The 6-foot, 5-inch tall, 200-plus-pound junior is a college scout’s dream come true; a big, sturdy frame with room to grow.
While Kent Taylor does not have the eye-popping stats that one would expect from such a sought-after recruit, his senior year lies in front of him. Eye-popping stats are not just a possibility, they are a probability.
A few things worked against Taylor last year. First, he was not the primary receiving option in the offense. Seniors Jason Tello and Will Irwin gobbled up most of the passes last season; Tello with 58 receptions and Irwin with 46. Taylor still managed to haul in 35 receptions but his nine touchdowns revealed his potential to be an end zone threat. His 16-plus yards per catch showed that he is not running short routes either. With both Irwin and Tello graduated, Taylor is likely to become the primary option in the passing game.
“I think I can catch 20 touchdowns this year,” said Taylor.
Taylor's size makes him a huge target and he can easily out jump just about any defensive back that he will encounter. Plus, he’s got speed, good hands and a nose for the end zone.
“He brings a lot to the table,” said Head Coach Brian Wachtel.
The second thing that worked against him was his chemistry with his quarterback. Last year, Gator quarterback Steve Weatherford looked for his senior receivers (Tello and Irwin) first. Tello lined up at tight end and Irwin at wide out. There were some formations that didn’t even have Taylor on the field.
This year will be different. Junior Ryan Bird takes over the reins at quarterback. Bird and Taylor are good friends off the field and that should serve to strengthen their chemistry.
Last season, Weatherford was suspended the last two games of the season. Bird came in to start at Hudson and went 18 for 28 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor led the Gators in receiving with five catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns. The Gators went on to rout the Cobras 42-10. The next week, the Gators were humbled by the Jefferson Dragons 19-54, who went on to win the 3A State Championship.
However, Bird went 15 for 27 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while Taylor tied for the team lead in receptions with four that went for 72 yards.
The third thing clearing the way for Taylor is the offensive approach the Gators will have this year. Last season, Weatherford was the fulcrum of the offense. Weatherford led the team in rushing yards and had the same number of carries as starting running back Ryan Lane. That style is going to change this year.
“We will line up under center more often, this year. We’re going to use the spread offense, try to be more aggressive and we will definitely be more balanced running between quarterback and running back,” said Wachtel.
All of these factors point to Taylor having a huge year.
It’s pretty important for Taylor, personally, to have a big year.
“Most importantly for my team, but also I want to prove to everyone that I’m worth it,” said Taylor.
“We’re thrilled to have him out there, doing what he does best, which is play the game at 100 mph,” said Wachtel.
Taylor has attracted offers from 24 different Division I schools.
Football is in the Taylor family. Kent’s older brother, Kelby, played tight end for the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. His dad, Rob Taylor was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1982 and played left tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1986-1993.
Kent started out in Tampa Bay Youth Football League and played organized ball until ninth grade. Kent made the Jesuit Tiger football team as a freshman and transferred over to Land O’ Lakes as a sophomore. Taylor only caught seven passes as a sophomore for the Gators, but four of them were for touchdowns.
Kent admires the new crop of tight ends emerging in the NFL.
“I admired the college careers of the Miami tight ends, Winslow, Shockey. Greg Olsen is another I try to model my game after,” said Taylor.
While Taylor has an awful lot to prove to be mentioned with these NFL stars, he is definitely cut from the same cloth.
Despite all of the attention Kent Taylor is receiving, he is a normal high school junior when it comes down to it. His favorite subject in school is American history and whichever university he does end up at, he plans to study exercise science.
On a typical day, he goes to school, grabs a bite to eat after, often at nearby Smiles Café, then it’s off to practice or a game. Kent also plays center and right field for the Land O’Lakes baseball team.
“If there’s not a game or practice, I just go home and chill or hang with my girlfriend,” said Taylor.
In his limited spare time, Taylor can be found playing a pickup game of basketball with his friends. On an off day or weekend, he loves bass fishing in the lake behind his house.
It will be difficult balancing all of the aspects in his life, especially as the decision for college looms closer and closer but Kent has a cool, level head and will hopefully take it all in stride. Regardless, look for a huge year from the Land O’ Lakes Gators and from tight end Kent Taylor.