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
|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|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
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.
"… 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.
"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.