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Thursday, October 17, 2013

T.J. Taylor adjusts as Rutgers adopts new model, inspired by Khaseem Greene

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

T.J. Taylor took trips in middle school to watch his cousin, Syam Rhodes, play football at Elizabeth High School. He'll attempt to make a transition seven years later that Rhodes' teammate nearly perfected in Piscataway.

"They said it was hard for him when he transitioned, that he wanted to play safety so much," Taylor said Wednesday of Khaseem Greene, a back-to-back conference defensive player of the year at linebacker for Rutgers. "But now look at him. He's one of the best linebackers that ever played here."

Taylor, a high school safety, moved down a level of defense when he arrived during the summer. Defensive coordinator Dave Cohen used Greene, a former starter at safety before debuting in 2011 at linebacker, as a standard-bearer.

It has become a trend.

Rutgers' staff moved redshirt freshman Davon Jacobs from safety to linebacker during the offseason. Taylor followed suit soon after, as the Scarlet Knights place a higher premium on dynamic play on defense.

"What you are seeing and speaking to," head coach Kyle Flood said Wednesday, "is a recruiting philosophy of recruiting speed and recruiting athleticism over necessarily recruiting a size of a person."

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Taylor said he weighs around 197 pounds now, up nearly 11 pounds since his arrival. He is learning both the strongside and weakside linebacker positions. Rutgers' most versatile defensive piece, Jamal Merrell, graduates after this season.

"We kind of want more versatile, athletic guys on the outside and slot," Taylor said. "(There's) not a lot of power-I, running the ball every single. Houston, SMU, those teams, they throw the ball and spread it out."

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