When C.J. Moore stepped foot in Stillwater in 2018, he was lacking in many aspects.
He was undersized, behind those who got a full spring season in and was just lacking in maturity.
“He’s just got to be a little more blue collar,” Oklahoma State wide receiver coach Kasey Dunn said prior to the fall camp. “I think he came in with a little bit of, ‘Hey man, this is going to be easy. I’m a highly-recruited guy, it’s going to be no problem. The door’s wide open – Marcel (Ateman) is gone, and I’m the guy.’ And it wasn’t quite like that.
“So for him, as soon as he gets it screwed on tight with, ‘I’ve got to work every day, I’ve got to do what they ask me to do, I’ve got to do the little things.’ Then he’ll be a great player. I have no question in my mind that he’s going to be a great player, I just don’t know if it’s this year or his senior year.”
Two games into this season, in which he has caught three passes – two of which have been touchdowns – Moore agrees that he was behind when he arrived on campus.
And though he might have still had a mentality of “I’m the guy” like Dunn saw, he was delivered another wakeup call this past offseason when the coaching staff offered a scholarship to graduate transfer Jordan McCray out of South Alabama – with both Dunn and Mike Gundy citing experience for extending an invitation to the program.
“It definitely pushed me, because I thought when (Tyron Johnson) was gone, I thought it was my time,” Moore said. “… I wasn’t upset about it or anything. I was just like, ‘Alright, I’ve got to grind. Now I know what I’ve got to do.’”
What helps Moore stand out from some of the other tall receivers at Oklahoma State is he doesn’t play like somebody who is 6-foot-5, 175 pounds. And it was seen in Week 2 against McNeese, when he caught a pass five yards from the line of scrimmage and scorched past a defender up the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown from Dru Brown.
“C.J., once he gets going, takes almost one step per five yards and that’s the difference with him,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “It’s a little bit deceptive of how fast he is.”
According to Moore, he’s been clocked at a 4.51 40-yard dash, but thanks to the GPS chips the players wear on their pads, he said he’s been clocked running 20 miles per hour.
“C.J.’s got a smaller guy’s movement to his body, even though he’s really long,” Dunn said.
Aside from the speed Moore brings to the field, Dunn has been impressed with some of the finer details the redshirt freshman receiver has showcased in his short time in Stillwater. He’s just wanting to see more of it from Moore.
“He’s a good route runner to begin with, his releases are good, it’s just a matter of consistency for him,” Dunn said. “One day he can be phenomenal and you think he’s going to be the next great one, so I know that day’s coming because you see it in certain practices, but you don’t see it every day.”
And that’s why a redshirt year was used on Moore. He got to play in the Liberty Bowl against Missouri – though didn’t make any catches – and has since shown signs of the maturity Dunn has been looking for.
“C.J. really needed more than a year. He was a long ways away from the structure and discipline that it takes to play at this level,” Gundy said this week. “To his benefit, he has come in and worked extremely hard. He’s gained 25 pounds, but it looks like he’s gained 50 from when he came in. He’s worked hard and changed his lifestyle, and adjusted to our culture … he was just come and go. He was nowhere near being ready last year.”
Moore about family
Moore was one of the most vocal recruits in his signing class for Oklahoma State.
He was bleeding orange while still a senior at Tulsa Union – constantly hyping up the Cowboy team, and those who committed and signed with his class.
But it was for good reason.
Oklahoma State football is in his blood.
A four-star recruit who was ranked the 26th-best receiver in his class – and 147th overall – in the 247Sports composite ranking, Moore had offers from all across the country. Nearly every Big 12 team offered him – though Oklahoma did not – and even some of the blue bloods came after him – Alabama, Ohio State and Texas all offered.
But he elected to follow in the footsteps of his cousin, Tracy Moore, who finished his Cowboy career with 2,064 yards receiving with 18 touchdowns from 2009-13 – hauling in 45 catches for 672 yards and four scores in OSU’s Big 12 championship campaign in 2011, and achieving 738 yards on 51 catches with six scores in his final season.
“I’ve always been around OSU, always watched all the games,” C.J. said. “If I wasn’t watching OSU as a group, I was always watching Tracy. I watched everything.
“Being that young – I was probably 11 or 12 years old – I didn’t really understand it, but now that I’m up here, I understand some of the things that he did.”
The current Cowboy credits his cousin with helping him make the transition to now getting opportunities on the field in his first year of eligibility.
C.J. said he speaks often with Tracy, who is now a personal trainer working with receivers in the Tulsa area.
“I talk to him very often, it would be crazy if I didn’t,” C.J. said. “I mean, he’s already been through here, already did everything. That’s kind of my backup guy. If I have a question or an idea and I don’t want to give it to the head man, the General – Coach Dunn – I’ll text up Tracy and ask him what he thinks about it or how he thinks (Dunn) will react to it. …
“But at the end of the day, it was up to me whether if I wanted to take initiative to get myself ready to play, because they’re going to give me the material and everything, it’s just a matter if I wanted to take it and apply.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State football.