Taylor On Board with Position Change

Due to injuries and several playmakers on offense, Rendrick Taylor never fully lived up to the billing as, "The Freak" as a hybrid wide receiver. The coaching staff is hoping that will change with his new position.

Taylor, a senior, has been moved from offense to linebacker, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning confirmed to CUTigers.com.

The move was done because there are several questions surrounding the linebacker positions.

Will Antonio Clay be well enough mentally to return to school and rejoin the team? Who is going to be the starting linebacker at Will after the departure of senior Nick Watkins? Who is going to be the backup to Scotty Cooper at Sam and to Cortney Vincent at Mike?

Taylor will be first tried at Sam, because that's where the greatest need is, Koenning said. But he will also be tried at the other spots to see how that goes, too.

"With Clay having his issues and having a big depth issue at linebacker, it was a move that needed to be made," Koenning said. "I really didn't have to do a selling job to Coach (Tommy) Bowden to get him. He looked on offense and saw so many guys that are explosive and that can plays and that there's only one football."

Because of his sheer size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Taylor was not the prototypical wide receiver. It was difficult for him to find a home on offense because of that.

After his freshman year, which he played solely at receiver, offensive coordinator Rob Spence created a special position just for Taylor called Joker. It allowed Taylor to line up at fullback, H-back, receiver and tight end.

There were such high hopes for him that receivers coach Dabo Swinney marveled at the prospects of what he could do on offense.

"That's the thing, he can beat corners, he can beat safeties and he can beat linebackers," Swinney said in March of 2006. "He's such a freak athlete that it's exciting. I'm telling you, he's a nightmare to match up with, because he is quick and he is explosive and he can run and he can catch the ball and he's got ball skills and he's got instinct and he's smart. …

"He's got to go do it first. He's got to prove himself. But as things go, I would think that the defensive coordinator has got to go, ‘Where's that big body at and where is he lining up?' I think he can be something special, I really do if he continues on the track he's on." The plan was to create more mismatches with the defense, but that never really materialized. Over the last two seasons, Taylor had just 37 receptions for 411 and one touchdown.

However, injuries have also played a major role in his lack of stardom.

As a freshman, he broke his wrist and had to wear a cast most of the season. As a sophomore, he broke his arm and played in just seven games. This past season, he missed four games with a severely pulled hamstring.

All told, Taylor has missed 11 out of a possible 38 career games.

"It's a chance for him to maybe make some money on the defensive side," Koenning said. "He has the body for it and the athleticism."

However, there will obviously be an adjustment period for the coaches and for Taylor.

"He's got to learn how to attack instead of catch," Koenning said. "Some guys have natural instincts when it comes to defense and some guys don't. We don't know yet about Rendrick."

The move also goes against Dabo Swinney has been preaching for three years that Taylor would never be moved to defense, though Bowden thought about making that move between Taylor's freshman and sophomore seasons.

"It was never seriously discussed on my end," Swinney said back then. "I wasn't privy to those conversations, I can assure you. I know that's a thing that people like to talk about, but the coaching staff has seen that he can be special (on offense).

"There's not many linebackers that can go play wideout. That just tells you what kind of athlete this guy is. Yeah, he could go and be a great linebacker. He could be a great tailback. He could be a great safety. That's why we recruited him, because he's that kind of player. …

"He could be like a David Boston or an Anquan Boldin (of the NFL). He can be the first Rendrick Taylor. That's why I don't understand (wanting to move him to defense). There's nothing wrong with a 226-pound wideout that can run 4.5 and jump 40 inches and throws his body around. I don't know when that became a crime. He's really fun to have. It's kind of unique.

"There's not many guys like that and you feel like you've got something special on your hands and let's just see where we can go with it. But people look at him physically and say he's a middle linebacker. But that's not why we recruited him here."

But times have changed and Koenning said that Taylor hasn't fought the move one bit.

"He's been great about it," Koenning said. "He's highly motivated and looking forward to it."

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