After going without a commit since November, Michigan reeled in a big one today when four-star Richmond (VA) St. Christopher's CB Garrett Taylor announced his pledge to the Wolverines on Twitter. It appeared Taylor favored Stanford as recently as a month ago, but a subsequent Michigan offer and campus visit—which he called the best of any he'd taken—sealed it for the Maize and Blue.
— Garrett Taylor (@gtaychillin) March 24, 2014
Taylor is the fifth overall commit in the 2015 class and the third defensive back, joining CB Shaun Crawford and S Tyree Kinnel.
[So as not to step all over the basketball post, hit THE JUMP for the informative portion.]
4*, #36 CB,
4*, #6 CB,
4*, 82, #7 CB,
4*, 96, #6 CB,
4*, #8 CB,
Taylor is well within the top 100 on every service except Scout, which places him near the end of their top 300 list. His other rankings are remarkably consistent—he's either the sixth- or seventh-best corner in the country, with Rivals feeling more bullish on that position group as a whole than ESPN or 247.
Taylor also has the smallest range in listed size of any recruit I can remember: all four sites list him at 6'1" and either 187 or 188 pounds. Given the consistent listing, that's probably a very accurate figure.
Continuing the trend among recent Michigan cornerback commits, Taylor is big and physical, which is the main focus of his free Scout evaluation:
STRENGTHS Instincts Size Tackling Ability
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT Backpedal Quickness Hip Flexibility
Taylor is a physical corner with good size and instincts. He does a nice job of reading the quarterback's eyes and has good ball skills. Taylor also does a good job of shedding blocks and is very good in run support. Overall, Taylor has a lot of natural ability. He could play either cornerback or safety at the next level. - Michael Clark
Scout lists weaknesses that would preclude Taylor from being a lockdown corner, which is odd, since that seems to be his reputation just about everywhere else. Here's VirginiaPreps on Taylor's Rivals Camp showing in Richmond heading into his junior season ($):
Leading the way among secondary players from the rising junior class is St. Christopher's Garrett Taylor who showed why he is so highly regarded at the event exhibiting a great break on the ball on out patterns without falling prey to the out-and-up routes. Put simply, he's a beast. When he was beat on a route, it was usually to the inside on slant routes but, often times, it wasn't a fault of him getting to the ball, it was a matter of a receiver running nearly all the way across the field with no pass rush pressing the quarterbacks to throw. His technique is impeccable and he showed a willingness to battle from the snap of the ball until the pass hit the turf. The Saints' star plays with good instincts, timing and anticipation, qualities that separated him from others at the event, at times.
The praise for his instincts is consistent with other evaluations. ESPN's insider evaluation is in agreement with VirginiaPreps regarding Taylor's hips, though they note he could be quicker with his feet ($):
STRENGTHS: Possesses excellent height and weight for the corner position at this stage. If he continues to grow over the next few years, he might develop into a safety. Instinctive and doesn't get out of position much. Will take direct angles to the football. Displays very good ball skills. Flips his hips well for a taller corner and can turn and run stride for stride with faster receivers. Shows very good makeup speed. A dominant run and pass perimeter defender. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: A bit more playing strength and foot quickness would help his development. Shows some wasted motion and some tension in transition at times. ... BOTTOM LINE: Taylor is a physically impressive athlete at the corner position. Very good tackler in defending the run and is a faster closer in zone coverage. A top prospect who looks to be an early contributor at the next level.
When the Areas of Improvement section begins with "a bit more..." that usually means you've got a very well-rounded prospect; at that point, they're picking nits, and it's reflected in his high ranking.
All this talent shows up on game day; here's Rivals's Adam Friedman breaking down Taylor's performance against top junior receiver Scott Bracey, who already holds offers from Michigan, Ohio State, and many other top schools:
Taylor was the best player on the field on Saturday. At cornerback, he made seven tackles and had one tackle for a loss. Taylor also had the most difficult matchup on defense, guarding 2016 standout wide receiver Scott Bracey. Taylor held Bracey to only a few catches for minimal yardage, and on one play, a deep pass down the sideline late in the game, Taylor tipped the ball away from Bracey on a jump ball. Taylor also scored St. Christopher's only touchdown on a 9-yard catch.
Based on reports—as well as his junior highlights—this was one of the few games last season when an opponent even dared to throw his way. At the high school level, at least, he's a lockdown corner; add that to the physicality, size, and instincts that come in for praise at every turn, and it looks like Michigan got a very good prospect.
Taylor's lengthy offer sheet includes Clemson, LSU, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among several others.
St. Christopher's is a VISAA Division I school that's historically more likely to produce a D-I lacrosse or baseball player than a high-level football recruit. Prior to the 2015 class, only two former Saints (creative mascot, guys) had earned a three-star ranking in the Rivals era: 2011 DE Thompson Brown and 2013 DE Jack English, who both ended up at Virginia. The school has two four-star recruits in the 2015 class alone, however; in addition to Taylor, linebacker Ricky DeBerry—247's #5 OLB with offers from seemingly everywhere but Michigan—is on the current team.
As mentioned previously, Taylor's junior year numbers went down because teams avoided him, per the VaPreps Private All-State team:
Garrett Taylor is a shutdown corner who took on the opposing teams best receiver every week. He finished second on St Christopher with 35 solo tackles. His interceptions dropped from 4 to 1 this year as teams avoided the Rivals 4-star recruit like the plague.
According to his Scout profile, Taylor recorded 24 tackles and four picks as a sophomore, while adding 14 catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 is the only site to list a 40 time: 4.5-flat, which gets three FAKEs out of five because of the lack of any apparent source.
Taylor's sophomore reel contains more footage of opponents throwing the ball his way, including an ill-fated Wilton Speight attempt at the 0:30 mark:
Single-game cut-ups, as usual, can be found on Taylor's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Despite his relative college-readiness, Taylor should be afforded the opportunity to develop behind some upperclassmen given Michigan's current depth chart at corner. When he arrives, the Wolverines should have seniors Blake Countess and Terry Richardson, juniors Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, sophomores Reon Dawson and Jabrill Peppers, and redshirt freshman Brandon Watson occupying the two-deep.
With his size and tackling ability, Taylor looks like a boundary corner to me—or a safety, which could be the bigger need, depending upon the development of the class and current roster. That would give Michigan two excellent tackling corners in the class; fellow commit Shaun Crawford also brings the wood.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Taylor is Michigan's fifth commit in the class, and right now there's room for just seven more, though that number is almost certain to grow. Michigan still has a need for a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker ... there's your seven scholarships, though as noted the class should grow and the Wolverines could afford to add depth at a few more spots (the notion of taking just two OL scares me, for one).