Taylor turning heads in spring practice

The role of a walk-on in the college football world can often times be arduous and thankless, with the opportunity to get consistent, meaningful playing time being rare. Sun Devil linebacker Grandville Taylor is hoping for different results.

Often overshadowed most of last year, Taylor has forced himself to be noticed this offseason with his tremendous work ethic and relentless play on the field. Just two weeks into the spring, and Taylor has himself firmly entrenched in the two-deep depth chart with his eyes set on higher goals.

The path of each football player is unique. While most dream of being highly decorated blue chip athletes coming out of high school with their choice of college teams to play for, others simply accept what is offered. And sometimes, in a case like Taylor's, the school finds them, even unexpectedly.

"Arizona State, it's actually kind of funny, because they came at me, school-wise, not so much for football," said Taylor after practice on Tuesday. "I always looked at ASU as a pretty good school. I had always heard really good things about ASU. So after checking it out, I applied and got accepted, and honestly it was one of the happiest moments of my life."

The Northern California native starred at George Washington High School in San Francisco, CA, earning first team all-city honors and was the captain of his football team all four years. After arriving in Tempe he decided he wasn't ready to give up on his passion for playing football and opted to walk-on, despite not receiving any recruiting attention from the Sun Devils out of high school.

"I walked on in 2009 and since then I've just been working hard, trying to compete every day," he said. "I've just been out here working hard, trying to get noticed."

And getting noticed he has.

On Tuesday once again, Taylor, who played in nine games for the Sun Devils in 2010 both on defense and special teams, practiced with the first team defense at middle linebacker. The junior has been making the most of his opportunities this spring, constantly standing out on the practice, and not just because of his long dreadlocks, but for his aggressive, attacking style of play.

"Well, it's been a journey and I know the story isn't over," commented Taylor," so I'm just going to continue to work hard every single day. Each day I'm out here, in the film room, the weight room, class room, I always work hard. That's my main goal. I just want to compete and get better every day."

Helping Taylor, a BIS student and currently studying design and art history, settle in and become acclimated with football at the college level has been fellow linebacker Brandon Magee. Despite being sidelined due to injury for the past twelve months, Taylor insists the lessons and wisdom Magee has passed on have made an impact on his development as a player.

"I've learned so much from him since showing up here my first day," said Taylor. "He's just a tremendous player and has such a great character. He's just always been exactly what you see. The guy you see on the field, is everything that he is off the field. He's a great leader. He's always pushing me and it's been a great experience."

The progress Taylor has made on the football field was on full display last weekend as the team staged its first scrimmage of the spring at Sun Devil Stadium for fans to view. Taylor appeared everywhere as he collected five tackles and had two pass break-ups, helping set the tone for the defense.

"I feel like Saturday was a good starting place for us," he stated. "There were a lot of things that we did (well), but at the same time they were a lot of things that I know we can improve on."

The defense made things difficult for the Sun Devil offense, and afterwards players pointed out the various schemes Taylor and his teammates were running. Not just content to play a 4-3 base defense, the team showed an aggressive style of attack, demonstrating their defensive prowess.

"We like to mix it up and come at you in all sorts of different ways," said Taylor. "I think that's a really interesting thing about this defense, that we're going to be a challenge for this offense; just the things we're doing on defense and how we're going to be attacking them.

"Now, it seems like everybody is focused," he added. "Everybody is just hungry to compete. The coaches, they really push us. Every day they're trying to make us better."

Taylor insists that the defense's new philosophy and schemes suit his skill-set, giving him reason to believe that he can be successful on the field. At 6'0" and 220 pounds, he can serve as a run stopper at the line while also possessing enough speed to cover enough ground, sideline to sideline.

"I try to make my weaknesses all my strengths" he remarked. "I would say that I blitz really well, but I can also play the run tough. I'm always trying to improve on everything though; there's nothing that I'm totally solid on. I'm always trying to improve, whether it's pass-coverage, different blitzing; all that."

Even after all the strides Taylor has taken on and off the field, it remains to said whether or not he'll be receiving a scholarship any time soon from the coaching staff. But don't expect that to change the way he approaches his responsibilities on the field, that's just not his way of doing things.

"I have no clue," he responded when asked if he's heard whether or not he'll be receiving a scholarship before the fall. "I honestly have no clue. There hasn't been any word on whether I will. But I'm still working hard just the same every day."

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