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How UTSA transfer edge Trey Moore fits at Texas

The Longhorns added a premier pass rusher from the portal on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Texas State at UTSA Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns signed former UTSA Roadrunners rising redshirt junior Trey Moore over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Of the three players Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have talent from the NCAA transfer portal since the window opened in December, Moore is the highest ranked by 247Sports at No. 13 nationally.

After a redshirt season in 2021, Moore earned Freshman All-American honors, starting all 14 games and breaking Marcus Davenport’s school record with 18 tackles for loss among 59 total tackles, 30 solo stops, eight sacks, six pass breakups, five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

In 2023, the standout edge took his game to the next level as a redshirt sophomore, earning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording 45 total tackles, including 30 solo stops, 17.5 tackles for loss, and a school-record 14 sacks, along with three pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, one interception, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Now Moore arrives at Texas to fulfill his childhood dream of playing for the Longhorns while looking to improve his NFL Draft stock by competing in the SEC.

Here’s how Moore fits at Texas after watching approximately 125 snaps that he played against Texas State, Houston, and Tennessee.

A productive edge rusher

Before looking at Moore’s skill set, it’s worth putting into perspective his production getting after the quarterback at UTSA in 2023 — only four players in Texas history have notched 14 sacks in a single season with the school’s all-time sack leader Kiki DeAyala holding the record with 22.5 sacks in 1982. Over the last 10 seasons, Jackson Jeffcoat has the most with 13 in 2013.

So while Moore is arguably unlikely to match or exceed his total number of sacks from 2023 as he arrives at Texas and makes the leap in competition from the AAC to the SEC, it’s possible to make the case that Moore profiles as one of the better edge rushers the Longhorns have had in the last decade with some similarities to Jeffcoat in height, quickness, and questions about his strength and run defense

What makes Moore special coming off the edge starts with his speed rush — though there aren’t any testing times available for the 6’3, 235-pounder, his quickness of the ball is apparent and difficult to deal with for the opposing offensive tackles he regularly faced with the Roadrunners.

Everything else builds from there with Moore showing an ability to be effective on twists when UTSA ran line game and with inside moves and spin moves as counters to his speed rush. On one play against Houston, fear of Moore’s speed rush caused the right tackle to set so deeply despite outside help from the H-back that Moore was able to make a quick inside move and the tackle could barely make contact, giving up a big hit on quarterback Donovan Smith as he threw, nearly resulting in an interception. Because of Moore’s speed and his fluid hips, he’s able to make multiple moves on a play at a high speed.

As the competition increases, however, Moore may need to be more judicious with the use of his spin move and his inside moves get shut down quickly when they don’t work with Moore tending to get engulfed and having little recourse because he gives up his shoulder, leaving him without the ability to keep working his hands. Even on speed rushes, Moore doesn’t really have the base to maintain the arc he’s capable of bending, allowing tackles to push him beyond the quarterback without having to make strong contact.

At times, Moore can show heavy hands when he bullrushes, but it’s just not a strength for him given his mass and there isn’t really any evidence of a speed-to-power move on film, either, at least from watching all the defensive snaps from the Texas State game.

When Moore can’t get to the quarterback, he does have an awareness of passing lanes if not the height and length to regularly disrupt them when he gets his hands up.

Evaluating Moore’s run defense

Beyond translating Moore’s pass-rush ability to a higher level of play, a key area for the Smithson Valley product to show improvement is in run defense. From 2022 to 2023, the Pro Football Focus run defense grade for Moore dropped with particularly poor performances against Tennessee and Rice.

A lowlight for Moore came on the opening play from scrimmage the Volunteers in Knoxville. On a zone read, Moore bit hard on the running back, allowing Joe Milton to take the edge and race 81 yards for a touchdown, the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in Tennessee history.

On 3rd and 6 in the red zone on the next possession for Tennessee, the Volunteers ran a gap scheme at Moore with a pulling guard and an H-back combining for a block that forced a missed tackle by Moore and led to another rushing touchdown.

Run defense is the area where some physical limitations may show up for Moore — he was listed at 6’2 out of high school and at 235 pounds is 26 pounds lighter than Barryn Sorrell and 22 pounds lighter than Ethan Burke. The differences in stature between Burke and Moore are particularly pronounced with Burke’s 6’7 frame and long arms dripping with NFL upside and giving him a major advantage in reach.

