2017 Recruiting: Kurt Taylor Comment Count

Brian August 14th, 2017 at 12:13 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason, RB O'Maury Samuels.

Covington, GA – 5'8", 205


Scout 3*, NR overall
#48 RB
Rivals 2*, NR overall
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#56 RB, #87 GA
24/7 3*, #880 overall
#51 RB, #89 GA
Other Suitors IU, UK, GT, Vandy, MSU
YMRMFSPA Vincent Smith
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.




Kurt Taylor got to Michigan by sheer force of will. He jumped on an early offer and was immediately earmarked by Michigan fans as this year's unfortunate and somewhat embarrassing forced decommit, but it never happened. Taylor was so gung-ho about Michigan and so clearly working his ass off day after day that they had no choice but to keep him.

So here he is. He's not that big and not that fast. He's not going to win the Heisman. He still has a role to play.

That role is likely as a third down back. Taylor is low to the ground and "built like a bar of steel," so he should have the same kind of blocking upside as Vincent Smith and Mike Hart, both short guys who were able to stand up taller, heavier folks by getting under their pads. Even when Taylor was first emerging onto the scene as a rising junior, the first thing that stood out about him is his thickness

Taylor would certainly make the cut if you are choosing the first guy to get off the bus. Few high school prospects are put together as well as the 5-foot-9, 205 pound back.

…and the sheer amount of mass he can move:

…only going into his junior season, but he looks college ready now. Strapped with muscle, Taylor's bench press is up to 370 pounds, leg press is 580 pounds, power clean is at 310 pounds, and his forty yard dash time is down to a 4.5 seconds.

No doubt those numbers have continued to improve. Harbaugh saw a lot of similarities with his favorite guy in the universe because of Taylor's body type:

"Coach said he couldn't remember seeing a high school junior that was as physically built as I was," Taylor said. "He told me my low center of gravity and build was a lot like Frank Gore. To hear that was a blessing because Frank Gore was a great running back both in college and in the pros."

That sounds outlandish but deep into his NFL career Gore is still listed at 5'9", 212. Taylor will probably hit that this year.

There was a moment in there where Taylor's recruitment looked like it would take off. He was fairly well regarded when he committed, sitting in the 3.5* range, and a couple of complimentary reports from FSU's camp made it seem like he was on the verge of a Seminole offer. When he attended an Opening regional as an underclassman he was singled out as one to watch:

This writer would’ve absolutely loved to see the 5-foot-9, 194-pound Taylor in a padded camp, but this young man brings it as a powerful and decisive ball carrier. Both up-and-comers have SEC offers with more to come.

That moment faded. Taylor lost about 600 slots on 24/7 and got an extremely rare downgrade to two stars from Rivals—when he committed he was the #19 RB in the country(!) and on the verge of four stars. I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan commit lose a third star. Five yes, four yes. Three? No.

There's that, and there are the scouting reports. It seems unlikely that Taylor will emerge into the feature back given the scouting reports. ESPN:

…stout muscular frame with good pop to it. Runs with a low center of gravity and solid, sturdy base. …better burst than top-end speed. … Lacks an extra gear … doesn't consistently see and hit the smaller cutbacks. …  Flashes good burst … Gears down some when cutting at full speed. Shows effective lateral cutting ability and is quick enough to get through a tight seam. … We do question if he will continue to produce between the tackles at the next level given his size and at this time lacks the speed to add a playmaker element at the Power 5 level.

Woody Wommack:

"… tough runner. I'm not sure how fast he is, top-end speed wise. He doesn't have that suddenness you look for in a bigtime running back. I'd like to see more of that explosion, and I think that'll come. He's got a ton of muscle and he's really built well. … If Michigan wants a bowling ball guy though, he fits it."   

Taylor's package of size and speed isn't great. That isn't the end of the world for running backs if they have a standout skill like vision or acceleration, but those don't come up either, or if they do there are conflicting takes. The positive aspects of Taylor's scouting reports focus on his strength and desire.

Scout's profile is more positive than the above reports:

…looks like he has already been in a college weight program for a couple of years. He is physically fit, very strong, and back who can hit the hole on the interior or get to the perimeter. Better burst and quick acceleration than top-end speed. Can definitely break tackles and get yards after initial contact. Loves to compete. Plays with some attitude.

And Clint Brewster's take was the most positive out there:

compact, hard-nosed runner that can move the pile. … very low to the ground … excellent power to his lower half. … runs with great effort and intensity. He keeps his feet moving through traffic and can pinball from defender to defender … good balance …isn't a home-run back … very good blocker in pass protection

That version of Taylor could have a role as little thunder to someone else's lightning and could be a useful short-yardage back who consistently falls forward for extra yardage. Harbaugh's take suggests that the head man sees something along those lines as a possibility:

"He's very well put together and well built. He can run inside or outside and get to the edge, and he has the frame and power to be a strong pass blocker as well. … has a lot of power. He also has vision that, when put into action in combination with his other positive traits, leads him to take advantages of angles and rack up a lot of yards after contact."

