Over the next few weeks, we’re counting down the 10 Huskers with the highest intrigue factor heading into the 2019 season. But the series just started, so there are only two other names on the list so far. Be patient.
Cam Taylor can make things levitate.
And that’s the only reason I need to include him on this list.
(Not really, I don’t have that much freedom.)
A 6-foot, 200-plus-pound cornerback, Cam Taylor arrived in Lincoln last May after playing quarterback for his high school in Alabama. Pretty decent size for a quarterback. Pretty fantastic size for a defensive back. But Taylor hadn’t played the position much. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and defensive backs coach Travis Fisher saw something in him.
Taylor’s now learning safety. In part because Fisher cross-trains frequently in the spring, in part because Nebraska lost its top three safeties from last season’s team — who happened to be three of the team’s top six tacklers — and in part because Taylor has perhaps as much potential as any single player in the Husker defense.
The guy is a playmaker, plain and simple.
In 10 appearances as a true freshman, he made 12 tackles, broke up three passes and recovered a fumble on punt coverage. A lot of his play was on special teams, but Taylor made instinctual moves when he saw the field for Chinander — which was mostly in sub packages.
In base, Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle are the Husker corners until graduation. Safety is Deontai Williams’ to own for the next couple years, and maybe Marquel Dismuke grabs the job next to him or one of the new freshmen on campus does. JoJo Domann is down playing in the box a little bit more, but when Nebraska journeys out of its base defense, maybe Domann moves back. Maybe Taylor comes in to play nickel. Maybe Taylor is already on the field as the second safety next to Williams.
“I have problems with knowing where to place Cam,” Fisher said in the spring. “He can be a safety, an elite one, or he could be the same thing at corner, which is a good problem.”
That quote has gotten plenty of use since Fisher gave it, but it illustrates the point: here’s a kid who has been focused on defense for a year now and he’s someone the coaching staff just wants on the football field, regardless of where he’s playing.
By all accounts, Taylor isn’t just playing more this offseason, he’s talking and leading more. A true sophomore. Think about that. Yes, Nebraska had a leadership void coming into the new year and yes Taylor is as energetic and magnetic as they come, but a second-year kid isn’t supposed to be as mature and respected as he appears to be.
Fisher’s bunch went from a group the strength staff least enjoyed working with to one of the groups it liked best in a year’s time. Taylor played a part in that.
“We know in past years they’ve talked down about DBs at Nebraska,” he said when spring ball began in early March. “We want to change that.”
It’s quite possible Taylor changes that. Jackson is a senior this season, Bootle a junior. The former had a rocky start to his Husker career before coming into his own down the stretch in 2018, but he’s only got a year left before… let’s not jinx anything. The latter led the Big Ten in pass break-ups in 2018 (15) but had a goose egg in the interception department. Taylor has multi-year all-conference potential. How high would Taylor single-handily raise the profile of that room if he were, say, a second-team guy as a junior and maybe a first-team guy as a senior?
He’s already an excellent peer recruiter. Fisher calls him a “born leader” and Nebraska had Taylor as the player host for Wan’Dale Robinson and Noa Pola-Gates — two incredibly high-profile 2019 kids — when they came for visits. Is it that far-fetched to see Taylor becoming one of the best defensive backs in the conference, and raising the collective ceiling of Fisher’s room in the process? Taylor’s the kind of guy other people want to play with. Heck, he’s the kind of guy other people just want to be around.
But that’s a little further down the line than just this upcoming season. Back to the matter at hand.
He pays attention, he likes to hit, he’s as athletic as they come and pairs that with good ball skills. Maybe the best part of his game is a motor that never idles. Now he’s had a full spring to work within the defense and a full year to get familiar with the playbook.
it'll be interesting to see what cam taylor does with an expanded role in 2019. he's got playmaker written all over him. pic.twitter.com/Qq27mela12
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) June 25, 2019
It would be something if Taylor starts the season at safety. There likely aren’t too many snaps to be had at corner unless he’s fine spending the bulk of his time at nickel. But Nebraska needs to replace some stuff so the opportunity is absolutely there.
|Among DBs||Returning Production|
|Solo Tackles||45.6% (94/206)|
|Tackles for Loss||12.5% (1/8)|
|Pass Break-Ups||69.2% (27/39)|
|Run Stuffs||0.0% (0/9)|
I like Taylor to pick up some of that slack.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.