Over the next 51 days, Gator Country will preview the players that make up the 2013 Florida Gators football team as we inch closer and closer to the season.
Each day we will count down using the player whose jersey number corresponds with how many days there are left until Florida kicks off against Toledo in the Swamp on August 31.
Today we take a look at redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor.
Taylor was a member of the vaunted 2010 recruiting class that never really panned out like the former coaching staff thought they would. He chose to attend Florida over other schools like Miami, Stanford, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee.
Taylor didn’t see any playing time as a freshman and earned a redshirt his first year on campus. As a redshirt freshman, Taylor appeared in every game, except against Tennessee, racking up 36 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, forced one fumble and had an interception.
Last season Taylor appeared in every game, including a start against LSU. He finished ninth on the team with 32 tackles, which included a season high six tackles against Johnny Football and the Aggies of Texas A&M.
Taylor was moved from Mike LB to Will LB this offseason and adjusted nicely to his new role. The Will and Mike play very similar roles in Florida’s defense but Taylor will have more responsibility in coverage at his new position.
Taylor plays just like Will Muschamp would like every player on his defense to play, fast and physical.
He excels as a run-stopping linebacker who can also get into the backfield and harass the quarterback. Taylor plays hard every snap and is a relentless pursuer of the ball carrier. He is a great blitzing linebacker.
Taylor came to Gainesville slightly undersized but has developed nicely and now has very good size at 6’, 230-pounds. He is durable and can stand up to the physical toll that playing in the SEC takes on a player throughout the season.
Taylor’s biggest weakness has been in coverage. For as good as he is against the run and as a pass-rusher, Taylor has struggled somewhat in coverage for the Gators. He will have more coverage responsibilities playing at weakside linebacker and will need to improve in coverage if he is going to keep Darrin Kitchens and Daniel McMillian from stealing his starting spot.
What to Expect
This past spring Will Muschamp said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel McMillian was starting at some point this season. That doesn’t bode well for Taylor, who had to fight off McMillian and Kitchens this past spring.
Taylor did show a lot of improvement in coverage this spring but it may not be enough to hold down the starting spot for the entire season.
Expect Taylor to start the season as the starting weakside linebacker and to play in every game in some capacity. He’s a veteran player; the most experienced linebacker on the roster and the coaching staff will count on him to be a leader for a very inexperienced group.
Taylor will also provide freshmen linebackers Matt Rolin, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and McMillian with a good role model and veteran leadership this season.