The Wolverine

November 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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there really wasn't much prepara- tion before that. He went back to his dorm, and there wasn't much being done there. "But now you're seeing him study- ing the game. There is more urgency to him. Just in the classroom, you see him taking more notes, being locked in. When you know what you're do- ing you play fast, and that has to do with his success." When Taylor first arrived at Michi- gan, the staff felt he possessed the potential to play dual roles — a nickel back, perhaps early in his ca- reer, and a boundary cornerback, potentially later in his tenure. How- ever, the sheer volume of information the rookie needed to process was too much, and Taylor stagnated in fall practices. CLICKING INTO PLACE "The nickel position is a lot differ- ent than cornerback in our defense," Taylor said. "You're blitzing on some plays, and playing corner you just check one person in man coverage, but at nickel you have to let guys cross your face and get the No. 2 guy. Going from one to the other, the game was just going by me so fast, and I couldn't catch up." U-M's staff made the decision late Taylor. left, did not begin the 2012 season in the starting lineup, but following an injury to Blake Countess, he stepped up and took over the boundary corner post, making six starts in Michigan's first eight contests. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL pion,'" Taylor remarked. "Every play I got a little more comfortable. I just kept focusing on reading my keys, and playing with strong fundamen- tals and sound technique." "It's a tough situation to be in be- cause the expectations are for the position, and when one guy goes down your coaches and teammates look for you to step in and not miss a beat," said former cornerback James Rogers, who became U-M's starter in 2010 following an injury to Troy Woolfolk. "Physically, you're there, but because you're not getting as many reps in practice as the start- ers, it's really easy to not be as sharp mentally, and that's the true test to your preparation. "Were you paying attention dur- ing film review? Have you been tak- 38 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2012 ing mental reps on the sideline when you're not in the game? If you're not paying attention in those situations, then you won't be ready, and it will take the coaches one play before they'll yank you." Taylor was studying up on his playbook, was taking notes in tape sessions and was focusing on his assignments even when he wasn't physically engaged in a drill. That maybe wasn't the case in 2011, when he had to fight through the natural immaturity that is common for fresh- men, but Taylor had begun showing signs last winter. "I've seen him mature here this year to where there is a seriousness about football," Mallory said. "A year ago we were constantly on him. When he came to Schembechler Hall, in the fall to reduce Taylor's work- load, shifting his concentration exclu- sively to cornerback, and they began seeing dividends in bowl practices. In spring ball, Taylor was a more con- fident defender, and he took signifi- cant steps forward with each prac- tice in the summer and in preseason camp. "He's gotten more comfortable week by week and has improved tre- mendously since the beginning of fall camp," fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He came in last year, and I saw that he had a lot of talent. It was just a matter of him learning the playbook and gaining an under- standing of his role on the defense. "I think he's stepped in after we lost Blake, and he's done a fine job." "The thing I like about him is every day he works on improving some- thing," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison added. "Practice is very, very hard, and when he does do something wrong, he corrects it. I think he's start- ing to get the confidence that is really necessary for a corner in this league to play successfully."

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