Is Trooper super?

Thanks to boundless enthusiasm and incredible charisma, Trooper Taylor is viewed as a terrific recruiter and remarkable motivator. Apparently, the University of Tennessee football aide can coach a little bit, too.

In 2004, his first year on the Vol coaching staff, he worked with running backs. It may have been no coincidence that Tennessee produced two 1,000-yard rushers that fall – Gerald Riggs (1,107) and Cedric Houston (1,005) – for the first time in program history.

In 2006, his third year on the Vol coaching staff, Taylor was asked to oversee a receiver corps that had underachieved so badly in '05 that it cost assistant coach Pat Washington his job. Statistically, what Trooper accomplished with the wideouts last fall was even more imposing than what he accomplished with Riggs and Houston in 2004.

Consider:

Robert Meachem improved from 29 catches in 2005 to 71 in 2006, from 383 yards to 1,298, from 13.2 yards per catch to 18.3 and from 2 touchdowns to 11.

Jayson Swain improved from 27 catches in 2005 to 49 in 2006, from 380 yards to 688 and from zero touchdowns to 6.

Bret Smith improved from 21 catches in 2005 to 39 in 2006, from 223 yards to 453, from 10.6 yards per catch to 11.6 and from 3 touchdowns to 5.

As three of the most heralded recruits in Tennessee's 2003 signing class, Meachem, Swain and Smith entered the program as a group and departed as a group. Although Meachem redshirted in '03 due to a knee injury, he opted for the 2007 NFL Draft rather than return for his senior season at Tennessee.

Swain concedes that Trooper Taylor had considerable impact on the trio last season but says there were other factors that enabled the three of them to finish their college careers with such a dramatic flourish.

"It was Trooper. It was ourselves. It was people around us that pushed us to want to be the best we could be," Swain said. "It was a combination of all those things. We knew it was our last go-round, even for Meachem. We knew if he had a breakout year he was going to be gone.

"We came in together and we knew we'd leave together. We wanted to go out with a bang, so we really worked on our game and went out with a bang."


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