There are a couple of positive notes about his pass protection above, and that is a rarity. Maybe that's just people looking for something nice to say; maybe it is a real positive. After his junior year his coach talked to Rivals about his upswing in that department:

"He's definitely better in the passing game than in the past… a lot of what we need our backs to do is pass pro and catch swing passes out of the backfield. Last year we had concerns with his pass blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield. That was the part of the game that needed to improve for Kurt and it has tenfold."

"He has at least 10 catches now on the season and he's doing well blocking."

Taylor has the potential to be a great pass protector, solid short yardage guy, and dumpoff target. That's not Adrian Peterson but if you get an A+ guy in any of those departments that's a valuable player along the lines of Khalid Hill. Taylor will give his all to be that.

Etc.: Wrote four episodes of Good Times, which apparently has a wiki. Program guy:

"Kurt is a wonderful kid. He's very respectful and shakes everybody's hand all the time. I don't let him shake my hand because he's too strong now, but he'll try," Banks said with a laugh. "He walks through the hallway, holding his football, and shakes the teachers' hands and says hi to everybody.

Why Vincent Smith? Smith was a short, tough gent who made his way through college football on sheer will. Smith was never a feature back but found a role as a third down back because of his pass protection and screen proficiency. Taylor's probably never going to be a feature back; there is always a role on the team for someone who won't take no for an answer.

Kevin Grady is another comparable. Grady was a short, thick bowling ball type of guy. He was one of the most overrated players in Michigan history, dropping from five star range to bit player by his second year.

Guru Reliability: High. Taylor did his share of camps, isn't switching positions, and played at a couple of high profile Georgia schools.

Variance: Low. A+ dude with top-end work ethic and one clear niche he is very likely to fill.

Ceiling: Low. Tops out as a solid contributor.

General Excitement Level: Not great. All players can defy their rankings an expectations, but there's not a lot about Taylor's profile to suggest he will. Even a late Michigan State offer came during their "oh God we need anybody" phase.

Projection: Obvious redshirt since Michigan goes four deep at RB before even considering the freshmen. Afterwards it's going to be a crowded backfield for a while: Evans has three more years, Walker four, Samuels four or five. Taylor should carve out his role by year two or three and then remain a useful piece for the rest of his eligibility.


Perkis-Size Me

August 14th, 2017 at 12:26 PM ^

Taylor's biceps make me think he could crush a man's skull with them. Taylor will probably never be the highlight reel guy on this team, but he strikes me as someone who Harbaugh will grow quite fond of if he hasn't already.

Taylor looks like a blue collar pile mover. When its 3rd and goal from the two with OSU up by four late in the game, you call on the guy who moves the pile by brute strength and sheer force of will. The guy who is always going to fall forward and fight for every inch on the field. 


August 14th, 2017 at 1:58 PM ^

...that the pundits are wrong about this kid. A hard-working, muscular kid with his positive attitude (force of will?) will most certainly see his share of time on the field and I think he will exceed expectations. 

I think Samuels has a bit more upside and talent, but I am really glad young Mr. Taylor picked Michigan.




August 14th, 2017 at 12:40 PM ^

I know a lot of folks aren't projecting much from Taylor because of recruiting stars and all that. But he seems to have good vision and patience when carrying the ball. He'll be a contributor down the road. He'll work hard, probably will end up a good blocker too. I think Harbaugh likes him.


August 14th, 2017 at 12:58 PM ^

We went with this scheme for a bit the past two seasons, a "heavy" formation that used the pass to set up the run with three-step drops and such.  I can see it coming back.

He won't be the sort of back that makes defenses re-write their playbooks, but neither should we underestimate the value of a back who can camouflage the offense.  Smith's best trait was that when he lined up next to Denard, unless Borges did something incredibly stupid like run a single play from a particular formation or personnel group (which he did with infuriating regularity but I digress), just peeking into the backfield you had no idea if it was going to be a run or a pass.  Smith could just as easily show his fingerguns and then take a handoff as annihilate a blitzer.

Do that well enough and you're actually more viable on 1st and 2nd down than guys with more wiggle but allow defenses to key on the run because you can't pass block.  If I was Taylor (and I'm sure he's already on it) I'd be burning the midnight oil mastering the art of blitz pick-ups.  It's not considered an exciting way to play, but it's a sort of Stockton-to-Malone pick-and-roll, it's boring and then you look up and the game's put away kind of value.  If he can do that, Harbaugh will get him on the field.


August 14th, 2017 at 12:55 PM ^

I also don't care about ratings, work ethic especially if contagious to others is so important.

Short guy doing things by sheer willpower also reminds me a bit of Hart, except Hart didn't look so big.  With those guns I'm hoping the ball will be indisplacable from his grip. 

Watching From Afar

August 14th, 2017 at 1:19 PM ^

Not super fast, but qucik through the hole. Taylor had a couple of runs in there that he got the first 5-8 yards real quick and couldn't quite pull away from the safeties trailing him. That is what Mike Hart was for 4 years.


August 14th, 2017 at 3:13 PM ^

I can't compare Taylor to Hart, who had some ludicrous highlights and a good reason for being overlooked. Taylor played in Georgia and transfered to a major power for his senior season. If Taylor defies everything above then yes, he'll be like Hart. I'd imagine his role is closer to Smith's.


