The Orange and Blue Debut
Steve Spurrier Field/ Ben Hill Griffin Stadium; Gainesville, Florida
Friday April 7, 2017; 7:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: SEC Network
In the end the focus was simple for Jawaan Taylor, The sophomore right tackle for the Florida Gators wanted to earn a scholarship offer from the University of Florida, a school his teammate at Cocoa High School Chauncey Gardner was already committed to. Once he got the ultimatum from the Gator staff, which was all it took.
"I started out, in my high school my junior year I came up to camp one day, it was 383,” he said about his weight when he visited Florida in June before his senior year of high school. “They told me in order to get the offer I had to lose weight, so I went home, I worked out three times a day, got with trainers and stuff and I dropped 52 pounds so I came back at 331. I played through my senior season, the day before my birthday I got an offer from Florida and ever since then, once I signed, it just took off from there."
"It wasn't hard. If you just stay with a strong mind the whole time it worked out so I just stayed with a strong mind and just cut down eating habits, stuff like that, so it ended up working out for me."
Taylor hasn’t fallen into the trap that some do with the same issues. He hot his goal, got the offer, and has since maintained the proper diet in order to stay at a quality playing weight.
"I've been eating healthy with the nutritionist every day and she's just been keeping me on the right eating habits and stuff,” he said. "Yesterday I weighed in at 336 so I'm pretty much the same."
Because of his extra weight and his lack of mobility that came with it, Taylor was recruited by every school on the trail as a guard, and not a quick footed tackle on the edge trying to protect from top speed defensive ends. That changed with the Gators after he signed because he changed himself and the need for tackle at Florida.
“All my schools that were recruiting me in high school were just telling me I was going to play guard, but right around the time when I was getting ready to sign Coach Summers had told me that they wanted me to play tackle and try it out,” he said. “I played tackle in high school so I was all for it. It worked out good."
While the Florida staff told Taylor they needed him to get ready for the 2016 season, but he wasn’t sure he was actually get on the field in year one.
"Really, after I got the offer, after I had the weight loss, it just turned a switch on for me just to work hard,” Taylor said. “I worked out three times a day to get ready. But I was just expecting the best, hoping I could get on the field my first year and I did."
"I was just ready to stay humble. I was just playing football, just playing the game I love. That's all it was."
By midseason he was gaining the praise of head coach Jim McElwain and things probably couldn’t have gone much better. All the praise was great and yet humbling.
"It was just a great feeling… a dream come true,” he said. “It was just like the best feeling in the world. It just told me that I need to work even harder and not settle and not get comfortable, just keep working hard."
By no means did he have a perfect season in 2016 He understands there is much improvement needed as is with the whole offensive line. They all understand they have to work.
“I would say it was like mostly bad communications some days and just some days trying to get guys to go out and practice and prepare,” he said of the offensive line from a year ago. “But you know, each day we’re just trying to get better and progress. With a new coach, he’s staying on top of us and he’s not letting us fall. He makes sure we always are up doing something. Always in the office watching film, so he’s just getting us ready every day.”
New Florida offensive line coach Brad Davis is trying to instill a more aggressive nature on the offensive line. If the group could match the intensity of Taylor at the line of scrimmage, they would be making big strides.
"Yeah, we're trying to get it down the line,” Taylor said. “Me and Martez are trying to pretty much be the leaders on the line and just trying to get the aggressive nature there. And Coach Brad Davis is doing a great job with that."
"Since he's been here (speaking of Davis), we just took a major leap and we're doing a lot better, a lot more aggressive, better communication. Everything we do a lot better."
“We play with a way bigger chip now than we did last season. You know the offensive line is doing a great job all around this whole spring. So I feel like we’re getting a lot better with that chip on our shoulder. I feel like we have something to prove.”
He sees bigger things for the line and the offense as a whole.
“I feel like the offense can definitely turn it around,” he said. “Just bringing in a great coach, we did a lot better, we’re doing a lot better, we’re progressing a lot every day. We’re just going to get ready for fall and we’re going to take it all the way I feel like.”