A year after redshirting, Elijah Taylor enters a crowded defensive line group looking for playmakers. A year after the front seven struggled to hold up against the run, Taylor is one of many young players who can help Keith Gilmore build a rugged front.
Likely still a ways from the field, Taylor will provide depth behind Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage, though isn’t too far away from being a Next Man In.
6’3″, 285 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 58, DL
Taylor had a three-star ranking from Rivals, but a four-star offer list. Notre Dame won Taylor’s signature over Ohio State as well as Florida State, Miami, Michigan State and a handful of other big programs. He was a first-team All-State defender and also a member of the Cincinnati Enquirer’s All-Star team.
Freshman Season (2015): Did not see action, preserving a year of eligibility.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
Injuries hit and Taylor kept on his redshirt. Smart move.
Unless a rash of injuries hit, Taylor will have the opportunity to learn at his own pace and save a year of eligibility this season. With Jarron Jones healthy and Sheldon Day looking like a lock to stay on the field, finding a way into the three-deep would be an accomplishment, and there’s no reason to take snaps if Taylor isn’t going to see significant time.
The best view of his development will likely come in the spring, as the Irish begin life without Day (and possibly Jones). If Taylor is as strong and athletic as some reports point out, he’ll have a chance to work his way into the mix in 2016.
Most defensive tackles don’t arrive on campus ready to contribute. But Taylor’s ceiling will likely be determined by his ability to play both nose guard and three-technique, with more versatility obviously better. The strength is there. But the athleticism is still a question.
As part of the next wave of talent to come through this defensive line, Brian VanGorder and Keith Gilmore’s fingerprints on this roster will either elevate this group or make it abundantly clear that the defense has regressed from the Diaco era. Taylor is another one of those developmental targets who need to get better and find a role as the roster rolls over.
If Taylor can find his way into the rotation, it’s a successful season. Because if Jarron Jones stays motivated and Daniel Cage can shake off a few training camp bumps and bruises, this will be a stout interior.
The defensive tackle group is lacking guys who can step in for Sheldon Day. Jerry Tillery is going to have first crack at that and Jon Bonner is still an option as a guy who hasn’t shown much yet.
I think Taylor is a role player at best—mainly in the trenches. If he can jump ahead of guys like Bonner and Pete Mokwuah, he’ll be a two-deep player. I’d call that a successful season as a redshirt freshman.
2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Torii Hunter Jr.
Tony Jones Jr.
Troy Pride Jr.
Equanimeous St. Brown