Moody: “I felt like I fit there”

That won’t be just any old running back for the scout team going against the first string defense of the Florida Gators this fall. The man toting the ball just might be the best scout team running back in the nation now that Emmanuel Moody (6-1, 205) has gone public with his decision to transfer from USC to the University of Florida.

Moody, a former Parade All-American, rushed for 459 yards and two touchdowns at Southern Cal last year, averaging a team-high 5.8 yards per rush last season. He left USC because of the school’s depth at his position, citing a “business decision.” He will sit the 2007 season per NCAA transfer guidelines but he will be a sophomore in 2008, eligible to play three seasons for the Gators.

Moody will start classes at Florida this week and he will be able to practice with the Gators throughout the fall in what will effectively be a red-shirt season. Moody said his decision to choose Florida was based solely on what the UF football program could do for him.

“I am in Texas right now … I fly to Florida on Tuesday or Wednesday,” Moody told Gator Country from his hometown in Coppell, Texas. “I can start classes any time this week.”

Once Moody decided to transfer from Southern Cal, he made a list of schools he would consider. There were five on the list but he only visited North Carolina and Florida. Once he got to Florida, he felt like he had found a home.

“I was looking first and foremost for football, everything else was beyond that,” Moody said. “I told Coach (Urban) Meyer I have gone through the recruiting process so let’s just talk football.

“He showed me the good things about the program and the offensive scheme and everything just fit well with me. I just feel I fit in the offense. Coach (Dan) Mullen sat me down and went over the plays with me because I didn’t have an understanding of how it works. The main focus of the offense is to put the play makers in open space,. I think that goes well with my strengths, and I will enjoy that… I just feel like I fit there.”

Moody Friday night that he had made his decision, but had not informed the coaching staffs at the schools. He planned to do that Saturday. He knew the recruiting process was over once he made that call to Coach Meyer on Saturday.

“Saturday I gave them my word and gave my commitment to Coach Meyer that I was going to be a Gator,” he said.

Once Moody arrives in Gainesville he can help the Gators prepare for their opponents each week on the scout team while learning the Florida offense. He will participate in spring drills and he will be eligible to play in the fall of 2008. The commitment means he will now join the scout squad at UF and also start learning bits of the Florida offense.

Moody plans to make the most of 2007 even if that means scout team duty. He knows that he can use the year off from playing in games to his advantage.

“This year I just want to learn the offense and study the offense,” he said. “I just want to become a better player. I can really focus on the things I was focusing on when I was on the field. There isn’t just one thing, I want to get better at everything. I want to get faster, stronger, learn the scheme better, get better at blocking, work on my hands. You never get to the point where you are complete, you can always improve on your skills and fine tune yourself.”

Erroneous reports of Moody being a selfish player surfaced when he announced his transfer but Gator Country’s contacts at USC said otherwise. my contacts at USC told me quite otherwise. When Moody gets a chance to show his stuff, he knows doing whatever it takes to win is what is going to get him on the field anyway.

“I just really want to come in and help the team out and play my role,” he said. “The role they give me I am just going to take that and try to run away with it. I want to contribute and help them win another national championship.”

Moody has made statements that he wants to be the featured back in the offense. For the past couple of years, Florida has had a running back by committee approach. All of the backs on the team were recruited to come to Gainesville as the featured back but so far, none of the six on the team has stepped up to be THE man at the position.

“I am not used to seeing a team not having a featured guy … that is what I am used to,” Moody said. “I just felt like the opportunity for me is there and Coach Meyer told me I have the opportunity to be that guy. I know I am going to have to come in there and compete to be that guy.”

Emmanuel Moody will join fellow Texans Kestahn Moore and Mon Williams at the running back position for the Gators, a position fortified by Chris Rainey, Chevon Walker and Bo Williams. It’s a position stacked with talent. Now it is time for someone to step up and take command.