August 14th, 2017 at 1:36 PM ^

lots of studs and the coaches saw something in him they really like and feel he can fill a role on this team. May never be a feature back or someone who even gets decent stats during their career. But, think he will be a reliable piece who will make a big play every now and then and sustains a drive or scores a big TD and do his part to help the team be successful.


August 14th, 2017 at 1:40 PM ^

The last "not great" excitement rating was given in last year's class to Devin Gil. When you look at the two of them, there are very different reasons for this. With Gil, there is a clear lack of athleticism and some projection as he needs to add a lot of weight to be feasible at ILB. I think Gil was the lone flyer in that class, and is still a "What'd the coaches see in that guy?" recruit to me. No "arrows" pointing up.

Kurt Taylor is a different story. Yes, he's not likely to be in line for starting RB duties. Yes, he lacks explosion and long speed. He doesn't possess any superior football skills. But Taylor is an intensely devoted, hard working, strong kid that has a clear road to contribution as a 3rd down, pass protecting RB. He'll also likely surprise as a pass catcher who's able to pick up 4-6 yards.

I agree that his overall excitement level remains low if only because 3rd down backs aren't typically high profile players, but Taylor is in a categorically different boat than Gil.


August 14th, 2017 at 2:01 PM ^

One similarity is that both Gil and Taylor are from significant prograns in the South.  Gil may have even helped bring in Bush Jr. and Metellus.  I don't think the coaches would spend a scholarship on a guy they don't think can contribute.  But I could see them using one on a guy who tops out as a role-player with some pipeline-building considerations in addition.


August 14th, 2017 at 8:38 PM ^

IIRC in Gil's recruiting profile he was compared to Denard culturally (as someone people would like to have as a teammate).

You could guess that he was bait for Devin Bush, but they had Metellus (who seems to have worked out nicely) for that.

Maybe Gil gets outcompeted by his classmates and the new guys. But, I still think he has a reasonable path (gain weight, try not to lose much speed).

Taylor is already at the only position where the mapping is good, and he might be very close to his ceiling. Still, he's clearly a high-character guy and it's good to have a few of those.

Watching From Afar

August 14th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

Also, while we love homerun hitters like Denard and Evans, what was Mike Hart's longest run? I can't remmeber any run he had that was more than 30 or 40 yards (with the exception of 1 or 2 that were a rsult of a cut back) because he lacked a top gear. If you can rip off 7-15 yard runs with any consistentcy, and chun out the 2-3 yarders when needed, then you have yourself a dependable, good back.


August 14th, 2017 at 2:41 PM ^

I feel like he's going to be a 3rd down conversion machine by the time he's an upperclassmen.  He won't make elite defenders miss in space, but he'll be the type of player who follows his blockers well, runs efficient routes out of the backfield, and puts his shoulder down to get an extra yard or two.


August 14th, 2017 at 2:51 PM ^

good balance, and a good strength can see to a productive back. If Taylor is unnaturally strong, then he can be a good closer at running back.


August 14th, 2017 at 2:58 PM ^

So if the 4.48 gets 5 fakes out of 5, how fast is he?  The article makes him sound like molassas.   Mike Hart ran a 4.69 at the NFL combine.    Hope Taylor proves the haters wrong.  Mike Hart as the potential, Vincent Smith as the reasonable expectation and Dennis Norfleet as the entertaining and lovable disappointment.  


August 14th, 2017 at 4:07 PM ^

Truthfully, the potential is probably much closer to Smith than Hart. Mike had crazy good vision and really quick feet, which is how he could avoid a lot of contact despite his athletic limitations. Nothing in Taylor's film shows that. He's mostly a straight line runner who was hard to bring down at the high school level. The lack of quick feet is also why the Frank Gore comparisons are off too.

In terms of speed, Mike's time was the second slowest for RBs at the combine in 2008. Perhaps not exactly molasses, but it's pretty slow for that position. Naturally, there will be guys who play faster than their 40 times, young Frank Gore being an example, but generally, those slow times show on the field.


August 14th, 2017 at 3:32 PM ^

Can't underestimate the positive attitude and hard work ethic Taylor brings to the program. He's the guy you want in your corner every day of the week and twice on Saturday's. He will truly encapsulate what it means to be a Michigan Man. 


August 14th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

Vincent Smith was very good for us in that role toward the end of his career. If an A+ kid wants to come here, work his tail off, get a great education, and take on a role that will be needed then that's great


August 14th, 2017 at 4:36 PM ^

I know two things.

I saw him in person last season during the Grayson-IMG game and he did not move the pile or break tackles.  He took his 3-4 yards and that was it.  Not much wiggle, not much giddyup.  Just nothing more than present. IMG kids are what he's going to be seeing every week in college.

He's a Georgia kid that really wanted to go to GA Tech, but Paul Johnson saw him several times at camps and did not offer him.  Paul Johnson.  Paul Johnson did not want Kurt Taylor for HIS offense.  That and the IMG game told me all I needed to know.