Could RB Taylor wind up on defense in 2010?
USF's offensive players wear green jerseys at practice and defensive players wear white, so it was notable Tuesday that junior running back Jamar Taylor wore a white jersey as the Bulls practiced in preparation for the International Bowl in Toronto on Jan. 2 against Northern Illinois.
Taylor was seen as a potential starter at running back entering this season, but a sprained knee in August cost him the first half of the season, and he's barely played since collecting eight carries in two games in October. With much if not all of USF's running backs returning in 2010, Taylor is getting a look at linebacker, and making a strong impression on his coaches should he decide to play on defense for his senior year next fall.
"He's explosive. He's a little pit bull. That joker loves to play the game," linebackers coach David Blackwell said Tuesday. "He's a versatile guy, and during bowl practices and spring ball, it's a time you can experiment. He has a tremendous love for the game and a great attitude. He's a physical little fella and he will flat throw his body around. He could play a lot of different positions for this football team, and obviously, we think he's a pretty doggone good running back, too."
USF is looking into seeking a sixth year for senior Mo Plancher, and also returns juniors Mike Ford and Aston Samuels and freshmen Lindsey Lamar and Demetris Murray, with three talented running backs among the recruits committed to join the Bulls next fall. If Taylor were to decide he didn't have an easy path to playing time in a deep backfield, Blackwell said he could pick up the defense during spring drills and preseason workouts.
"I think so. From what I've seen, he has natural instincts, he's physical, and plays with great effort," Blackwell said. "I don't think there's any question he has a defensive mentality."
Taylor's size, at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, is small for a college linebacker, so he also could be a fit as a nickel defensive back. USF would likely enter the 2010 season with rising sophomore Sam Barrington at middle linebacker and seniors Sabbath Joseph and Jacquian Williams projected as starters on the outside.
"Jamar can play linebacker," coach Jim Leavitt said. "We're pretty wide-open to everything with it because he is a natural guy. (Going) into our season this year did we think he may be our starting running back? Yeah, but we didn't know. Now with Mo and Lindsey Lamar, Murray, I don't know what Aston will do for sure, Ford. Will he move over to linebacker? I'm not saying that. We just kind of had fun (with it)."
Leavitt said Taylor is bigger than some of his starting linebackers at Kansas State, so the size wouldn't concern him if Taylor were to decide he wanted to play defense.
"Does he have a knack for it? No question. I could see that right away," Leavitt said. "Would he be successful at linebacker here? No question. Would he be successful at running back here? Yes, he already has been. It's something we'll see."