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Too much Moore could bring down Cav offense

Just try to ask Corey Moore whether his Virginia Tech defense is the best around, and you won't get very far: he'll cut you off before you have the chance to finish. He doesn't need to hear the rest of the question - he already knows the answer.

"I say we're the best defense in the country," said Moore, a senior defensive end. "We're relentless. We come after you every play. We just keep coming and coming and coming. We never take a play off."

Period. End of story.

Moore may be the fastest end ever to line up at the position. He is a revolutionary, ushering in a new breed of smaller, faster linemen to match the increasing speed of the college game. But if one thing is quicker than Moore tearing around the corner with his radar centered on a helpless quarterback, it is his tongue, quick to praise, willing to criticize, and like the man himself, never taking time off.

"When the time is right, I'm very vocal out there on the field," Moore said. "If I'm playing my ass off and my teammates are playing their asses off, then I don't need to talk. But if I need to step up and speak my mind, then I'll do it."

He is a defensive end for the new millennium: turbo-charged, athletic and relentless. Listed at a miniscule 212 pounds, though, he has his fair share of doubters, those who fully believe the next time a hulking offensive tackle lays a finger on the smaller Moore, he will lay down and play dead.

"First of all, I'm 227 pounds, not 212," Moore said. "My size doesn't hold me back. It doesn't bother me that people think I'm too small."

If Moore continues to terrorize opponents the way he has through three games, every defensive coordinator with his headset to the ground may ask his lineman to start hitting the Ultra Slim-Fast.

"I'd like to have somebody like him," Virginia coach George Welsh said. "We've got to recruit more 210-pounders that can run fast and get them up to 220 or 225. When you've got that much speed and quickness, it doesn't matter how big you are. He may have changed the thinking of a lot of people, including me."

This is high praise from a man normally reluctant to single out individuals. Welsh must have watched the Virginia Tech-Clemson game last Thursday, a contest played before a national television audience in which Moore took center stage.

The Brownsville, Tenn., product did his best Michael Johnson imitation, blazing around the edge of the Tiger line like a greyhound to destroy quarterback Brandon Streeter on virtually every snap. By the time the final horn sounded, Moore and Streeter were closer than your average second cousins. The diminutive defensive demon posted two sacks and a memorable 32-yard yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to ice the 31-11 win.

"It was a good opportunity to make a statement," Moore said. "Clemson was a very good team, but we knew we had it in us. I feel like I'm a very good football player, and if you watch, it'll show."

It showed.

After blindsiding Streeter and rumbling for the game-clinching score, Moore danced a jig in the Lane Stadium end zone before walking to the Hokie sideline. Upon arriving at the bench, he stared squarely into the lens of an ESPN camera and started shouting, "Best in the nation." He knows his defense is, but is Moore talking about himself as well?

He says no; the rest of the country, foaming at the mouth after Moore's three-game, six-sack reign of terror to start the year, appears ready to say yes.

"Corey is just a tremendous athlete," fellow Virginia Tech defensive end Chris Cyrus said. "He makes us all better out there on the field. When I take a breather and come over to the sideline, sometimes I watch Corey and ... it's just like, 'wow.'"

But Moore is not the only Hokie defensive lineman that offensive coordinators stay up nights fretting over. At a prodigious 269 pounds, defensive end John Engelberger provides the perfect complement to the smaller Moore. Cyrus rotates in as the third end, while a combined 488 pounds of Carl Bradley and Nathaniel Williams clog up the middle.

Moore remains the headliner, a title he disdains.

"They don't get the credit they deserve," Moore said. "I'm sick of everybody calling and wanting to interview Corey. I'm not the only guy on this defense who can shut people down. I'm tired of other people on this defense not getting the attention they deserve."

For now, though, Moore and his comrades must focus on No. 24 Virginia, a squad beaming with confidence after halting BYU and boasting a big name in its own right: Thomas Jones.

"You can't stop him," Moore said. "He's the best running back in the country - it's a crying shame he isn't getting the attention he deserves. For me to say we're going to go out and shut him down would be ridiculous. We just have to contain him and limit what he does."

Sounds a lot like what Virginia will hope for with Moore, who Welsh calls a "game changer."

"He's obviously a great player, and we have to be aware of that," Virginia quarterback Dan Ellis said. "You can't just focus on him though, because Engelberger and their other guys will beat you from the other side, so we have to be balanced."

Ellis has been hit before, hard and from every possible angle, but not by someone like Corey Moore. He knows he's coming, though.

"We have to be cognizant of him, but you can't expect your offensive line to block perfectly every time," Ellis said. The defense is going to make plays. I'm ready to get hit."

And Moore is ready to dish them out.