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By ASHLEY SCOBY
For the rest of the football offseason, I’m going to be doing some previews here on vaughtsviews.com for the UK football season – incoming players, position battles, etc. Want to learn more about a particular signee or want a preview of the long snappers next year? Shoot me an email with any ideas/suggestions at email@example.com. Until then…
The Kentucky football team might just have the SEC to thank for one of its 2012 signees – Justin Taylor, an Alabama decommit, was affected by the new SEC rule only allowing 25 players to be signed per class. With this number hanging over his head, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban told Taylor, who suffered a knee injury during his senior year, he would have to wait until 2013 for a scholarship. Taylor spurned the Tide and signed with Kentucky instead – an enormous steal for Joker & Co.
It won’t be a surprise if Taylor will work even harder than he normally would have, in order to prove to Nick Saban and anyone else that he was indeed good enough to play for Alabama, knee injury or not. He was committed to the school for nearly a year and was still thrown onto the back burner, so to speak, after getting hurt. Taylor was obviously hurt emotionally as well, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “As far as pulling the scholarship, I think they did me wrong. I was the No. 7 to commit, that’s all I’ve got to say. I was committed to them for a year. They could’ve handled it better.”
Taylor was rated a 3-star by Scout and Rivals – at 5’10 and 205 pounds-plus, he’s a bruising running back who is considered by most services to be a “downhill” kind of guy. He’s the kind of back that will want to ram it up the other team’s throat rather than dance in the backfield and make the defense miss. It’s an exciting possibility for Kentucky football to have a guy like this in the future backfield.
The Cats have had more of a running back-by-committee approach the last couple of seasons with no one standing out as a true, bona fide SEC starter. For example, the most recent depth chart for the upcoming season came out this week, and there are three guys atop the running back position: “CoShik Williams, or Raymond Sanders, or Josh Clemons.”
This is not to say that Taylor will be sure-fire starter from day one – heck, he may never be a starter. Absolutely anything can happen. But Taylor has the potential to be a bruising back in the league, and having him on the Kentucky side of the next UK-Alabama game will bode well for Cat fans.
Some may voice concern over how candidly and openly Taylor spoke about Alabama after the way his recruitment was handled. But I feel that that was one of those one-time situations where he had been truly hurt by a situation and was voicing the unfairness of it all. There is no need at all to worry that Taylor will be outspoken or in trouble on social media.
Unless a bizarrely unfortunate streak of injuries happens to Kentucky’s running back stable this year, Taylor most likely won’t get much playing time during his freshman season. With four guys who have had game experience (the aforementioned three, plus Jonathan George) ahead of him on the depth chart, Taylor will have a ways to go. However, anything is possible: Josh Clemons had several guys ahead of him last year, but made a name for himself as a true freshman. Without being sidelined by an injury midway into the season, Clemons could have shown a lot more talent. The same kind of situation is not completely out of the question for the 2012 signee Taylor, but expect greater things from the running back in a couple years.