Bear with me here: Raymon Taylor is a reasonably-sized local cornerback who made it clear Michigan his his dream school from day one. An example from June($), five months before he'd actually get a Michigan offer:
“Whoo… (Laughing)… yeah, Michigan. That’s probably one of the biggest the schools. That’s my favorite pick if I ever had an offer. So I would definitely enjoy going there."
Martavious Odoms, meanwhile, is a diminutive wide receiver from Florida who had probably never thought about Michigan before Rich Rodriguez was hired. Despite this, they're analogous recruits.
Both got a fourth star from one, but only one, recruiting service. Both got a smattering of decent but not-that-impressive offers. Both were amongst the first recruits to sign on after a coaching transition and are therefore good gets in context, but not quite thrilling in the wider view.
If Taylor contributes at the level Odoms has it will be a win from multiple perspectives: Michigan will have a member of the secondary and they will have other members of the secondary, which is incomprehensible but sounds pretty cool.
Taylor's recruiting saga was an odd one if only because committing to Indiana and Michigan in the same recruiting cycle is a rare trick indeed (though Jibreel Black just made a similar switch last year). Once it seemed like no Michigan offer was en route, Taylor leapt on the Hoosier offer despite the fact it was far from his best: Wisconsin, Illinois, and Cincinnati all offered a chance to do something other than lose miserably for his college career*. Taylor chose the ineffable lightness of Bill Lynch.
After Lynch got axed, Taylor maintained he was committed but started looking around a bit. Michigan renewed its interest and Taylor prepared to commit just in time for Rich Rodriguez to meet his own demise. Undeterred, Taylor hung around for Hoke to get his bearings, figuring the first order of business would be "oh God, the secondary." It was. He got an offer and jumped on it. Word got out quickly:
"I went to the (Briarwood) mall and a guy already knew about it," Taylor said. "He was working at a store and me, Devin (Gardner) and Denard (Robinson) walked in and he said something. It was a Foot Locker shoe store. It's great, like an hour after it happened. It was real time."
Before that his renewed final five was Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and… uh… Toledo. With the by-that-point-withdrawn Wisconsin offer that's a solid list worthy of a guy somewhere between Rivals' rating ("basically Blake Countess") and those of Scout and ESPN ("bler").
As far as what sort of player Taylor is, change of direction appears to be an issue. At least, I imagine so if this is the top of the head comparison from Touch The Banner:
He reminds me of outgoing senior cornerback James Rogers. Rogers was a standout receiver/running back with great speed in high school, but he wasn't all that sudden of a player. Much like Rogers, Taylor doesn't exactly make quick cuts but catches the ball well and can run away from opponents. One thing Taylor has on Rogers, though, is that he's a little more physical.
No offense to a guy who stuck out the last five years and probably that many position changes, but James Rogers is not a very hopeful comparison, especially when Taylor is a couple inches shorter than Rogers.
ESPN rates him as an athlete but says in their scouting report he has the most upside as a "fiesty, tough" corner:
Is slightly undersized, but plays big. Likes to get up in the face of the DB and alter routes and releases. He has adequate hips, can mirror most receivers on double moves and shows good body control and balance. Can turn and run with speedy receivers. Shows burst out of his back pedal and shows very good closing quickness when driving on the ball in front of him. Has sound catch up speed and shows good acceleration when the ball is in the air. Has good leaping ability which helps compensate for his lack of ideal height, adjusts well to the ball in the air and has excellent ball skills.
They praise his open-field tackling and willingness to get after larger ball-carriers while complaining a bit about "stiffness," albeit mostly on offense. It a positive review but when it comes down to the numbers, #95 ATH is kind of not so much.
Scout's Allen Trieu scouted him($) when he was an Indiana commit; he didn't get much action on defense aside from laying a couple of "big hits in run support"; on offense he showed the ability to pull away from the pack:
… he made several big runs and he proved he had the one thing people questioned: speed. He can definitely run, as he pulled away from a fast Tigers team.
Hoke signed five defensive backs, including four-star recruit Raymon Taylor, who, as Hoke as said, can “line somebody up and go through the middle of them, like you’re supposed to play the game.”
