Top 10: #4 - Devin Taylor

For South Carolina to reach its goals in the 2012 season, 10 players have to step up and have a big year. We begin the top 10 today and will conclude with the #1 player prior to the opening game against Vanderbilt. Today we take a look at the #4 player, Devin Taylor

4. Devin Taylor

There may not be an impact player that is talked less about than defensive end Devin Taylor. The soft-spoken Beaufort native has quietly put together a solid NFL-type career. He has amassed 116 tackles and 15.5 sacks, along with forcing two fumbles, recovering four, and deflecting 10 passes. He also had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee in 2010 and a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown last season at Arkansas.

Taylor could have easily followed Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery into the NFL draft and could have been a top-end draft selection. However, Taylor realized he had some things to get better at and improve upon to be ready to play at the next level. He also realized that there was potential for this defense to be extraordinary and do special things this season.

"I wanted to focus on my strength as well as my quickness and agility," Taylor said. "I've progressed tremendously; even more than I thought I could."

Taylor has put on 10-15 pounds since last season and has even more strength to go along with his freakish speed and quickness. That could only mean good things for Taylor and the Gamecocks this season.

"I've progressed little by little every week," Taylor said.

Taylor enjoyed a career year in 2010 when he had career-highs in practically every statistical category. Taylor recorded 46 tackles and eight sacks as well as eight deflections. He also recorded 14 of his 27 tackles for loss in that breakout season. His numbers suffered a bit in 2011 as Melvin Ingram enjoyed a tremendous senior season and Jadeveon Clowney burst onto the scene. Taylor had 42 tackles, tackles, six sacks and two deflections.

Even with the slight decline in numbers in 2011, Taylor has the opportunity to have a huge senior season. He's made several preseason watch lists; Ted Hendricks, Bronko Nagurski, Bednarik, and Lombardi awards. No doubt Clowney will receive a lot of attention from the opposition and they will try to avoid running plays to his side. That will allow Taylor to put himself into position to make even more plays. The 6'8, 267-pound Taylor will be counted on as one of the leaders of the defense to have a big season. If he does, Carolina's defense will be tough to score points on and beat.

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