COLUMBIA -- Skai Moore is on the verge of doing something never before done at South Carolina.
The senior, who ignored the temptation of the NFL Draft to come back for one final season at South Carolina, can become the first person in school history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons.
“It’s something I pride myself in, just making as many tackles as possible,” Moore said. “It’s something I take pride in.”
The senior had been chasing T.J. Brunson in tackles all season and used a 10-tackle day against Georgia to usurp Brunson and take a one-tackle lead on the season.
If the totals hold, the Moore is on pace to beat Brunson out by just one tackle on the season.
It’s not something that gets mentioned a lot in the football facility building between the two of them, but Brunson has told Moore he’s not ceding the tackle title lightly. Both are highly competitive.
“We just try to win,” Brunson said. “Both of us have the same mindset when it comes to getting on the field and playing and doing what we have to do to win.”
At the beginning of the season it seemed like Moore would take the tackle record easily, but Brunson has been a tackling machine in his first year as a starter.
The two linebackers have combined for 133 tackles this season, 9.5 for loss. Moore (67) and Brunson (66) have at least nine more tackles than the third-most tackles on the team: Chris Lammons (57).
Brunson’s started every game at middle linebacker a year after trying to find time on the field behind some veteran players. He only made 12 tackles in only nine games last season, but stayed the course and found himself a focal point of the Gamecock defense.
He’s learned a lot from his teammate over his two-year career, and Moore sees a lot of himself in the sophomore and tries to build his confidence every time he can.
“That’s what it is with all young guys. They come in here thinking college football is this crazy thing, but football’s football,” Moore said. “That’s what I always tell T.J.: You’re a great player, you’re a special player, just keep your head because you’re supposed to be out here. Don’t get lost in all the hype and the smoke and the crowd.”
Moore has taken Brunson under his wing in the middle of the defense and the two have become a pretty lethal pairing.
Brunson’s learning from a four-year leader in Moore to help his role expand next year while Moore is chasing professional football dreams.
Until then the Gamecocks have three more games, all at Williams-Brice. Moore has three more games to try and secure his fourth season leading the team in tackles.
He does more than that, though, and his leadership is going to be valuable for this team as the season comes to a close.
“It allows you to feel confidence in your job knowing that the guy you’re lined up next to is going to play at a high level,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “Skai is a very smart player, very instinctive, and I think he’s really rubbed off on a lot of guys defensively this year."