over to becoming an outside linebacker that will prey on the quarterback in the 3-4 defensive alignment that Nolan covets the most.
Moore, 23, is more than accommodating to being a 49er and being given a chance to play in the NFL. He has been more than willing to try and digest the playbook and learn as much as he can about the defensive philosophy that Mike Nolan and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky have brought to the 49ers that have merely flirted with over the past four seasons.
"This position is a blast for me," he said one Friday as the 49ers wrapped up the first of three weeks of organized team activities. "You do a little bit of everything."
Nolan has inserted Moore primarily in repetitions behind outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who has most typically lined up on the strong side over the tight end in the 49ers 3-4 scheme. Moore again played as a defensive end in the 4-3 set just last season at Nebraska and led the team with 17 tackles for losses, including six sacks.
"People say I'm a hybrid-type guy who can rush and drop. I like to get out in space and cover receivers and use the athletic ability a little bit. I like rushing the passer, too, because getting a sack, that's one of the best plays in football. This presents a lot of opportunities."
Back in college he was allowed to freelance a bit in the "open" defensive end position that Nebraska devised to better the use of his abilities. With the change of direction agility enhanced he was able to make more than half of his tackles directly out of his own territory. The Nebraska defense had a 'bend but don't break mental philosophy' that allowed Moore to prowl the perimeter of the field and kept the opponent from entering the end zone on more than just one occasion.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers ranked second in the Big Twelve Conference and 24th nationally, allowing only 18.29 points per game in 2006. So in essence despite being in the 4-3 defensive scheme, making the transition over to Nolan's 3-4 will be easier based upon his "open" position played within the 4-3 alignment back in Nebraska.
"There will be some change for him, some new things he hasn't done in the past," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "But he's a big, athletic guy who can run, so I'm looking for him to be able to handle the transition."
His professional resume is impressive as he was a premier football player that played fullback and defensive end back at Elkhorn High School. He was so successful there that he was regarded as one of Nebraska's top football recruits, becoming a member of the Omaha World-Herald's Super Six team, he carried 92 times for 822 yards (8.9) average and scored 16 touchdowns in five games before succumbing to a knee injury that wiped out his season.
In 2004 Jay Moore became a household name as he proved himself on the field by being inserted in place of right defensive end Adam Carriker in several games with amazing results because of an ankle injury. In 2005 and beyond the coaching staff turned over the "open" (left) defensive end position, as he started all twelve games.
In total Jay Moore had an admirable career in Nebraska and won the hearts of his teammates and the community within. In 37 games he started in 30 of them. He delivered 103 tackles (53solos) with twelve sacks for minus 84 yards and 38 stops for losses totaling 145 yards. He went on to have 22 quarterback pressures and eight pass deflections. He even returned one of his three-fumble recoveries 17 yards and one interception for six yards while causing four fumbles.
Jay Moore has more than made a name for himself at the collegiate level by these incredible statistics. Now he must translate that to the playing field inside the NFL where he is making strides and getting a lot of help.
Adjusting to his new position at strong outside linebacker has been a treat for him in that he has been taking instructions and advice from both Manny Lawson and Hannibal Navies. The 6-foot-4 Jay Moore weighs in at 278-pounds while in his senior season back in Nebraska. He is now down to 272, and the 49ers are conceivably looking for him to get a bit lighter in order to heighten his speed and maneuverability in the open field.
"I've been asking all these questions, and they've been answering them. They've been great," he said. "I think I'm getting better every day. I'm feeling more comfortable." "The pass rush is coming along fine. From being a D-end in college, it comes more naturally for me. It's just understanding coverage's, using your footwork. There are just a lot of little things that take some time to learn and really get good at."
Jay Moore joins a talented group of linebackers some of them having been signed via free agency just this year in Tully Banta-Cain and Colby Buckwoldt. He will also play in the spotlight of first round draft choice Patrick Willis and newly signed unrestricted free agent Hannibal Navies. 49ers linebacker coach Mike Singletary will be the on hand to help tutor Moore in the right direction as Moore became the first draft pick to sign a contract out of all nine with the San Francisco 49ers.
Nolan's anticipation is that Jay Moore and Tully Banta-Cain will apply just enough pressure that will make the opposing quarterback to tinker with some different ideas predictably so that pass coverage is secured. The biggest concern on Moore is his lack of bulk and definite brute strength against the run. However as soon as Nebraska's college season had come to an end he has been working out with the Pervi Speed School to correct some of those flaws.
This is the tale of the tape on Nebraska's Jay Moore at 6-foot-five and 276-pounds and ran the 40 in 4.76 selected in the fourth round with the 104th overall pick.
Positives: Is a natural edge rusher with good initial quickness off the snap and the second gear to close on the quarterback. Good lateral quickness, leading some to believe he may be able to transition to outside linebacker. Has good instincts for the position with good technique, and uses his hands well to shed. Pursues with passion and is a high-effort player.
Negatives: Played opposite Adam Carriker and struggled throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Struggled to keep his feet, showing less overall strength in his play than scouts anticipated. Lacks the size and strength to hold up at the point of attack versus the double team.
Overall: Is a definite prospect to become an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive schemes and as a positive edge rusher because he shows the burst and effort to apply consistent pressure. After a fairly average week of practice at the Senior Bowl, Moore took advantage of some blocking mistakes for three sacks and two forced fumbles in the game.
With his diverse flexibility and ability to come off the edge and apply consistent pressure on the quarterback, Moore in my book is a sure fire pass rusher that we have been searching for. This is a guy that watches a lot of film and is dedicated to what he does as a craft of choice, and that is to pummel the quarterback at every possibly angle that he can.
Both Mike Singletary and Greg Manusky the 49er defensive brain to the 3-4, will use Moore to our every advantage I am sure of it. He has the mental intelligence to change error into success out on the field and to solidify a spot on the roster towards the end of August when cuts are inevitably to be made.
This athlete is the proud representative out of Nebraska that the San Francisco 49ers have been dreaming about. And like Manny Lawson who was cast under the shadow of his former college teammate, Jay Moore will triumph in the same fashion at the professional level.
Sources of Information: SF Illustrated, Sporting News Pro Football Draft Publication, Inside Bay Area.com, Press Democrat, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.