The biggest compliment Brian Kelly paid Elijah Taylor to date was a scholarship offer.
Notre Dame moved on the Archbishop Moeller standout midway through his junior season at the Cincinnati powerhouse, back when Taylor was a regional prospect with offers from West Virginia, Michigan State, Louisville and Illinois. Eventually, bigger names followed Notre Dame’s lead, including Ohio State, Florida State and Tennessee. But the Irish were first among programs with national profiles.
What does that all mean for Taylor after a red-shirt freshman season? That remains to be seen, although he flashed some of the ability that made him one of Notre Dame’s top targets in the ’15 recruiting class.
“He’s so strong and physical,” Kelly said during spring practice. “Can he play the three (technique)?”
The Irish need Taylor there.
The sophomore is next in Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z series.
If Taylor can replicate the freshman season of Daniel Cage it would be the kind of boost Notre Dame needs at defensive tackle. Jerry Tillery, Jarron Jones and Cage are the clear top three, with Taylor slotted at No. 4. In terms of statistics, Cage played in 11 games as a freshman and made just four tackles. But the bigger help was how Cage ate enough snaps to keep Sheldon Day and Jones fresh. The Irish don’t need a lot from Taylor this fall, but 10 quality snaps per game would do the trick. Cage still has four years of eligibility remaining, meaning the best of his college career is coming.
Too much Taylor would be a bad thing for Notre Dame considering depth at defensive tackle seems to be a strong suit entering training camp. Assuming that depth chart stays upright, Taylor would be Brian VanGorder’s fourth-choice defensive tackle. If he gets higher than that, Notre Dame suffered another devastating injury at the position. If he drops lower, it’s not a good sign for Taylor as it would be mean getting beat out by lesser players. Few on the roster have a more set depth chart position than Taylor, who seems a couple steps off the first-team but also a couple steps ahead of the players behind him.
It’s tough to make one before Taylor plays a snap, with red-shirt freshman seasons for defensive tackles common under Brian Kelly. Jay Hayes and Jonathan Bonner both took them (they’re working at defensive end now). So did Micah Dew-Treadway and Brandon Tiassum as classmates of Taylor. Going back a few cycles, Trevor Laws, Sean Cwynar, Louis Nix and Jarron Jones were all red-shirts too. So is there a career comparison for Taylor? Not yet, but if he turns into a valuable reserve this season Cwynar would be a decent comparison considering he played in 11 games as a sophomore and started one, although he finished with just three tackles that fall.
Development Vs. Recruiting Ranking
Taylor was a split decision among the recruiting rankings industry, with Scout and 247 slotting the Ohio prospect almost identically. Both had Taylor as a four star, with Scout putting him No. 203 overall and No. 20 among defensive tackles while 247 ranked Taylor No. 19 at the position. ESPN and Rivals both went the three-star route, with Rivals putting Taylor No. 39 among defensive tackles and ESPN ranking him No. 34. It’s hard to gauge who’s right before he sees the field.
Taylor At His Best
TBD. After a red-shirt freshman season it won’t be long before Taylor makes an impact in a reserve role this fall. He never bubbled up to the first team during spring ball but wasn’t buried with the deep reserves either.
Quote To Note
“Elijah, I feel like he’s the powerhouse in the group. I feel like he can bull rush anybody, anybody at anytime.” – Sheldon Day at the Fiesta Bowl on Notre Dame’s three red-shirt freshman defensive tackles