If you're like me and follow Notre Dame recruiting closely, then you have been hearing Elijah Taylor's name for quite awhile.
He has been near the top of Notre Dame's 2015 defensive recruiting board right beside players like Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard pretty much since people started talking about the 2015 recruiting board. Those other two have had much more national hype because of their higher rankings, but Taylor was seen as just as big of a target for the Irish at a position of need.
If he had committed months ago, he would have been a much more celebrated pick up. As it happens, his commitment came at the end of a run of 3 star pick ups that most fans were fairly underwhelmed with. There was more a collective "meh" that came out from it.
Well, I'm here to turn that "meh" into more of a "Byahhhhhh!!!!"
There is a reason why he doesn't have a composite 4 star ranking. Part of the reason is that this recruiting cycle is especially deep at defensive tackle. The other reasons I go into a bit further in my scouting report on Taylor. The gist of it is that Taylor does not have great snap anticipation on a consistent basis. Frankly, he needs to get off the ball faster and attack upfield more.
But there are some things that Taylor does exceptionally well. He uses his hands well to disengage blockers, he plays with good leverage, and he is a very good athlete. Athletically he is right up there with most of the top defensive tackles in this recruiting class.
It's really hard to find big dudes who are going to weigh over 300 pounds that can run and Notre Dame found one. And as a bonus, he's not from California!
If you watch his film closely you can see how high his ceiling is going to be in college. This kid could develop into a big time player for the Irish if he cuts out the not great stuff he does and replaces it with more of the really freaking good stuff he showed a lot of during his junior season.
Here is a good example of the not great combined with the really freaking good from Taylor that I found from his film:
Taylor is lined up as an end in a 3-man front. It is nearly impossible to tell shades from this angle, but it looks like he is lined up on the inside shade of the offensive tackle or in the B gap.
Taylor practically pops up in his stance rather than attack forward. This is the part that is not great from Taylor. His knees are bent, which is good. But it's way too passive. Once he is at Notre Dame it will be stressed to him to attack upfield more.
Now Taylor is engaged with the offensive lineman. This is the start of the really freaking good. He has better pad level than the player he is up against and his hands are inside. He has complete control of the offensive lineman. In other words, he has put himself in a position to win on the play.
Now the offensive lineman is on roller skates, which is never a good look for somebody on the other team.
By the way, it's a draw play. Taylor recognized this and disengaged from the guard so he can make a play.
Taylor now has the running back wrapped up for a tackle for a loss. The guard who was supposed to block Taylor on the play? He's that dude standing all by himself a couple of yards away watching his man make the play.
This the kind of thing that Taylor is capable of. Can you imagine if he attacked at the snap of the ball? It could have been a five yard loss instead of a loss of one.
Taylor's film is filled with plays like this. It's the reason he is a 3 star on two of the major recruiting sites and a 4 star on the other two. It's also why I believe that he will eventually be a consensus 4 star player after his senior season. He is a big, strong, athletic young man that can do some things that others can't.
He is only going to get better and has all the tools to be the type of player to see snaps as a freshman as a defensive lineman at Notre Dame. Whether Cornell or Hilliard end up committing is still very much up in the air, but they did snag a defensive tackle who is just about as important as those two players and Notre Dame fans should be excited about it.