Alontae Taylor didn’t quite know what to think about his future collegiate home after a coaching change at Tennessee.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni had been the lead recruiter for the Volunteers with Taylor for over a year and played a major role in Taylor committing to the Big Orange back on June 18. Things changed when Azzanni announced he was leaving Rocky Top for a gig in the pro ranks.
“Whenever (Beard) came in for the job interview and stuff like that, coach Jones, he told me about him and stuff,” Taylor told InsideTennessee on Tuesday afternoon. “(Jones) told me to look (Beard) up, so I looked him up on YouTube and seen some really good coaching videos of him when he was at Miami (Fla.). So then I waited a couple days because a lot of people, they get on social media, so I’m pretty sure some people had a feeling he was in the building and things. So I waited to follow him and then he followed me back (Monday). We talked (Monday) and he was just talking as if he was to get the job at the moment. He was talking about how he wants to build this (Tennessee) program and have the best wide receivers. He was asking me how much I come on campus. I was telling him I come whenever I can. He was telling me he wants me to come a lot so we can start working together and stuff like that. Then, I told him that I was early enrolling. He was just like, ‘Great, that just makes it even better. I can get you and the other guys that are already there and we can just start recruiting the best guys out here and get this 2018 class going.’
“So as far as just by that, I can tell that he’s a guy who loves his position, and he’s going to coach to the best of his ability. I’ve seen where he coached guys like Stacy Coley (166 career receptions) at Miami. So, I mean — and seeing those videos — I know he’s a really good coach. Whenever I get his number and things like that, we’ll start building that player and coach relationship.”
Jones, who’s been at Tennessee since December 2012, kept the Manchester native Taylor in the loop as best he could as Azzanni was moving on to the Chicago Bears in the National Football League.
“(Jones) didn’t really tell me as far as how the interview goes and a whole lot about (Beard),” said Taylor, who plays quarterback for Coffee County (Tenn.) High School. “(Jones) was just telling me. He told me who he was, told me he came in, and told me to look him up. He said he likes (Beard) and told me he’s a good guy, and he feels that (Beard) is a great coach. He was telling me to watch (Beard)’s YouTube videos and then let (Jones) know what I thought about him. I told him what I thought about him.”
The Scout four-star prospect said he is still committed to Tennessee but plans to officially visit other schools, most likely including Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival Georgia.
“Whenever coach Z left, I was really heartbroken because we did build that — I’m not even going to say player-coach relationship, we built that father-son type relationship,” Taylor said. “So it was real tough. When he left me, I understood the situation and why he did it. So, it didn’t really hit me that hard.
“We were off without a receivers coach, so I was open to all schools. I’m not going to close that down, I’m still open to all schools. But, now that we have a receivers coach, now I start to build this relationship with (Beard) and I see how this relationship goes. I see if it’s another coach Z in the relationship or if our relationship is different. There’s nothing wrong with our relationship being different. Also I’m waiting to see how my Mom and Dad like coach Beard because they loved coach Z and coach Z loved them. Now it’s also how my parents feel about the receivers coach.”
Beard had been hired by coach Butch Davis on Dec. 5 to be the wide receivers coach at Florida International. Prior to that, Beard was the offensive quality control coach with the Georgia Bulldogs. Prior to his move to Athens, Beard held the wide receivers coaching position (2015) at Miami and assistant director of football operations (2014).
Beard was a Hurricane (1999-2003) and played a role in a BCS National Championship. He was a team captain for Miami in 2003.