There is another non-Manball aspect to Taylor's game, and it's the reason a number of sites rated him as an athlete even as they projected him to corner:
"He's real versatile, an athletic kid; he played running back, played receiver," Highland Park coach Cedric Dortch said. "He played quarterback, returned kicks, did some of everything for us. It looks like he'll be playing cornerback there. He was willing to do whatever. But that's his mainstay, when he can sit down and challenge the top receiver.
In college that's going to amount to a shot at returning kicks and punts.
“Automatically, even as a freshman you could tell he had a special athleticism," Dertch said. "Then, the past couple of years, he’s put the work in.”
That work eventually got him to Michigan even if he let the veil drop early; hopefully Michigan coming around will make for a productive relationship.
*[In Illinois's case any period of not losing miserably would be followed by a 1-11 crater, but by God they'd lose that BCS game like a fortunate-to-be-there co-champion first.]
Etc.: Trieu, who rates recruits, says he's "underrated," presumably by the Scout hive mind and not Trieu himself. Rivals named him second-team at the Army Combine. Head to head with Arnett at the Michigan Showcase:
Highland Park, Mich., athlete Raymon Taylor, who just added offers from Wisconsin and Indiana, also had a fair bit of success guarding Arnett. The 5-11, 170-pound Taylor could legitimately be either a wide receiver or cornerback on the next level, and he worked both sides on Sunday. Against Arnett he opted to play bump coverage at the line of scrimmage, which worked well on some reps and not so well on others.
“My dad and uncle always say, ‘You gotta get out the 'hood’…Some guys on the street come up and they’ll put their arm around you and say, ‘Don’t do what I did.’ I just always looked at it like I don’t want to be one of those guys on the street,” Taylor said.
Why shorter Troy Woolfolk? Corners are always hard for me because so many are off limits: I'm not comparing anyone to Woodson or Todd Howard because either is unfair. Meanwhile, most people including myself don't really remember how corners play because they're not involved that often unless they've screwed up, etc. I find myself going back to the Grant Mason well time and again whenever there's a shortish guy with decent upside.
I grab Woolfolk here because Taylor is a guy who's basically a three star with decent offers and good straight line speed with some questions about his ability to change direction. Woolfolk's got a couple inches on Taylor, but Taylor sounds like a better tackler.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy player who hit a fair number of camps and got senior-year scouting, but a large gap in evaluations across services.
General Excitement Level: Odoms-esque: moderate. Taylor seems to lack the physical ability to be a star but has enough to contribute as a third corner, possibly early, and should get a shot at returning kicks.
Projection: Will get an opportunity to play this year depending on how he does in fall against Countess and Brown; two of those three play as dime backs and special-teamers in preparation for the 2012 battle over Woolfolk's starting spot. The other redshirts. Long term he probably loses that battle because of numbers and Countess, but he's another reasonable bullet in the chamber at a position of great need.
Nobody in the 2011 class could be a safety except Carter or Taylor. I've always thought J.T. Floyd was more of a safety than a cornerback, but he's still chillin' at corner. That could be a move if there are any injuries, though.
Although I've never heard anyone with any authority say he's move to safety, it's not exactly a stretch. M has recruited a ton of CBs in the last few classes, but no true FS (aside from the departed Vinopal). Also, Taylor's skill set is good for a safety - good speed, good ball skills, loves to hit hard, but may be lacking ideal hips for CB. Especially if we don't get a FS-type in this class, we'll need more than just Carter back there with Carvin, not to mention CB is looking pretty full for once.
I'm still wondering why Woolfolk isn't in this conversation. Wasn't he pretty solid playing safety a few years ago? Plus, unlike everyone we have tried to shoehorn in there the past few years, he actually has the speed to do it. Plus, we've got depth at corner and, dare I say, maybe a bit of talent to work with.
It comes down to who you want to be the weakest link in your secondary. If Woolfolk plays safety, then your weakest link is presumably J.T. Floyd at corner. If Woolfolk plays corner, then your weakest link is presumably Jordan Kovacs.
I know he isn't that tall, but with our lack of depth at Free Safety, his profile of being fast and a good hitter but with possible questions about change of direction, he sounds like a good deep man. Just a thought.