Rutgers linebacker TJ Taylor's learning curve evens out in Big Ten
PISCATAWAY — Playing time hasn't come quickly for TJ Taylor, who's backing up two-year starter Steve Longa, but the former safety is taking solace in instinctively playing like a WILL linebacker.
And the sophomore remains ready in case he's forced into action as the Big Ten season wears on.
"Being the second-string linebacker on the depth chart, you have to be ready whenever," Taylor said recently. "You never know what's going to happen. If my number's called, I'm obviously going to go out there and be comfortable."
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Taylor, a defensive back recruit in 2013, appears a decent fit along the weakside, where he can play more in space and seek out offensive linemen more on his terms.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he slowly looks more like it, too.
"That's what makes the transition that much easier, because being a safety you came down and were in space and making plays," said Taylor, who has four special teams tackles this seaosn. "You very rarely had much contact with the o-linemen. ... It makes me more comfortable out there to know that I can make plays kind of like I did in high school."
Taylor's development at WILL, considered a playmaking position within Rutgers' defense, will depend on how he masters its subtle details.
On blitzes, for example, he must scrape tight off his rush and keep outside leverage, something head coach Kyle Flood brought up Sunday on his day-after teleconference following Rutgers' 56-17 loss at Ohio State.
"After five or six weeks into the season and after training camp, I feel real comfortable out there," Taylor said. "It's becoming more natural, getting the plays, play calls, looking at the offense and figuring out the offense. It's less thinking, more reaction, so that's always a positive."