SU’s Taylor ready for starting QB role
Posted: October 4, 2012
WINCHESTER — It’s a helpless feeling, not being allowed to suit up and help your teammates, but that wasn’t going to keep Corey Taylor from being involved when he had surgery to remove a mass of tissue on his neck during the summer before his senior year at Woodbridge High School.
“I missed the first week of two-a-days because of the surgery, but I was out there the second day, two days after my surgery, even though I didn’t have [pads or a uniform on],” Taylor said. “I was just out there supporting my team. I don’t like sitting out at all.
“My mom went to work. Didn’t know I went [to practice]. I told one of my older sisters to take me.”
Fortunately for Taylor, that mass of tissue turned out to be benign. But the story shows just how much football means to Taylor, who had never started a varsity game at Woodbridge until his senior year.
It’s Taylor’s commitment to football that makes him so respected by his new teammates and coaches now at Shenandoah University.
As much as hurt him to watch his teammates without his pads on while serving a three-game suspension issued by the team to start this season — a penalty that was issued to him during the final week of the spring semester — he never let that interfere with his desire to support his teammates.
And he never let that distract him from his desire to make himself better in hopes of being the Hornets’ starting quarterback. That’s a distinction the sophomore has a chance to keep after his strong performance in the Hornets’ 17-14 loss to Bridgewater on Sept. 22, the first game in which Taylor was eligible and SU’s last game before its bye week.
Taylor said he wasn’t told until the morning of the Bridgewater game that he was going to start, but he completed 9 of 16 passes for 125 yards and rushed for two touchdowns.
Taylor will start for the Hornets (1-3, 0-1 Old Dominion Athletic Conference) against Guilford (1-3, 0-1) in their first-ever home ODAC game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Shentel Stadium.
SU head coach Paul Barnes said Taylor was definitely under consideration for the starting job after spring practice was completed. But the Hornets had to get game one starter and Moravian College transfer Phil Gardner ready during preseason practice.
“Give [Taylor] credit,” Barnes said.. “He didn’t take time off. He really improved. He really tried to do things the right way, and I saw that.
“I saw him work with the third unit and tried to get them ready. He worked with the scout team a little bit to help our defense get ready. He knew by the time Bridgewater was coming, he was going to compete. And the ball just fell that way to him.”
Taylor doesn’t plan on letting the opportunity pass him by.
“Having people believe in me helps me out a lot and gives me confidence,” Taylor said. “I want to go out and run the offense like I know I can.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Taylor, who ran a spread offense at Woodbridge, said he chose SU because of its similarity to Woodbridge’s offense and proximity to home. His freshman year was spent as the third-stringer behind then-senior Danny Wright and Geremi Long, both of whom are no longer with the team, and he said having a year to learn helped.
“Spring ball was when I knew the offense, and when I was getting ready to be the starter for Shenandoah,” Taylor said. “I knew I could do it, and all the coaches were telling me I knew I could do it.”
The Bridgewater game showed why. Taylor has arm strength — he was throwing 50-yard passes off his back foot and zinging slants — and he burned the Eagles for some big gains on option runs. Coaches and teammates also like the fact that he plays with confidence, and usually makes good decisions with the ball.
Given the struggles of Gardner (7 of 20 for 49 yards and four interceptions) and senior Shawn Lloyd (18 of 53 for 184 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions), Taylor likely at least would have seen some time had he been eligible during SU’s 1-2 start, which saw it score seven points in the losses to Ferrum and Christopher Newport.
Taylor certainly would have liked to been out there for those games.
“I was at every game supporting my team, but it was very hard to watch, because I don’t like sitting on the sidelines, like any other player,” Taylor said. “It hurt even more not having my pads on to be able to go in the game if they needed me.”
After splitting reps with Lloyd during the week leading up to Bridgewater, SU needed him to start, and the Hornets felt he answered the call.
Senior wide receiver Qiydaar Murphy couldn’t play against Bridgewater because of a concussion (he’ll be back this week), but he felt Taylor truly showed he deserved to be on the field.
“No disrespect to the other two quarterbacks, but I feel he’s solidified the spot at quarterback,” said Murphy, who was impressed with how Taylor prepared himself mentally and physically despite knowing he’d have to sit. “We know who our quarterback is now.
“He’s come into being the leader, and he’s confident in his abilities. He knows that he can throw, he knows that if he’s about to get sacked he can run. I feel what’s most important with Corey is that he’s confident, and he can do things that we need him to do to be our quarterback.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Wolf said he liked what he saw from Taylor against Bridgewater.
“He did a good job,” Wolf said. “He didn’t throw the ball to the other team in some bad situations. He made some good reads.
“On that scoring drive in the second half, he hung in there on a third-and-5, they blitzed us, and he threw right behind the blitz for  yards. He was able to march us down the field, take control, and put us in a good situation.”
Naturally, Taylor still has plenty of work to do before he gets to where he wants to be, and where the team wants him to be. He does only have one college start under his belt.
But Barnes said Taylor “matured before his eyes,” against Bridgewater because he never got flustered against the Eagles.
And in Wolf’s eyes, the Hornets have yet to face a defense as good as their own. That should help slow the game down for him, and speed up his development.
Taylor does have some fans on that Hornet defense, which trails only Bridgewater in scoring defense (16.8) and total defense (292.2) among ODAC schools.
“The only thing that stood out to me [during the bye week] was that the offense was more in sync with each other,” SU junior middle linebacker Josh Rogers said. “Corey’s definitely being a leader at the quarterback position. Just making [the defense] run around, calling the checks for protection ... the defense can definitely tell it’s different out there.”
Taylor said he won’t rest until it’s not just different, but consistently better.
“I thought it was good for my first game being out there, but I wasn’t happy with myself,” Taylor said. “I think I could have done a lot better and made some better decisions.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1