Darrell Taylor is ready.
Well, he’s at least “getting there.”
Tennessee’s freakish redshirt sophomore defensive end may not be quite primed for stardom just yet, but Taylor is ready to move past his viral hashtag hype and make a name for himself between the white lines.
“I’m determined to prove a lot of people,” he said. “But that comes with work, that comes with patience and that comes with time in the weight room and on the field. Just practicing and doing the repetitions. … That’s what the spring is for.”
Last season, Taylor sparked the viral hashtag #WGWTFA when he confidently stated, “We gone whoop they (expletive) (expletive)” before Tennessee took the field against Virginia Tech in the Battle at Bristol.
It was Taylor’s lone highlight all year.
Playing behind future pros Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis, Taylor struggled to see the field. In limited opportunities, he had just nine tackles, zero sacks and three quarterback hurries. The former 4-star recruit was already peeved about a redshirt season, so barely seeing the field in 2016 was a real struggle mentality.
“It was frustrating,” he said, “but you’ve just got to work hard everyday, and when your time comes you’ve got to answer.”
Now, with the aforementioned trio — and their 22.5 sacks last season — gone, it’s Taylor’s time.
He’s worked diligently this offseason to add weight to his long frame, gaining 14 pounds since working with Rock Gullickson. This spring, Taylor, now at 254 pounds, has focused on adding a few moves to his pass rush repertoire and getting “better on run downs.”
With long arms, an explosive first-step and good bend, Taylor has the skills and physique of a prototypical edge rusher. Teammates have raved about his leadership and practice habits.
But now Taylor has to deliver, and coach Butch Jones is confident the redshirt sophomore will come fall.
“He’s still a work in progress, but he’s doing a very, very good job,” Jones said. “The thing I like about him is he’s really trying to lead our football team. He’s holding himself to a high standard, a very high standard of expectations. He’s holding his teammates around him as well.
“I know our players respect him. He’s been outward and vocal, and he’s put in the work. He’s a work in progress. He’s going to continue to get better each and every day.”