Coach Scott Frost has not yet named official team captains for the 2019 season, but back in the spring, the players formed their own leadership council of sorts. That council included a lot of the names one might expect — Mohamed Barry, Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle on defense, Adrian Martinez, Matt Farniok, Jack Stoll and others on defense.
All of those players with the exception of the quarterback Martinez are upperclassmen, and all of them have been starters who have played a lot of football at Nebraska. There was one other underclassman mentioned in that group, however: sophomore cornerback Cam Taylor.
Taylor was one of two freshmen in Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class who avoided a redshirt last year, playing in 11 games off the bench. He recorded 12 tackles (eight on defense, four on special teams), three pass-break-ups and a fumble recovery. Taylor was the first corner off the bench in most of the games who saw a lot of his action in subpackages.
“He is a natural leader,” defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said. “He came in with leadership by example, everyone once in a while making small mistakes as a freshman, but for the most part Cam came in and dove straight in. He wasn’t scared to make a mistake, he was very vocal, he was at meetings on time, coming back for extra meetings, and that’s the kind of stuff you look for as a young guy. At that time, we had some older guys that weren’t even doing that last year. Cam was doing it at a very young age as a freshman, he’s coming right in at 17, 18 years old and he’s kind of grabbed onto that role and he’s gotten even better with it.”
That Taylor was able to make an immediate impact at quarterback is even more impressive considering he played quarterback in high school and started learning how to play on the defensive side of the ball when he arrived in Lincoln last summer. Additionally, Taylor said he had to learn how to watch film because that wasn’t something his high school team did much of.
“It was a big adjustment, just coming in and watching film, actually, trying to get in the film room with Coach Fisher … Extra film, it was kind of a big deal because I wasn’t used to watching film … I did play quarterback and I had to learn a different side of the ball, so I’m saying offensive things instead of defensive things,” Taylor said. “It was a big switch, but now I’ve got it down pat.”
Taylor’s versatility and adaptability has continued to serve him well as a Husker as Fisher has been cross-training him all over the defense, from corner to safety to linebacker and everything in between in nickel and dime packages.
“Cam has been all over the field,” Fisher said. “He’s been a major asset for our defense, a captain in the back end, has the energy that we’re looking for in the back end. He’s a playmaker, he’s tough, he’s physical; all the things you ask for in a DB, he has them.”
Taylor isn’t the only one practicing at multiple positions; that’s a standard procedure for Fisher. However, the sophomore from Montgomery, Alabama, is taking that cross training to the extreme.
“Cam’s done a great job,” Fisher said. “It’s all the guys, really — Deontai [Williams] taking a couple snaps at corner, Dicaprio took snaps at last weeks practice pretty much all practice at safety. Just having guys move around, and in moving around you’d think they’ve played the position all year. Just putting guys in different spots and seeing them work and seeing them work with each other, seeing them make the calls for our defense, is good.”
Nebraska returns both of its starting corners in Jackson and Bootle while juniors Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke look to be the favorites to start at safety in Nebraska’s base defense. When the Blackshirts take the field for the first snap of the season opener on Aug. 31, Taylor may or may not be on the field, but either way Fisher doesn’t see the sophomore as a reserve.
“Cam is a starter,” Fisher said. “He’s a starter on this defense; that’s his role. He’s a starter, he’s asked to do the same things that a senior would be asked to do, asked to do the same thing that guys that we study on TV in pro football, learning from some of those guys when you watch film, so he’s asked to do the same things that they’re able to do, which is a very high level. So he’s kind of cross-trained at every position that way.”
Taylor has become the Swiss army knife of this defense, ready to step in when his number’s called no matter what position the coaches need him to play. He’s also managed to earn the trust and respect of his teammates. Whether he’s an official team captain or not, whether he’s a starter or not, Nebraska’s coaches have high expectations for Cam Taylor heading into his sophomore season.