Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- His teammates joke that he has the hitting power of a player who could spin down and play at linebacker, or even defensive end, if needed. But 6-foot-1, 230-pound William Moore is too valuable at free safety to think about playing other positions. Moore tied for the NCAA lead with a school-record eight interceptions. He needs only six picks to break the school record this season. More importantly, he provides leadership to the Tigers' defense.
After practice Thursday morning, I sat down to talk with "Willie Mo" about the upcoming season.
How has practice been going for you guys so far?
William Moore: It's going very good. It's well planned. Our defense and offense look good. There's room for improvement. But we've had a good start.
How much of a surprise was last season for you with all of the individual and team honors you earned?
WM: It wasn't a surprise. It was nice to get recognized because I always work hard. Finally getting showcased and getting the coaching and having everything come together like it did has been fun. It's gone well.
Did you think you were capable of those kind of numbers if you got the chance to play?
WM: Definitely. I came here with a bunch of all-conference safeties already here. I had my position as nickel back the first couple of years and I just learned from it. It helped me.
Give me an idea of how hard it is to play defensive back in the Big 12 with all of those receivers and quarterbacks?
WM: It's not easy. You have to be able to run and cover. It's that simple. Playing free safety against the spread, you have a lot of fast receivers and it's tough to press those guys. You have to play off them. And the quarterbacks aren't that bad, either. It's a big challenge every week.
How much do you think it prepares you for everybody else in the Big 12 by facing Chase Daniel and all of your receivers during your own practices?
WM: That's the best practice you can ever get going against those guys. We can play with anybody after we match up with those guys every day. It's great training for us. If we can shut them down, we can play with anybody.
How much are you guys going to miss Cornelius "Pig" Brown, a senior who was such a big part of your secondary last season?
WM: We'll miss him a lot. Pig was a great leader for us, bigger than just a football player. He was the heart and soul of our defense last season, him and (nose tackle) Lorenzo Williams. Pig is one of my best friends and we'll miss what he gave us.
Because Pig is gone, do you feel that you have to step up your own leadership of the defense.
WM: Definitely. I knew that last season when he went down. That's why my game elevated last season, because I knew I had to be more of a leader. And I provided more enthusiasm the more I played.
How have you evolved during your career at Missouri?
WM: I've matured. I'm more proud of that than any accolades I've received in football. When I came in, I had a problem with my attitude. I didn't understand an aspect of coaching that yelling at you is not to hurt you but to eventually help you. I understand that now and it's made me a better player.
Your defense played as well as any in the conference late last season. Where did that production come from?
WM: The better your competition is, the more you'll raise your standards. Our defense was always good, but we just struggled a little. We had a lot of inexperience coming in and every game we got better. You could tell it playing on the field.
What's it like around Columbia these days with all of the expectations coming into the season?
WM: It feels good. That's what we're planning to do. When I came to Missouri, we had goals, but we never quite reached them. Now that they are finally coming true, it's a like a dream come true -- a blessing. It's not a surprise. We worked hard during the offseason to have things like this happen for us.