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Georgia's star reminiscent of former Tiger

POSTED: November 11, 2007 5:04 a.m.
ATHENS When the Auburn coaches watch film on Knowshon Moreno, it all looks very familiar, like someone who used to carry the ball for the Tigers.

The shifty feet. The speed to the corners. The surprising power on the inside.

Even the number — 24, the same one worn by former Auburn star Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

There’s one big difference, though. Moreno plays for No. 10 Georgia, which hosts the Tigers in a crucial Southeastern Conference game Saturday.

Instead of admiring this No. 24, Auburn will be trying to stop him.

"Reminds me of Carnell Williams," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said Tuesday. "Same number, same running style ... just a very explosive runner. He has a great competitive edge to him. He’s got an attitude on the field and you can see their other players feed off him."

Moreno, a redshirt freshman, has been an offensive godsend for the Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2 SEC), who have climbed to first in the Eastern Division on the back of their enthusiastic running back.

Just last week, he joined Herschel Walker as the only Georgia freshmen to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Moreno also became the school’s first runner to reach that figure since Musa Smith in 2002.

"He’s the fuel that keeps that car called Georgia going," Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves said. "If you eliminate him, you eliminate 80 percent of their offense."

Georgia came into the season looking loaded in the backfield, with Moreno set to join a mix that already included seniors Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin.

But Lumpkin went down in the very first game with a broken thumb, then sustained a knee injury that will keep him out for at least the rest of the regular season. Brown missed the last two games with a broken collarbone, though he returned to practice this week and likely will play against the Tigers.

Even if Brown is healthy, it’s going to be hard to keep Moreno on the sideline for very long.

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound bundle of energy has been practically unstoppable since Brown was hurt early in a game at Vanderbilt nearly a month ago. Moreno carried the ball 28 times for 157 yards against the Commodores.

Proving that was no fluke, he ripped off 188 yards on 33 carries in a 42-30 win over Florida, only the third time in the last 18 years the Bulldogs have defeated their border rival.

Last week against Troy, he piled on 196 yards with 26 carries to give him 1,003 for the season. He’s still got three regular-season games left to build on that total, plus a bowl and, possibly, the SEC championship game.

"I couldn’t do it without my team, without my blockers up front. They’re doing a great job," Moreno said, trying to deflect any attention. "It means a lot to them. It’s more like their reward."

While he does little to draw attention to himself during sessions with the media, Moreno’s enthusiasm on the field is on display for all to see. He bounces around the field like a pinball, always going at full speed, always hopping up from the ground like he can’t wait until the next play.

Coach Mark Richt can recall only one other Georgia player who approached the game with such passion: defensive end David Pollack.

"Every once in a while, you can see a guy on tape who just flat out loves it," Richt said. "Knowshon is one of those guys. It’s contagious. A lot of guys love the game. A lot of guys play hard. But every once in a while, it’s just so visible that this guy is jacked up, ready to go and wants some more."

After struggling through the first half of the season behind a young line, the Moreno-led offense seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time, scoring 86 points the last two weeks.

"He’s by far the most energetic person I’ve ever been around," teammate Mohamed Massaquoi said. "It’s not an act, either. He’s not putting on. He’s just always fun to be around. You might be a little tired, but then you look over and see him flying around. That makes you want to pick up whatever it is you’re doing."

Moreno doesn’t know much about the long, storied history of Georgia football. He grew up in New Jersey, far away from SEC country.

While the Garden State isn’t one of Richt’s usual recruiting grounds, he couldn’t help but notice the kid who played with so much enthusiasm and, oh yeah, was the second-leading rusher in New Jersey high school history, helped his team win three straight state titles and scored 43 touchdowns as a senior.

Moreno felt comfortable on his recruiting visits to Athens, and it helped that he had relatives in the Atlanta area to ease the transition. He was redshirted last season, giving him a chance to get adjusted to the pace of the college game.

"I wanted to pick a place where if I wasn’t playing football, I could get along with everyone and still have a good time at the school," he said. "This was the place for me. I’m definitely happy with my decision."

So is Georgia.



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