South Carolina's Taylor primed for a big season
COLUMBIA -- Everyone in the Southeastern Conference knows Devin Taylor can sack quarterbacks, break up passes and trap ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage. All-SEC as a South Carolina sophomore defensive end in 2010, Taylor projects as an NFL Rookie of the Year candidate next year.
But did you know the 6-7, 248-pound Beaufort High School grad can cook?
Wash dishes? Bus tables? Work the cash register?
Taylor has done all that at L.T.'s, his father Larry Taylor's busy Beaufort restaurant.
"I did a little bit of everything," he said.
Now add leadership to the skillset. Quiet, soft-spoken and almost overlooked in a Gamecocks preseason camp starring freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Taylor has been more vocal this month than in his first two years.
"I pull over a guy maybe to the side here or there if I see something," Taylor said. "I'll be like, 'Hey, let's go.' "
There is a lot to like about a pass rusher skilled enough to drop back in coverage. Taylor was fourth in the SEC with 7 1/2 sacks last season and eighth in the league with 13 tackles for lost yardage. He also broke up a team-high eight passes.
That only partially explains the high level of NFL interest. The athleticism has to scare offensive line coaches: Taylor played basketball and won the state Class AAAA triple jump title at Beaufort High.
"I'm just playing like I normally do," Taylor said. "I don't really listen to the media."
But those first-round draft pick projections must be pretty cool.
"It's just fun to look at sometimes to see what everyone is saying about things you have to improve on and stuff," said Taylor, who is working on a degree in integrated information technology.
Obviously, Taylor has a lot on his mind. He wears at least a half-dozen thin rubber wristbands on any given day: two for cancer patients, one honoring U.S. military veterans, a "power" bracelet, two from the team chapel service.
On the field, Taylor said he has been focused on the personal improvement checklist he received from Brad Lawing. The defensive line coach asked Taylor to get faster, stronger and work on technique.
"I've improved over the course of the years," Taylor said, "but I'm still working on getting better."
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593.