OXFORD, MS – Junior offensive lineman Rod Taylor is ready to prove he is completely focused on football and what he can do to help his team. Though there may have been some questions about his commitment in the past, those no longer exist as people within the Ole Miss football program agree playing football is Taylor’s top priority.
Prior to this season, a couple of off-the-field issues hampered Taylor’s opportunities to start on the offensive line. After having a solid freshman campaign where he played in every game, making two starts at right guard, things went a little awry for the former Callaway High product.
Before the beginning of the 2015 season when he was competing for a starting job at guard, Taylor suffered a torn labrum while participating in a non-football activity. He played through the injury and delayed his surgery until the season was finished. The Jackson, Mississippi native played in 10 of the Rebels’ 13 games, helping the Ole Miss offense shatter numerous single-season school records, including most total yards, points, touchdowns and passing yards.
This past offseason, however, Taylor was arrested for allegedly failing to pay for two bags of charcoal and his teammates started to wonder where football was on the talented lineman’s to-do list. Senior tight end Evan Engram was one of the first to have a sit down with the 6-foot-3, 329-pound Taylor, and Robert Conyers wasn’t far behind.
Moving forward with maturity
“He takes advice from the other guys, me and coach (Matt) Luke just on football and life,” Conyers said. “I think he has matured a good bit.”
That’s good news for the Rebels, as Freeze has named Taylor the starting left tackle on an offensive line that must replace five of its starters from a season ago. Taylor is taking over a position once occupied by three-year starter and All-America selection Laremy Tunsil.
Before Taylor was awarded the starting job, many looked at five-star recruit Greg Little as the strongest candidate to replace Tunsil. Throughout fall camp, both Little and Taylor received first-team reps at left tackle. Little also took snaps on the second team.
Taylor comfortable with teammates, position at left tackle
Taylor has grown increasingly comfortable playing at the left tackle position and being a part of the first-team offense. There were times during fall camp he would laugh and crack jokes with the other starters on the offensive line (Javon Patterson, Jordan Sims, Sean Rawlings and Conyers). There were also moments he would break out and dance to one of his favorite songs, obviously enjoying himself when it was time for a break.
As Conyers mentioned at this week’s first press conference of the 2016 season, most of the offensive linemen are best friends on and off the football field. Conyers quickly pointed out he has seen steady growth in Taylor—not only as a person but as a football player.
“I think he sees an opportunity in front of him to start at left tackle,” Conyers said. “I think he’s taking that in full stride, trying to do whatever he can to play.”
Rebels can see Taylor in action on Monday, September 5 as he and No. 11 Ole Miss take on No. 4 Florida State at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. (CT).