Brandon Taylor talks spring, helping Eugene, late hits
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Acting Editor
Sometimes, you ask a question with one thing in mind and get an answer you never expected.
Like yeseterday after practice when I asked Brandon Taylor if the safeties in 2010 would have a hard time replacing Chad Jones’ physicality.
“Nah, we’re laying the wood out there … even when we ain’t supposed to be,” Taylor answered proudly. “We’ve got a couple of safeties who got kicked out of practice today.”
And getting the early boot from Tuesday practice represents a positive step?
“Yea, that’s a good thing,” added Taylor.
Sure enough, as I walked out to the parking lot 10 minutes later, a passing-by Russell Shepard echoed the same sentiment without me asking a single question.
“We got a physical team, dog,” Shepard said in a matter of fact way.
When I finally did bring up what Taylor said about the safeties, Shepard confirmed, before saying “It’s a lot different than last spring.”
While the physical nature of spring practice seems new to a lot of the players, one constant in an offseason which saw Chad Jones opt for the pros is Taylor at the safety position.
As a sophomore, the Franklinton native (and brother of current Tiger, Jhyryn, and former Tiger, Curtis) started nine games at safety and saw action in all 13 contests.
His play complimented Jones’ skills fairly well, and Taylor was cruising along fine until the Alabama game. On that day in Tuscaloosa, Taylor was beat for two passing touchdowns, including the now-infamous 73-yard Julio Jones scamper with Patrick Peterson cramping on the sidelines.
That’s a near-impossible situation to put a safety in: one-on-one on an island with Julio. But Taylor overcame the moment and had a decent finish to the season (seven tackles the next week against Louisiana Tech and two pass break-ups in the Capital One Bowl).
Entering a new season, the junior-to-be sees the growth in his game.
“I think I’m grown up now. Last year, I was young and I was kinda nervous,” Taylor explained. “Now, I’m more comfortable. I know the playbook. I know everything I’m supposed to do, I’ve just gotta put it to the test.”
Part of Taylor’s maturation process is passing along his knowledge to other players, even if they’re older than him as is the case with converted corner and fifth-year senior Jai Eugene.
“In some situations, it’s really not that hard because you’ve got more space to work with,” explained Taylor. “But you’ve gotta be more vocal and you’ve gotta know the plays a lot more because you’ve got to tell other people what to do and make checks every time.”
Taylor emphasized how critical it is in the John Chavis system to know everyone’s assignments and essentially be the eyes for an entire defense.
“We (the safeties) really know the corner position and the corners know the safety position because you play better when you know where everybody’s gonna be at on certain calls,” Taylor continued. “You know where you’re supposed to protect and where you’re not supposed to protect, who’s inside of you and who’s outside of you. That’s why I think we’ve got that good chemistry back there.”
Eugene is expected to get the early nod at free safety (backed up by Craig Loston) and Taylor at strong safety (backed up Karnell Hatcher). But Taylor reiterated that you really have to know both positions in Chavis’ system as they are pretty interchangeable.
And so far, so good on the experiment to move Eugene to safety?
“Jai’s a good tackler, that’s why they moved him back there, because he can tackle,” said Taylor. “He gained a little weight. That’s why they moved him back there also.”
After explaining the logic behind moving Eugene, Taylor also ran down what he sees from the new coaches on staff this spring. Billy Gonzales, in particular, has caught his eye.
“He’s got them blocking like I’ve never seen receivers blocking before,” remarked Taylor. “If they’re not blocking, he’s running down the field in their ear, while they’re blocking. If they’re running routes wrong, he’s running the route with them during the play. That’s a good coach and I like what he’s doing.”
Taylor then mentioned what he sees as good competition at the running back position, all of which has been spurred by Frank Wilson. “If they fumble, they might not get another carry (at practice) or they’ll be moving down on the depth chart.”
One last note on Taylor: During our interview, he sported an ice bag on his right shoulder, saying he’d sprained the AC joint. But he assured it’s nothing that will have long-term effects.
“It’s getting better now, and I’m playing through it. I’m not worried about it.”
Ben Love is Tiger Rag’s lead reporter on spring football. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.