The Mystery of Emmanuel Moody and the Promise of Percy Harvin

If the University of Florida has anything of certainty in its football program besides Tim Tebow and a retinue of Bull Gators who want to see their team win, it is speed.

Speed is what makes Percy Harvin a killer. And speed may have killed Emmanuel Moody’s chances at becoming a star on Saturdays in the Swamp.

Going into and coming out of bye weeks, it’s rare for local media in Gainesville to have anything substantive to report or opine on; this is why punter Chas Henry got a feature in the sports section of the Independent Florida Alligator, the daily student paper that services UF but is not affiliated with the university. (Full disclosure: I covered UF’s men’s and women’s golf teams for the Alligator in 2007-08, but do not currently work for the paper.)

But with Tennessee on the horizon, there have been two articles from Friday and today (from Mike McCall and Brian Steele, both excellent reporters) that tell as much about this season for the Gators as any ink printed or text posted by anyone so far this year.

The first deals with the sojourn of Emmanuel Moody. McCall writes:

Moody rode into town with high expectations, which — fair or not — had him pegged as the first feature tailback since coach Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville in 2005.

Moody confirmed this last fall, saying “That’s the reason I transferred was to be a feature back. USC is all about the rotation and getting everybody time, sharing time.

“I just want to be the feature back.”

But the fantastic quote’s buried between those two (italics mine):

No one seems to doubt that Moody will eventually master the offense — “If Chris Rainey can pick it up, (Moody) can pick it up,” offensive tackle Jason Watkins said — but even then, he’ll have to outperform Moore, Rainey and Jeff Demps to see the number of carries he hoped for when he decided to transfer.

Rainey, from what I’ve heard from UF circles I run in and from all reports I’ve read, is not the brightest bulb in the box. It’s probably thanks to his gifts for gab and his public declarations of how good it is to be Chris Rainey that he’s acquired this rep, but, as a fellow UF student, I  can pretty well assert that Rainey isn’t taking human sexuality because it’s a prerequesite for biology majors.

If Rainey’s not quite burning the midnight oil off the field, though, he burns grass on it.

He’s been tabbed as a replacement in Harvin’s slash role while the junior from Virginia Beach has been rehabbing his heel, and he’s renowned as a speedster not just during games, but in unsanctioned footraces against one of the best high school sprinters ever, fellow Gator RB Jeff Demps, and West Virginia waterbug Noel Devine.

His speed, though, is offset by his size, just like that of Demps; neither is listed as taller than 5’9″ or heavier than 185 pounds, and SEC defenders would probably snap either or both in two given a clear hit.

That’s why they’ve been touted as the perfect change-of-pace backs for Urban Meyer’s offense, but never the sort of feature back the Gators profess to want to take the onus to bruise people off of Tim Tebow.

Moody stands six feet tall and weighs 210 pounds, according to his ESPN page. He’s not built for sprinting like Rainey or Demps, but, with his size, he shouldn’t need to as a featured back, instead wearing down the defense by battering them over the course of 20 carries.

Here’s the problem: during his time at the University of Florida, chances are Moody will never get that many carries in one game.

The last time a UF player not named Tebow  — who, because of broken plays and his scrambling, had three games fit this category in 2007  — carried the ball 20 times, the Gators beat Tennessee.

In Neyland Stadium. In 2006.

That’s a long, long streak to have between games like that, certainly, and especially for a coach who will prattle on about finding a feature back until the ESPN cameras go off. So Moody was rightfully hailed as the cure to whatever ills relying on your quarterback to be your halfback produces (like, say, a 9-4 season) when he transferred from USC in fall 2007.

But if Moody was going to do so, he would have already done it, because, now, with the return of a rejuvenated and ripped Percy Harvin, Moody is redundant.

Harvin’s listed at 5’11” and 195 pounds on his ESPN page, and I’d guess that he played at something around that last year, getting in the range of 10-15 touches a game against the SEC and taking more than a handful of hard shots.

Now he looks like this.

There are muscles on that man that do not exist on some NFL players, and the fearful whimpering Clay Travis does on that page isn’t even the best tribute in the media today about his potential.

From Steele’s article:

Not to mention that Harvin put on 20 pounds of muscle this off-season. Last season, Harvin said he was benching around 325 pounds. Now he’s up to 420. For those counting at home, the difference is about the size of a female UF cheerleader.

And, from the same article, from UF linebacker Brandon Spikes:

“He gets it and boom,” Spikes said.

Uh. Oh.

I would assume, of course, that the weight cited above is from one maximum lift, the typical max-out attempted to throw a gaudy number up for one’s own ego. To put this in context, Julio Jones, Alabama’s 6’4″ beast of a freshman wideout, reportedly maxed out at 305 pounds, if you believe that ESPN page.

Now, certainly, Harvin has had a world-class weight room and plenty of time to work on his upper body since undergoing offseason heel surgery; Jones hasn’t had similar circumstances.

But Percy Harvin, lest we forget, is also fast. (NSFW language.)

Jones ran a 4.56 40 at a 2006 Nike combine (scroll down) and probably runs around 4.5 now. Harvin’s probably no less than two-tenths of a second faster, considering he’s run a 4.24 if you give any weight to Rivals.

And now he’s gone from being about as strong as Jones, who is about as strong as most college wideouts get, to incrementally stronger, and Brandon Spikes, who came to UF in Harvin’s class and sees him every practice, says he hasn’t lost his signature “boom” at all?

The sound you just heard was probably Phil Fulmer dropping a full box of danishes.

But it could well have been Emmanuel Moody dropping his head in regret.

Harvin’s now probably on par with Moody in terms of strength, and he’s always had a few steps on the guy who clocks just shades better than 4.5 in the 40.

And if Moody can’t beat out Kestahn Moore, the fumble-prone back who has always been touted as a prospective workhorse, for his carries, why should he be able to take some from Harvin, whose ground game gave UF’s offense its only dimension beyond Tim Tebow in 2007 and whose blinding speed helped diversify the Gators’ attack in their 2006 title run?

Wouldn’t you want more from the proven gamebreaker, not more from the unknown who hasn’t quite grasped the offense and has all of two carries and two yards for your team?

Wouldn’t you want the guy whose speed sparks YouTube videos and Heisman hype, not the guy who languishes on the bench and is a walking question mark?

Emmanuel Moody came to UF as the answer to a question. He’s only a redshirt sophomore, and he might yet be that answer.

But I promise that a fully healthy Percy Harvin means that question need not be asked again this fall.



Filed under College Football

6 responses to “The Mystery of Emmanuel Moody and the Promise of Percy Harvin

  1. rjsplow

    not to nitpick, but Moody is actually a redshirt sophomore….that only matters for the purposes of eligibility, of course, since he can still go pro after this season and all.

  2. smorris291

    As a USC fan, I’ve been following the Moody situation. I wish him well–he seemed like a good kid and a talented back at SC. But his transfer to UF seemed like a strange pick to me. As you stated, he said he wanted to go somewhere where he could be the “feature back”…but he ends up at UF, which–in addition to having Tebow, who carries the ball a tremendous amount for a QB–has a head coach (Meyer) who has NEVER had a RB average over 15 carries/game over the course of the season.

  3. Thanks, rjs. I made the correction up there; it’s always good to have sharp people hanging out down here for the purposes of making the dumb things I write a little better.

  4. Moody would be the feature back at Texas now had he kept his commitment, and not become some sort of bedouin.

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