But Moore doesn’t seem to lack for effort or a willingness to take on blockers. At times, he ran himself out of plays because UTSA seemed willing to let him speed rush without reading run or pass on early downs. The bigger problem for Moore is that when offensive linemen get their hands on him, he doesn’t have the length to disengage.

On one standout play, Houston tried to force Moore to over pursue on a reverse run back at him and although Moore took a false step chasing the running back, his speed allowed him to force the wide receiver to the sideline and create a tackle for loss.

Pass defense

UTSA did use Moore at times as a pure outside linebacker, lining him up in the slot for 133 snaps over the last two seasons in addition to 40 box snaps. In 2022, Moore was targeted 21 times in coverage, allowing 19 receptions for 210 yards with a long reception of 55 yards. Moore did break up two passes that season and, for whatever reason, whether it was a change in how the Roadrunners deployed him or improvement in coverage, Moore was only targeted five times in 2023, allowing four receptions for 39 yards and coming up with his first career interception while raising his coverage grade to 71.3.

Tennessee also took advantage of how UTSA deployed Moore’s responsibility in the flat, running a fake hitch that turned into an 18-yard touchdown on a switch rail route when Moore struggled to flip his hips to run with the wide receiver, admittedly a tough assignment on a play that featured late and ineffective help over the top.

Against the Wildcats, the Roadrunners used Moore at times as a interior linebacker, dropping him into coverage in long down-and-distance situations for reasons that are difficult to determine given his ability coming downhill.

Defensive fit

Texas has returning starters at Jack end in Sorrell and at Buck end in Burke with Sorrell finishing fourth on the team with 531 snaps through 13 games and Burke playing 389 snaps despite dealing with a knee injury that required meniscus surgery during the season.

Sorrell only had three sacks on the season, but produced 38 quarterback pressures and 24 quarterback hurries, second on the team in both categories — while the Louisiana product is capable of creating pressure, he struggled to produce a truly breakout season because he couldn’t turn those pressures into sacks.

Burke had one more sacks than Sorrell along with 24 hurries and 17 pressures, fourth and tied for fourth on the team, but graded out at 62.1 in his pass rush.

Since both players are strong run defenders with Burke grading out third on the team in that category, Moore will have to improve in that area to take away snaps from Burke on early downs. One potential solution for defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski is to move Burke to Jack end at times to get Moore on the field and reduce the snap load on Sorrell, a move that would likely cut into playing time for rising junior Justice Finkley, not the worst thing for Texas given the relatively meager production from Finkley this year.

The other option when Texas plays teams that utilize heavier personnel is to play Moore at strong-side linebacker in a base defense, the position that Jett Bush and Anthony Hill Jr. have flashed in during the 2023 seasons. With Bush departing and Hill spending more time at the weak-side position as the season went on, there’s a need for the Longhorns there that Moore is better suited to fill in the short term than signee Colin Simmons even though Simmons is the No. 1 edge in the country in the 2024 recruiting class.

Finding ways to effectively split snaps on the edge is a good problem for Kwiatkowski to have and represents one of the more intriguing pending storylines for Texas during the offseason.

Even more intriguing is the possibility of rushing the passer with Moore, Hill, and Simmons all on the field together.

Cultural fit

Even though the combination of Moore’s production and interest in Texas made him a seemingly clear take for Sarkisian and the Longhorns, it’s never quite that simple for players out of the portal because

I think that we have created a culture here that we have a lot of pride in and I know the veteran leaders on our team have a lot of pride in and now that influx of young players, they can help educate them on what it means to be a Longhorn,” said Sarkisian on Early Signing Day.

“When you start bringing in a lot of transfers at the top-level positions, now you’re really trying to recreate that culture and so when we go to the portal, it’s because we’re really trying to fulfill a need a very specific need where somebody can come into our program and have an immediate impact on the field and in our locker room, for that matter.”

Sarkisian asks three questions regarding any potential portal additions. Do they have the skill set to make us better? Can they fill a need? Do they fit our culture and our mindset?

For Moore, it’s clear that he checked all three boxes.