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TACKLING A BIG DECISION

Honored as one of the nation's best juniors, the Countryside High player is a top prospect.

Tyler Moore was 7 when his father attempted to sign him up with the Junior Cougars, a youth football program based in Clearwater.

But the family encountered a problem.

"He already weighed 130 pounds," Brian Moore said. "They told us he'd have to play with the 13- and 14-year-olds. I said, 'No, we're not going to do it.'"

In hindsight, the issue might have been predictable.

When Tyler was born at Clearwater's Morton Plant Hospital in 1993, he weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces.

"He," Brian Moore said, "was always big."

These days, being large isn't a bad thing for him.

Now 16 and an impressive-looking 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior offensive tackle for Countryside High School, Tyler is considered an elite college prospect.

Scout.com, a Web site devoted to football recruiting, recently named him one of the nation's 100 best juniors.

The praise doesn't end there.

According to longtime Countryside head coach John Davis, Florida Gators assistant Steve Addazio told him Tyler could end up being the top offensive line prospect in the state - and possibly the nation - for the Class of 2011.

"Coach Addazio said that Tyler is probably the best 16-year-old offensive lineman he's ever seen," Davis said.

On Sept. 1, the first day high school juniors could receive official scholarship offers from colleges according to NCAA rules, Tyler received written offers from Florida, Florida International, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia.

A day later, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State followed suit.

The low-keyed teenager doesn't seem awed by the attention. But his father, who works closely with Tyler and is Countryside's strength coach, is loving every minute of it.

"I never thought it would be this crazy this early," said Moore, 46. "I never thought people would say he's one of the best in the country."

Maybe he shouldn't be surprised. Tyler, after all, has impressive football bloodlines.

Former NFL quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who locals might remember for leading the Los Angeles Rams past the Tamp Bay Buccaneers in the 1979 NFC championship game, is an uncle on the side of Tyler's mother (Kim Sorensen).

Two of Tyler's cousins also played college football.

And, of course, so did his father.

The common thread among them? Each played at Nebraska.

Not surprisingly, the Cornhuskers are the top contender to land Tyler's services. He grew up watching Nebraska games with his father, a tight end at the school in the mid-1980s, and became even more enamored with the Huskers after attending football camp there this summer.

"I always loved the 'N' on the helmet," Tyler said.

Moore, a Nebraska native, admittedly wouldn't mind if Tyler played for his alma mater.

"I think he'd be happy at Nebraska," he said, smiling.

But, his dad added, he'd also be thrilled if Tyler played for Florida, Ohio State or Penn State, his son's other three favorites.

"I want him at a successful program," Moore said.

Tyler will pick the college he want to go to this fall.

But with college still two years away, Tyler, who carries a 3.5 GPA and is described by Davis as a tireless worker, has focused his attention on helping get Countryside to the playoffs - and trying to improve.

"I," Tyler said, "have got to keep working."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

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