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Miami Hurricanes 2021 Recruiting Notebook: DT Leonard Taylor

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A dynamic defender at the point of attack, 5-star Leonard Taylor is the kind of DT Miami has sorely needed.

5-star DT Leonard Taylor could be a game changer for the Canes DL for years to come.
247sports

In this installment of The Recruiting Notebook, we meet the highest rated Defensive Tackle prospect to commit to Miami in the last 13 years: Leonard Taylor.

Bio

Miami has always been able to recruit dynamic Edge Rushers, but when it comes to top end Defensive Tackles, that’s been a struggle. To try and change that situation, Miami targeted Miami (FL) Palmetto DT Leonard Taylor.

When Miami started recruiting Taylor, he was a 4-star prospect thought to be favoring the Florida Gators. But, along with several of his Palmetto teammates — a group affectively nicknamed the Palmetto 5 — Miami continued to recruit Taylor and build a relationship with the talented Defensive Lineman.

While Florida had the early momentum in Taylor’s recruitment, Miami used consistent communication, multiple unofficial visits, and the proximity of the school to Taylor’s home to sway both him and his mother. After months of hard work, Miami got Taylor to commit in August, shortly before the 2020 HSFB season returned to action.

Let this not go unstated: this is a MASSIVE recruiting win for Miami. Not only did the Canes beat Florida heads up for a prospect, they got an elite player to join the roster at a desperate position of need. And, with Taylor’s commitment, Miami had taken a big, big step toward building the kind of roster that can compete for championships. Sure, grad transfers are great, but getting the highest rated player in America at a point-of-attack position such as DT is invaluable. Glad it finally happened.

And in case you’re wondering how rare it is for Miami to get a player of Taylor’s caliber: he’s the highest rated DT to sign with Miami since 5-star Marcus Forston from Miami Northwestern back in the famous (infamous?) class of 2009. And, Taylor is the 12th highest rated player to sign with Miami in the recruiting-site era (since 2000), one spot ahead of the aforementioned Forston, and one spot behind TE Greg Olsen, and mere 1000ths of a point from RB Willis McGahee.

On top of being an Adidas All-American, 1st Team All-State performer, 1st Team All-Dade and many more accolades, Taylor was recently named the Miami Dade Player of the Year for 2020. So, his performance has earned him plenty of recognition in the past, and as his performance has improved, the level of his awards have increased as well.

So, after years of watching uber-elite players from Miami head elsewhere to play their college football, Miami secured a commitment and NLI from the #1 DT in the Country.

Man, that felt good to type.

Recruiting Ranking

On the 247sports composite, Taylor is a 5-star prospect, #10 overall in the 2021 recruiting class, #1 Defensive Tackle in the country, and #3 player in the State of Florida. You’d be hard pressed to find a better prospect than Taylor anywhere in America.

An Adidas All-American, Taylor committed to Miami over a robust list of 21 scholarship offers, and directly beat named finalist Florida for his commitment.

As A Player

Taylor is a beast. He’s 6’4” 265lbs with room to grow into his frame further. He won’t ever be a 350lb nose tackle, and that’s fine. Taylor should grow into a 275-285lb 3tech DT who can use his dynamic quickness to get up the field and cause havoc in the backfield of opposing offenses.

Taylor routinely showcases elite quickness, and pairs that with very good strength. He’ll need to get stronger to continue “muscling up” on OL at the college level, but he’s had great success in this area as a dominating HS player. And, like most HS linemen, Taylor will benefit from refinement and advancement with his hand work at the line of scrimmage moving forward as well.

When Palmetto needs a big play on defense, they turn to Taylor, and he delivers. He’s a major disruptor in the run game, and has forced multiple fumbles that he or his defensive teammates have recovered. You would expect a 5-star DT to routinely dominate every game he plays. Taylor’s performance fits that bill and then some.

Here’s an evaluation of Taylor from 247sports Southeast Recruiting Analyst Andrew Ivins

Athletic, well-built frame with room to add 20 pounds or more in college. Adequate length in the arms. Highly disruptive player with good traits to play multiple positions and alignments. Uses explosive first step to shoot through gaps and wreck havoc in the backfield. Always looking to get home and finish. Can drop his hips and bull-rush with good quickness, but might be at his best when he’s working off the outside shoulder of a blocker. Slick spin move and an aggressive rip often times leads to sacks. Good eye discipline allows him to get his hands up into throwing lanes. Spent much of youth running up and down the basketball court, which is reflected in his movement patterns as he’s always maneuvering his lower half to find leverage. Produced on a consistent basis throughout his high school career despite offenses trying to scheme around him week in and week out. Will need to add some strength and keep learning, but should develop into an all-conference type player at the Power 5 level. Feedback from the next level suggests that he has the makeup of a future early-round NFL Draft pick.

Here’s another evaluation of Taylor by 247sports National Writer Charles Power

Has little bad weight [editorial note: this is from nearly 11 months ago; Taylor has addressed this point] with the frame and length to tack on more weight in his upper body and midsection. Should see his body transform once he’s in a full-time strength and conditioning program at the next level. Is a fluid and natural athlete playing along the defensive line. Uses his length to disengage from opposing offensive linemen and wins with a strong first step and quick swim move. Incredibly disruptive as an interior pass rusher. Gets his hands on a lot of footballs whether it’s by using his long arms to disrupt passing lanes or blocking kicks. Plays with good pad level and body lean. Finds multiple ways to disrupt the offensive game plan. Will need to continue improving his strength at the point of attack and the ability to hold his ground when double teamed. Looks like one of the top overall prospects nationally in the 2021 cycle and among the better defensive linemen to come out of South Florida in years. Projects as a multi-year starter at the Power Five level with all-league and All-American potential and the upside of developing into a first round draft pick.

Strengths

  • Quickness
  • Motor
  • Knack for big plays
  • Pass rushing from interior of DL

Weaknesses

  • Strength (relative to where it needs to be)
  • Hand work
  • Weight (a bit lighter than you’d like right now)

Miami Outlook

Note: changing this up from just a freshman-season outlook to a career outlook for each player.

As noted by both Ivins and Power above, Taylor has the athletic profile to be a top line starter and high round NFL draft pick in the near future. Miami has proven that they will play younger players if their talent and skills are up to snuff, and that should be the case with Taylor. Even with several talented underclassmen DTs on the roster ahead of him at present, I would expect Taylor to see rotation snaps as early on in his career and pushing to start by his 2nd year on campus (as a redshirt freshman or true sophomore).

Taylor has all the talent in the world, and Miami has been very good at developing defensive linemen in recent years. Well, over the course of many years, not just recently. Taylor has proven himself to be an elite level prospect over the course of his HS career, and he should flourish in the Canes’ attacking defensive scheme.

It would be foolish to expect individual accolades from a newly signed HS recruit, but Taylor’s physical gifts and potential impact for a high level Canes defense fully put such awards on the radar for the future of his career. At a minimum, expecting Taylor to earn All-Conference honors in his time at Miami should be a given. Above that, the sky’s the limit, and I’m excited to see how high Taylor can fly.


That’s it for this installment of The Recruiting Notebook.

Go Canes