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Tennessee’s most important players of 2019: No. 10 — Darrell Taylor

We kick off the series with the most important piece of the pass rush.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 13 Tennessee Orange & White Game Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our ‘most important players’ series is back for the third season! Over the next couple of week’s we’ll count down the 10 most important player for Tennessee as we head into 2019. Each one of our contributors were polled and the results were averaged out to create a 1-10 ranking.

No. 10: Darrell Taylor

Taylor appears on this list because he is the only established pass rusher on the Tennessee roster. Quite honestly, I was surprised to see him come in at tenth on the list. For the record, I had him fifth on my ballot.

Now a senior, Taylor is expected to be a leader for this defense while building off of his eight sack season in 2018. Tennessee’s most productive pass rusher behind Taylor is DeAndre Johnson with just two.

The 6-4, 247 pound pass rusher found himself on the NFL’s radar last season, following monster performances against Georgia and Kentucky. Taylor racked up three and four sacks in each of those game, respectively. While that’s outstanding production, we — and likely Tennessee’s coaching staff, too — would like to see that production get a little more consistent.

Taylor opted to return to Tennessee instead of bolting to the NFL after last season. He returns as a top senior option in 2019 and could find himself competing in the Senior Bowl in Mobile in 2020. Taylor has already been named to the Nagurski, Butkus and Bednarik watchlists for the upcoming season.

On the field, Taylor has a lot of what you want in a pass rusher. His best trait is his ability to bend the edge, while getting ahead with his first step. Taylor flashes ability to get off of blocks with his hands, but could get more consistent fighting off of blocks when he doesn’t win initially.

Taylor is the most important defensive piece to me, just because of the lack of established talent behind him. Tennessee is going to have to have more pass rushers emerge, but it feels like Taylor is going to have to do most of the heavy lifting off the edge this season.

Watch for our ninth most important player on Friday.