On the pre-spring depth chart, sophomore Quentin Taylor is listed as the number one Will Linebacker.
He's expected to take over for graduated four-year starter Kelvin Robinson in Coach Ed Orgeron's 4-3 defense. He's expected to turn new LB Coach David Saunders' head in the process.
"I think I did a good job last year, to a certain extent," said Taylor, a 6-0 235-pounder from Apopka, FL. "The coaches didn't have any choice but to put me out there (in games) some, but there were a lot of times I wasn't comfortable in what I was doing. They knew that, but it was what it was."
It was all about comfort, something collegiate football players learn and earn via experience.
"I have no regrets about last year - I wanted to play, but there were times when the crash course in the system I got left me trying to produce on athletic ability rather than knowledge," he continued. "You have to have both in this league to be truly successful."
After playing in several games in 2005, and getting good reviews from the coaches despite his self-perceived shortcomings, Taylor started taking a hard look at his results.
"Athletically, I felt I was OK, but I certainly didn't reach the level mentally you need to be to be successful," Taylor assessed. "I absorbed as much as I could, but that still left me lacking at times."
He went about his preparations for 2006 in a businesslike manner.
"First, I targeted what I needed to work on. Then I came up with a plan. I needed to learn the defensive system better and I needed to continue to work on my speed and strength," he analyzed. "I have watched a lot of game film and paid close attention to everything in our chalk sessions.
"I now have a lot more confidence in myself due to the work I put in during the offseason. I feel stronger and faster and I feel more comfortable in the system and what my role in the defense is," said Taylor. "I'm not experiencing things for the first time any more. I've seen just about everything there is to see, now it's just a matter of working on my reaction time and anticipation."
Quentin believes he will be "much better" in 2006 than he was in 2005.
"Personally, I know I will show improvement for a lot of reasons. I now know what it takes on this level, I know the system better and I'm better physically," he stated. "I feel that way about all the younger guys who got some experience last year. We learned a lot last year, but now it's starting to soak in more."
Taylor will have competition from his roommate, Antonio Turner, who was a tailback last year but has been moved to LB in the spring.
"I'm trying to help Antonio all I can in his learning process. He's a great athlete. It's just a matter of time before he's a great LB," Quentin said. "He will push me and I will push him, the way it's supposed to be."
Taylor feels blessed to be playing in the same linebacking corps as All-American MLB Patrick Willis and returning SLB starter Garry Pack.
"There is so much those guys can teach all of us and they are fantastic leaders. They motivate you to do your job and not be the weak link on the defense," he added. "I'm motivated to show them I belong on the field with them. P-Willie won't be on the field in spring (injury rehab), but he'll be out there teaching all of us younger guys."
Taylor, known as a heavy hitter, only has one goal for spring.
"To do my best," he closed. "That's all anyone can do. If I do that, I have confidence it will be good enough and I will help this defense be productive."
Taylor aiming for No. 1 WLB
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