When Tennessee needed an outside running threat with breakaway speed, Taylor closed the deal with the nation's No. 7 rated RB Ja'Kouri Williams of Plaquemine, La. When the Vols needed a young back with high upside to develop, Taylor was there to take 2000-yard rusher Arian Foster of San Diego, Ca., away from Oregon, Oregon State, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Most recently Taylor provided that personal touch needed for Tennessee to secure a sledge hammer fullback for it's pound-the-rock running game when in-state star David Holbert, of Brentwood Academy, announced he would stay home and play for the Vols.
A witness to not only Tennessee's final pitch as also in-home visits by Florida and Auburn does nothing to dispute Taylor's impact on the process. Holbert's stepfather Cleveland Anthony was eager to go on the record with his praise for the man he calls "Coach Trooper."
"David felt real comfortable with coach Fulmer and he felt real comfortable with coach Trooper," Anthony said. "That guy is a good guy Tennessee picked up. He's an excellent man, I kid you not. I'm not taking anything away from coach (Jimmy Ray) Stephens, he was a good guy when he came in here and everything, but he didn't bring the atmosphere that coach Trooper did. He's a funny guy, he had you laughing and everything was just totally different you know. It felt like he was family from the jump. Put in your report that he's an excellent recruiter because he was excellent. I kid you not."
The acquisition of Holbert adds an essential element to this recruiting class and one that is urgent to Tennessee's hopes of reestablishing it's power running game.
Holbert gives Tennessee a proven fullback — rated among the top ten at his position in the country — with the size and strength to blast linebackers as a lead blocker and the agility to shake them on pass routes. He immediately gives the Vols more flexibility in the backfield and more options on third down as a capable pass blocker, reliable receiver and powerful runner. Holbert's potential to be an every-down fullback limits the opposition's blitzes, personnel packages and situational substitutions. Propelling a 240-pound payload at 4.55 seconds, Holbert is as viable an option on third-and-eight and he is at third-and-one.
"David is an all around fullback," said Anthony. "I'm not just saying this because he's my kid, but he's all about the team. He's not just a fullback, he can catch the ball."
Like most freshmen Holbert will have many adjustments to make at the next level, but unlike such predecessors as Troy Fleming, Shawn Bryson, Eric Lane and Mose Phillips, he will come in as a fullback instead of being converted from another position with no applicable experience to draw upon. Holbert understands how significant the fullback is to the success of the running game and he excels as a blocker.
When Brentwood head football coach Carlton Flatt was asked on Thursday's Dewey Warren radio show if he thought Holbert could help the Vols immediately, Flatt said: ''Ability-wise, I think he will be able to. I think what he's going to have to do is get mentally and physically tougher.''
The bonus for the Vols came from beating two of next year's opponents, Florida and Auburn, in gaining Holbert's commitment. In the end Tennessee held off a late charge by the Gators with Fulmer and Taylor holding the line with Holbert's last in-home visit.
So why Tennessee?
''There were some really good schools after him," Flatt stated. "He had a lot of good options. I really don't know but I sense that it being the state school and close to his mom. And, obviously, they've got one of the top programs in the nation. It was a real tough decision for him between Tennessee and Florida."
Anthony saw the deciding factors a little differently but agrees on the contenders.
"It was a decision between Florida and Tennessee but he didn't make his decision when coach Fulmer was here," he said. "He took some time and thought about it. His family really wanted him to go to Tennessee and there was that opportunity for him." Neither Holbert or his parents knew what to expect when the recruiting process began, but they're glad to have it behind them. "Me and my wife didn't know it would go this far," Anthony explained. "We're glad the phone calls will stop. It was a lot of pressure on him because everybody was telling him this and that. Basically, I just told him you're going to have to trust somebody. Everything they say might not be true but you're going to have to trust somebody." Thankfully for Tennessee, Trooper Taylor earned that trust.