Randy Taylor Evaluates Football Prospects

Sports recruiting is a big-time business. Colleges are looking for top players, and high schoolers are hoping to get scholarships for college. Randy Taylor, a former Illini football center, is a talent evaluator who is creating a scouting service to help colleges have a complete picture of prospective recruits. He has good things to say about Illinois' football recruiting.

Randy Taylor graduated from the University of Illinois after lettering from 1976 through 1978. He has been in some aspect of football ever since, including working as a recruiting coordinator at UCLA.

"After I left UCLA, I started a scouting service where I evaluated football players for colleges," Taylor explains. "At the same time, I did some work for Scout.com on a semi-regional, semi-national basis. I was evaluating players and helping them do their lists of top players."

Most recently, he spent a year as Director Of Football Operations for Tim Brewster his first year at Minnesota. But scouting was still in his blood.

"I enjoy scouting more, and that's why I got out. I'd done that before and knew what I was getting into. Tim asked me to come with him, and as a friend I said I would. About October last year I told him this was not what I wanted to do, so I would get through signing day and probably move on."

Taylor hooked up with the National Collegiate Scouting Association after leaving Minnesota. The NCSA has grown to 100 employees, dedicated to matching athletes and colleges and helping the student athlete understand the recruiting process, what questions to ask, how to make themselves more appealing to schools, and how to prepare for the SAT exam and become eligible. Randy was allowed to create a new approach for NCSA.

"I wanted a national scouting business and evaluate players for colleges like I did in California with a home base in Chicago to keep my wife near home and family. So we started a new side of NCSA where what I do is evaluate players, and colleges get that information from me. My team members or clients purchase these evaluations."

Randy is excited for the future of his business.

"We are starting 50 underclass combines beginning this February. I'm gonna be a year ahead of every college. I've been working on 2010 since August, and I already have 2011, 2012 and 2013 started.

"Knowing what the process is, knowing how it works, I convinced them to do this so we could be a service to colleges and the city of Chicago and to football players at the Division I level. It's not necessarily matching colleges with athletes, it's evaluating the players and helping the colleges find out where the top players are.

"The pool in Illinois isn't as big as in California or Texas, so you're working out of a smaller pool with so many colleges going in there to recruit. And I think a lot of the best athletes for the most part play basketball. So that shrinks the pool of talent some more. But when you get out ahead of things and get 200 guys on your list of juniors and 100 on your list of sophomores and 75 freshmen, that starts to become a value to people to get out ahead on their Chicago recruiting.

"And then add to that the underclass evaluations with academic information, their measurables like height, weight, 40 time and all that, and verified, and then they're videotaped. When you add all that together for the evaluation, that becomes of great value."

Taylor treats all colleges and players equally, but he still pays attention to his former school. While he hasn't evaluated all of their 2009 commitments, he likes what he has seen so far.

"I really like the kids who I've watched. I really like their defensive linemen. They've got a good group. The names off the top of my head are escaping me. I think the Buckner kid (Lendale) is a guy who could play on Sundays.

"He's real raw, but he's 330 pounds. I'm watching him on short yardage line up on a wing on offense, and he comes in motion and is able to kick out a linebacker on the run at 330 pounds. For that size, he has amazing quickness.

"And then the two kids at East St. Louis, (Kraig) Appleton and (Terry) Hawthorne, I've seen them in person and also on tape. I help pick Sports Illustrated's 'Tackle" top 200. It's on their website, and then I do shows for them on the different positions. Appleton and Hawthorne were on the top 200 in the country list.

"Their upside is so huge because they're still thin. I think Hawthorne is the more versatile, but Appleton has size. He isn't as big as Jeff Cumberland, but he's got nice length to him and is tough to defend. And he has good ball skills.

"The quarterback they got (Nathan Scheelhaase) I really like. I think his upside is really good. I think he'll be a better thrower than Juice (Williams). He runs so well, he's athletic. I don't think he has Juice's arm strength, but he's strong enough.

"I think he's a good enough thrower, and he's thin. So his arm strength and potential is through the roof in some aspects. He's really got a chance to be pretty good. Juice was just a heck of an athlete who could throw the ball.

"I just think the group as a whole, without remembering names, is real good. The offensive lineman from Leo (Leon Hill) is a guy who has really good feet for a kid who's underdeveloped. He has a chance to be a monster. He's a really good player."

Players like Buckner, Hill, and Juice Williams may take some time to develop in college because Chicago schools don't always offer the opportunities some others receive to learn techniques early in their careers.

"Most of the coaches (in Chicago) are not full time coaches," Taylor explains. "They're coming from 8-5 jobs and then trying to spend all the time you need to coach and teach the kids. Their hands are tied in so many ways in the city."

Randy is quick to praise junior Kyle Prater, a 6'-5" receiver coached by former Illini Famous Hulbert at Proviso West High School.

"The receiver at Proviso West is probably one of the top receivers in the area and maybe in the Midwest."

Despite his height and long legs, Prater makes quick cuts with short strides, allowing him to gain separation from defenders.

"That's exactly what you like about the kid. And he catches the ball well enough. He's gonna put 20 pounds on and really gonna be a load. There's not gonna be a lot of people who can really cover him because he can stick his foot in the ground and change direction.

"And he's got a wiggle that big guys don't always have. He reminds me of national recruit Marlon Brown out of Tennessee, who has running back skills as a bigger receiver, and that's hard to find."

Randy Taylor will become an increasingly important asset to college coaches as his combines and evaluations gain momentum.

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