TRENT TAYLOR, 6-3, 270 DT LAKELAND, FLA. [LAKE GIBSON HS]
Ratings: Rivals 3* No. 19 strongside defensive end, Scout 4* No. 29 defensive end, ESPN 3* No. 26 defensive end, 247 3* No. 40 strongside defensive end. Chose UT over Miami, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Auburn, South Florida.
STRENGTHS: Remember when we were all excited that we got a big defensive end that the Big Three in Florida wanted? Well, scratch that. Taylor has continued to grow, and according to his high school coach in a recent interview, despite what the services say, the mid-term enrollee is up to 270 and plans on playing defensive tackle in Knoxville. He wants to get up to 290. This is great news for the Vols, who love his versatility and athleticism. He can be an early-down run defender at end or an every-play athlete in the mold of Sentimore at tackle. He is very physical.
NEEDS WORK: Strength isn't always an issue with South Florida kids -- remember Marcus Jackson came into UT as the Vols' strongest offensive lineman [which was both a testament to his high school program and a black eye on our college program]. But Taylor is going to be getting used to a new body. His profiles, which are done at the end of their junior years of high school, list him at 245-250, so that will be an increase of at least 20 and maybe 30 pounds within two years. Taylor needs to extend his arms, though, and if he moves down, he'll have to adjust to the nuances of playing inside. A lot of times, those South Florida kids struggle with being so far away from home, too.
CREDENTIALS: After a standout junior season where he burst onto the scene with 96 tackles 13 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks, he garnered offers from the Big Three among others. Why he isn't more highly rated by three of the services, I don't know. He will be a great player in Knoxville. With an increased eye on him as a senior and talent all around him, Taylor's numbers dropped off a bit, but they were still excellent as he finished with 66 tackles and 14 sacks. He has been clocked at a 5.1 40-yard dash and had the best DT "power throw" according to ESPN [whatever that is] at 43.0. He was a member of the Super Southeast 120 according to the Mobile Register. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he is the 63rd ranked player in the state. Want another couple of accolades? He was picked as a First-Team member of The Associated Press' Class 6A All-State team. In Florida. He also was PolkPreps.com's 2011-12 Large School Defensive Player of the Year.
OPTIMISTIC CEILING: I'd love to leave Taylor outside, and I think either him or Darrington Sentimore will play out there. I do think he's better suited for the inside than Corey Miller. But if you really want to know what I think of Taylor, how about this: He and Jason Croom are going to be the steals of this class when it's all said and done. I believe Taylor is an incredible athlete for his size, and getting him on campus here at mid-term is a huge blessing. It was fantastic plucking him from the Miami Hurricanes the way we did Jackson last year, and I believe he'll have an early impact on the field like Jackson. Ideally, though, you'd always like to give them a year in the weight room if possible.