Lowering the boom

CLEMSON — Brandon Maye has not had to tackle Rendrick Taylor since last spring, but Clemson's middle linebacker still remembers how he had to brace himself for the impact every time he did.

"He definitely puts the fear into some defensive guys, especially on the goal line when you have one yard to go and you have to hit a (260) pounder that is coming at you," Maye said smiling following Monday's practice.

Taylor hopes that reputation carries over to fall as tries to get back to a career that has had few ups and a whole lot of downs.

Once a promising wide receiver out of Marlboro County High School big things were expected out of Taylor, and he was living up to those expectations until he broke his wrist during the fourth game of his freshman season.

That was the beginning of a career that has been full of one lingering injury after another. During his sophomore season he broke his arm while diving for a pass at Wake Forest in Week 5. At the time he was third on the team in receptions, but the injury ended his season.

In 2007, he finished the year fourth on the squad with 25 catches for 259 yards, but those numbers could have been higher if it was not for a hamstring injury that sidelined him for four games.

"That has been really frustrating at times," Taylor said. "At one time I felt like hanging it up, but I decided to come back and just give it another go.

"It is always going to be frustrating once you get injured, but you have to look beyond that and look towards the future to get yourself better. Right now, I feel healthy and I feel 100 percent. I'm doing things to keep myself from getting injured."

Taylor was hoping 2008 was going to be the year when he could finally put it all together and maybe build on his 46 career catches for 480 yards. But that plan was put on hold when Taylor was first moved to linebacker and then to running back last spring.

With James Davis and C.J. Spiller as the featured backs and highly touted recruits like Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington coming in, Taylor felt his chances to make a name for himself were probably done and that's when he seriously contemplated moving on.

"It was real difficult for me. It was kind of up in the air," he said. "I was leaning towards just graduating and transferring to another school."

"Talking to Coach Swinney, he just told me he really felt like I was called to play this game, and he saw a lot of potential in me and that I've just got to believe in myself," Taylor said.

But thanks to head coach Dabo Swinney, Taylor was assured there was a future for him still at Clemson.

"Talking to Coach Swinney, he just told me he really felt like I was called to play this game, and he saw a lot of potential in me and that I've just got to believe in myself," Taylor said. "Right now I believe in myself again and I'm just going out there and giving it 100 percent."

Taylor proved that at Clemson's first spring scrimmage last Saturday when he ran through and over some of his defensive teammates while racking up 46 yards on just eight carries.

"Rendrick is a load," Maye said. "You have to come down on him low."

Right now the Tigers are using Taylor in many facets to try and get him on the field as often as they can. Clemson has created the U-back which is like the H-back in that it is a fullback/tight end kind of position. In that role, he will either line up in the backfield or go in motion or will line up in the slot or at tight end.

Then there is his S-back position, which is where he is the power back in short yardage and goal line situations.

"We're continuing to cross train him in both regards so we can utilize his talents and create a good situation for us," Swinney said. "Rendrick can tote the rock. He can run it, and he'll be a threat."

Taylor, who is up to 260 pounds and has 9 percent body fat, likes his new role in the Clemson offense and is excited about how it will work for both him and the team this fall.

"I really feel like I can be a short yardage back," he said. "Third-and-short, fourth-and-short or goal line, they are always calling me to come in and run the ball. One of my strengths in being a big guy is to lower my shoulders and go straight ahead.

"I'm really not a shifty player that can go out and juke and make a spin move. I have to use my strength and my strength is to just go in, lower my shoulders and get it done."

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