Maturity Defines Taylor On and Off the Field

CAMP TONTOZONA - True, Camp Tontozona is all about team bonding. Yet, it also draws very clear lines between freshmen and other classes. Those divisions can become blurry to non-existent when a talented freshman, such as Kerry Taylor, acts anything but a first-year player. An invitation to stay at the sophomore cabin? No wonder the WR is the envy of his fellow freshmen these days.

The buzz of the summer workouts was that Kerry Taylor was turning in one jaw-dropping performance after another. For just over week now, it's been the turn of coaches and fans to witness his receiving prowess during fall camp. The cool weather in the pines near Payson have seen the red-hot wide receiver shed any doubts about his redshirt status, and that has given him instant credibility with the Sun Devil veterans.

"The camp is definitely a new experience for me," said Taylor. "In high school we never had a team camp and this is the first time I've been practicing with the team away from all the distractions. It's definitely a great experience, and I'm getting to bond with a lot of guys, telling stories and just getting to know everybody else much better."

Even though the former Chandler Hamilton star grew up cheering for the Sun Devils, he never visited this temporary summer home for the maroon and gold. He didn't know what to expect from Camp T, and if anything else he thought his encounters would be similar to any other true freshman before him. Then again, not every true freshman has shown the dedication and skill such as Taylor.

"The players have been real nice to me so far," Taylor remarked. "Actually a couple of them asked me to stay in the sophomore cabin with them. So it's pretty cool that I can stay with some of the older guys. I'm sure the freshmen are getting jealous, but I still have to sing the fight song like any other freshman. It always happens during dinner, and as much as you try to hide, they always find you…I've done the fight song twice. First time I sucked! Second time I did better. I think I know it all through now, and I know the seniors are gonna stay on us until we all know it."

Another freshmen tradition is for each of them to read his bio from the media guide in front of the whole team, and only one player has had this dubious honor thus far. "Omar Bolden read his bio," said Taylor. "It's probably because he talks a lot and his bio is pretty long."

At night the wide receiver evades skunks on the dirt paths leading to the cabin, so he can avoid that oh-so familiar and ghastly ‘skunk spray.' During the day he jukes defensive backs and turns in impressive catches that make onlookers shake their head with amazement. "Things are going pretty good," Taylor commented. "I just need to keep learning, keep working hard and everything will take care of itself. I'm getting a lot of respect from the older players and it's definitely exciting working with the first team. Hopefully I'll still be on that team when September 1st comes."

Some of that respect is coming from no other than the offensive leader and the starting quarterback. "Rudy (Carpenter) is always encouraging me on the field," said Taylor, "and last night I ate dinner with him and we were telling stories forever. That was the first chance we really got to talk to each other for the first time, and get to know each other. He was pushing me to keep on working hard and get that starting spot."

Maybe Taylor's performance should come as no surprise. Not only has his summer accomplishments been well-publicized, but also the fact that he attended all 15 spring practices as a very proactive spectator, has mentioned numerous times. "I always wanna be humble because I haven't played a game yet," Taylor noted. "I just expected to come in and work hard. I knew that nothing was gonna be given to me and I would have to earn it. In spring ball I wanted to be ahead of the game and get in on the plays and learn the rhythm of practice. But I haven't done anything yet, because practice isn't game time. I just hope I can make an impact this year so I can help the team."

Taylor points to his route running as the skill that he has most improved on during fall camp. "I'm doing a better job recognizing coverages, opening my strides up more on the shorter routes so I don't give it (the route) away, getting out of my breaks a little faster…those are the things I think I improved on a lot since practice started."

The wide receiver said that being a starter is certainly a goal he strives for, but with multiple wide receiver formations and interchangeable parts, Taylor knows that despite his position on the depth chart the opportunities to make plays will always be there. "Right now we have some guys that are hurt and once everyone gets healthy I hope I can be on the first team," he said. "I'm just gonna take it one step at a time, work hard, keep on learning and hopefully I'm there on the first team on September 1st."

Taylor is just one of many passing game weapons that has ignited the imagination of the Sun Devil nation for several days now. Granted, he and his fellow receivers have to show up on Saturdays and transform practice performance to game heroics. Taylor is excited to be part of such a group, especially in his first year of playing college football.

"I think we have one of the best wide receiver groups in the Pac-10," he claimed. "We have so many guys that can play so many positions – slot, outside receiver, everything…we have a lot of speed, a lot of good athletes and our offense is pretty wide open. Rudy notices everything on the field, all the receivers know their assignments, and we can just get open when we need to and make plays. It's pretty exciting."

And having a freshman wide receiver poised to make an early impact in the ASU offense, is just icing on the cake…

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