When Monte Taylor signed with Cincinnati as part of their 2009 recruiting class, Bearcat football fans were excited at the prospect of adding a 6-foot-5, 245 pound athlete to the roster. The only real question was what position he’d play, but when the California native struggled to get academically cleared by the NCAA and missed not only the entire 2009 season but also 2010 spring football practices, many lost faith that he would ever be a Bearcat. Those doubters, however, didn’t include Taylor himself. The soon-to-be twenty-two-year-old moved to Cincinnati and continued to work on his academics, and when August practices rolled around, Taylor was wearing jersey No. 87.
Because of his unusual blend of size and athleticism, much was expected from Taylor almost immediately, but in many ways, he is an enigma and for good reason. While at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, he was a jack of all trades and a master of none. He spent time at cornerback, tight end, safety and linebacker but never spent enough time at any of them to really learn a position.
After having inadequacies with his core GPA in high school, Taylor attended Los Angeles Southwest College where he was again asked to play multiple positions. At 6-feet-4 and 215 pounds, the junior college coaching staff used him at both linebacker and safety, where he intercepted four passes, but after only one year there, he was on the move again.
Taylor’s second stop was at El Camino Community College in Torrance, California, but again he was plagued by the staff’s inability to put and keep him at a position. He started out as a receiver for the Warriors before being moved to defensive end. However, he never started a game at that spot and was used primarily in third down situations where he would sometimes stand at the line of scrimmage and other times take a three point stance.
The question that begs to be asked is- How does a guy with this kind of background end up with a scholarship offer from Cincinnati?
As one might expect, the answer is just as unusual as the result. Taylor’s teammate at El Camino was Malik James, and the juco cornerback sent film to Cincinnati just prior to the Orange Bowl.
The Bearcat staff liked what they saw and offered James a scholarship, and when Coach Kelly had his in-home visit with James, he happened to see Taylor.
“What happened was I was coming to Malik’s house and saw Coach Kelly talking with Malik,” said Taylor. “He (Coach Kelly) and I were in the room, and he asked me if I played. He asked to see my tape, and at the time, we had highlights on-line. He pulled it up, watched it and asked if I wanted to come to Cincinnati so they started recruiting me from there.”
Taylor said although Oregon was showing interest, he had no other offers.
Ironically, the man inadvertently responsible for bringing Taylor to the Queen City lasted only a few weeks. James left the UC squad after playing in only a game or two and is now sitting out the season at Nevada due to NCAA transfer rules.
Although Taylor has appeared in all eight games this season, his snaps at defensive end have been very limited. However, last Saturday the junior made three tackles behind the line of scrimmage (one sack and two TFL), and he probably had Bearcat fans asking, “Who’s No. 87?”
Getting the first sack of his college career was surely exciting for this junior, but even he admits to being a bit of a one trick pony as an edge pass rusher.
“That’s what it is right now,” laughed Taylor. “Coach Strip(ling) is working with me on my technique and trying to add some more tricks to my arsenal.”
At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Taylor certainly looks the part of a BCS defensive end, but make no mistake about it, he is still in his infancy at the position.
“There are a lot of things I need to do better as far as technique. I have to keep it up. It’s about consistency. If I come out with the next reps I get on the field and I’m not able to perform up to my coach’s expectations, this has all been for nothing. I need to keep it going.”
The native of sunny and warm Southern California says the Ohio weather has been better than he expected.
“I thought it was going to be way worse,” laughed the junior. “But since I’ve been here, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.”
If Taylor can continue to get into the oppositions’ backfield liked he did against WVU, he’ll likely see more playing time, and with Rutgers coming to town on Saturday as the nation’s leader in sacks surrendered, he could play a role in helping UC to snap its current three game losing streak.