Looks Are Sometimes Deceiving

Look at Cooper Taylor and you think receiver. He is almost 6-foot-5, a lean 180 pounds with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. Scout.com even has Taylor listed as a receiver. The thing is, the Marist High (Atlanta) junior is being recruited to play cornerback or safety on the next level.

"I've had a lot of people like that about me, my height and speed at that size, at those positions," Cooper Taylor said.

Notre Dame defensive backs coach Bill Lewis, who was the athletic director at Marist in 1995, is one of those people that told Taylor that when he was in South Bend for a week at ND's summer camp.

"We talked about Notre Dame and the different things I need to do in order to play there someday," Taylor said. The Irish have been sending him a lot of mail, along with Louisville, Boston College, Ole Miss, Purdue, Auburn and Vanderbilt. "He said I need to work hard, put up some good numbers this year, which hopefully I did and drop my 40 time a little bit.

"I liked him a lot. Seems to be a good coach, and you guys need some dbs."

Taylor said he ran a 4.55 at the Notre Dame camp. He said since then, he has run a 4.45.

On the field, Taylor racked up nearly 60 tackles with six interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown, while playing through a hamstring injury that kept him off the practice field for seven weeks.

Against teams with a stud receiver, Taylor would play cornerback on an island. Against power-running teams, he would play safety.

"He's a very solid free safety for us," Marist head coach Alan Chadwick stated. "He had a number of touchdown saving tackles for us. Probably 14 to 15. A very sure tackler. Not a physical tackler yet, he is young, he is still improving, getting better. He is great at breaking on the ball."

"He had a hamstring injury that hindered him a little," Chadwick continued. "He did well but it would've been interesting to see how he would've grown as a player if he would've been healthy. He would just walk through practice for seven weeks. We'd have to shoot him up on game day and inject him in the hamstring.

"Sometimes he couldn't cut loose and run. He pushed through it like a trooper. He wants it so badly and he works so hard, and it killed him that he couldn't do more."

He still did enough. Taylor was also able to contribute on offense. In an option scheme he lined up at running back or receiver. He did a lot of blocking, but scored four touchdowns including an 80-yard scoring reception.

"This year he was our backup quarterback," Chadwick said. "He will probably be the starter for us next year. He has a good arm. We're an option team, so it will be interesting to see how a 6-4 quarterback plays for us."

Taylor's father Jim Bob played quarterback at Georgia Tech and in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns.

"He's the one that started me off and he basically gave me the passion for football like he used to have," Taylor said of his father. "He gives me a lot of tips and information. We'll come home after watching tape together and go over what I did well and what I need to improve on."

Taylor's father is disappointed that his son isn't leaning towards Georgia Tech, where he has been on campus many of times and attended a camp last summer. Taylor also attended the Nike Camp in Athens last March.

"He's very disappointed," Taylor stated. "I liked (Tech defensive coordinator John) Tenuta, but the campus and feel just didn't have that appeal."

However, Notre Dame sounds very appealing.

"The tradition, the facilities and the campus, everything around it is amazing," Taylor said. "That Touchdown Jesus thing is a lot bigger than I thought it was. It was huge."

Taylor will be at the U.S. Army All-American junior combine, Jan. 4-6, in San Antonio. He will return to Athens for the Nike Combine. This summer, Taylor hopes to come back to Notre Dame and check out Louisville and Boston College.

"I basically want to go to my top schools senior day camps," Taylor said. He also listed Auburn and Vanderbilt as top schools. Last season, Taylor took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss for the Vanderbilt game.

Between safety and corner, whatever position gets him on the field first at the next level is the one Taylor wants to play.

"Early playing time is pretty big, probably one of the main factors in it," Taylor said of his eventual decision. "I don't want to go there and sit on the bench for two or three years before getting some snaps."

Before next fall, Taylor would like to have his weight above 200 pounds. He is pounding protein shakes and taking creatine. At 180 pounds, Taylor is still pretty strong. He says is max is around 300 pounds on the bench press, and he squats 345. At the Nike Camp, he repped 185 pounds on the bench 16 times.

Taylor doesn't have any offers yet. When they start rolling in, he'd like to make a decision well before signing day.

"It's really going to depend on how the offers come in," Taylor stated. "I'm probably going to make it before, but its going to be either a little before or during my senior season."


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