Leonard Taylor looked among the hats on the table. He reached for the orange and green U and the fans waited - would it be more hat tossing drama, or did the Miami Hurricanes land the top defensive tackle prospect of the year? It was the latter, as Taylor donned the hat, and the hype machine begun whirring.
But the hype machine wasn’t the only one whirring after Taylor arrived in Coral Gables. It was Taylor’s own motor that proved to be steady. Taylor did have to ease his way onto the field, like most freshmen. He worked in rotation with Jared Harrison-Hunte and the now-Sun Devil Nesta Jade Silvera and debuted in game four against Central Connecticut State. He quickly got more comfortable and disruptive, sacking Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong and adding another tackle for loss later. He continued his disruptive play the remainder of the season, leading the Miami defense with 9.5 tackles for loss. It didn’t get much acclaim in the midst of a 7-5 season, but Taylor indeed provided the type of season that was expected from a 5-star recruit, and one in which he is poised to take a big step forward this season.
A video provides greater evidence of his effectiveness than what I could describe, (especially not being a real Xs and Os guy like Justin Dottavio)...
Taylor now leads a defensive line that has been absolutely bolstered by a number of talented transfers this past offseason in Darrell Jackson, Jr. (Maryland), Jacob Lichtenstein (Southern Cal), Antonio Moultrie (UAB), and Ahkeem Mesidor (West Virginia). The latter received the most acclaim coming in, but it’s been Jackson, Jr. who has been perhaps the most impactful defensive lineman in fall camp, with Cristobal even reportedly saying how Jackson, Jr. has been Miami’s most consistent interior defensive lineman in fall camp.
As such, and without a depth chart released as of one day before Bethune-Cookman, it remains to be seen exactly how Taylor, Jackson, Jr., and the remaining defensive lineman will be deployed in tomorrow’s opener. But one thing seems certain: while several of the transfers are sixth-year seniors, Taylor is still a young and developing player and, as such, has a much higher ceiling than just about everyone else in the positional group not named Darrell Jackson, Jr. The fact that he’s only played 9 games and has already been as productive as he has speaks volumes to the kind of potential he has, so if he somehow doesn’t end up starting tomorrow, I would be surprised if he hasn’t entrenched himself as a starter by the time November comes around.
Prediction: 34 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks.