Maurice Taylor, 5-foot-9, 160 pounds
Cardinal Ritter (St. Louis)
As we close in on 1,000 evaluations for the Class of 2009 (3,000 is the goal by next February), we have certainly graded our fair share of highly-touted, electrifying prospects in the athlete category -- like Under Armour All-American Russell Shepard (Houston/Cypress Ridge). However, during that first wave of '09 evaluations, we also came across a less-heralded athlete. He shined in all three phases of the game but lacked a long or even short list of high-interest schools.
Maurice Taylor (Saint Louis/Cardinal Ritter), a virtually unknown recruiting commodity, is still waiting for his first Division I scholarship offer -- in our eyes far too long. Now we are not saying Taylor and the LSU-bound Shepard are in similar categories in terms of ability and athletic skill. We are simply stating that recruiting is not always an exact science, and the quick, do-it-all prospect out of Missouri is at least worthy of a handful of non-BCS offers.
Taylor has a few things working against him on the recruiting trail that might be deterring some attention. On paper, his slight 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame may not open many eyes and actually impede his film from ever being inserted into the DVD player at some schools. However, if college recruiters checked the box scores after a Cardinal Ritter track meet, his 10.9 100-meter dash time and more than 21-foot long jump might prompt coaches to take a glance at this excellent athlete who plays bigger and more explosive than his listed measurables.
The versatile sparkplug does not concentrate on one specific position, which often hinders attention-grabbing stats and positional popularity in terms of recruiting. Although, in our eyes, his versatility makes him a special athlete and adds to his upside when projecting for the next level. The impressive numbers speak for themselves: 450 yards receiving, 593 rushing, 992 yards and eight touchdowns combined on kick and punt returns and four interceptions on defense. It should also be noted that those stats were produced against good 3A competition in Missouri, and for a program that has produced a handful of Division I athletes the past five years.
When asked to promote himself, the modest Taylor started on defense, the side of the ball he and Scouts Inc. believe he will play at the next level.
"My ability to recover on defense and break on the ball are probably my best strengths," Taylor said. "I also take pride and coming up to tackle and play the run."
Offensively, the two-way standout pointed to his speed, quickness and versatility to play a number of different positions as his selling points.
Currently, there are a handful of schools that have expressed interest in Taylor: in-state Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas and Tennessee have all sent the quick-footed athlete recruiting letters promoting their program. Ball State took the time to send a handwritten letter recently stating its awareness and its intentions to learn more.
There could be many more programs learning more about Taylor in the next month; his junior highlight film has just been completed and is currently being sent to schools across the country. We expect his play to definitely draw some attention to Cardinal Ritter during spring evaluations, which are starting now for most college programs.
Until then, Taylor said he is going to stay the course and continue working hard at improving his stock. He runs track to improve his speed. As soon as practice ends, he heads straight to the weight room to improve his size and strength.
"I am still trying to get bigger, stronger and quicker at everything I do on the football field," Taylor said. "My head coach [Brian Simmons] said to keep working hard and it [scholarship] will come."
Taylor's Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Taylor is an extremely quick and fluid athlete who is a major sleeper on the recruiting trail. Employed and excels in all three phases of the game at the high school level. He lacks great size and durability is a concern when projecting for the next level, but he is very smooth and slippery on offense rarely giving defenders a clean shot.
Whether he utilized as a receiver, running back or return specialist, he is very dangerous in the open field with the ball in his hands. Reaches top speed by his second step and his initial acceleration and burst is very good. Can stop-start and change direction on a dime and leave defenders standing still. Changes speeds well and does not lose much in transition when cutting laterally. Good open-field vision. Can slice through traffic and deceptively break through arm tackles with his quick-twitched burst and toughness. Separates effortlessly in the second level with good top-end speed. Shows similar separation ability as a receiver; does not gear down at the top of his stem and is difficult for linebackers to mirror on shorter routes. Hands and overall receiving skills are good and he is savvy finding the open spots in zone coverage.
Defensively, he shows good anticipation skills and break undercutting routes. Transitions smooth and quickly in and out of his pedal. Feisty on run support fighting off the stalk and setting the edge. Very sound open-field tackler. Size is an issue when asked to jam and reroute bigger Division I receivers and battle for the jump ball. Displays good recovery speed but at times appears much quicker than fast.
Bottom line, Taylor is a great athlete with the speed and quickness sought after at the next level despite his smaller stature. Expect recruiting to start heating up.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.