During his first three years at Arizona State, Kerry Taylor collected 734 yards on 58 receptions scoring four touchdowns. The 2009 season saw him record career lows for a season in the first two categories as he was held without a score that year.
As the calendar year turned the page so did Taylor. The receiver has improved in all aspects of his game, and in a crowded position has been able to thus far in fall camp to make his mark and draw rave reviews from his head coach for his performance.
“Kerry obviously is one of the true freshmen that we had to play, I wish I would’ve redshirted him now, but couldn’t,” said Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson. “He’s just gotten so much better physically and mentally. In the spring and right now he’s blocking way better than he’s ever blocked. He wants to have a good senior year and he’s key. He’s a real leader of our receivers.”
To say that Taylor feels rejuvenated under the new scheme implemented by first year offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone would be a gross understatement.
“I’m feeling a lot better with where we are on offense,” Taylor said. “I feel that we are so far ahead of where we were last year and that the sky is the limit this year. With all the weapons we have any guy can go off and have a big day. We’re bringing a lot of excitement back to the offense and the whole attitude is different this year.”
It’s impossible to ignore the large group of wide receivers in practice, which currently stands 16 players strong. Needless to say that competition for reps under these conditions is extreme, yet Taylor and his position mates appear to have a mindset that is conducive for this environment.
“The good thing about this offense is that we are going to need every single guy,” Taylor explained. “We never go into a practice wondering if we can get reps today. With the no huddle you get tired because you can’t run all day. We have a lot of depth so you go in, get your reps and when you’re tired you come out and someone else gets reps.
“We know we have a lot of talent at receiver but we are also a tight knit group. No one tries to put themselves ahead of the group, We are all working together preparing for this season because we know that the receivers group is what is going to make this offense go this year. As long as we stay healthy and improve we will control how good this offense is going to be.”
Another position battle, and one that can and will clearly dictate the success of the wide receiver corps, is the quarterback one. Nonetheless, it is a competition that Taylor isn’t anxious for its resolution since he knows whatever the outcome may be the offense will be better for it.
“Last year it was a tough year for the quarterbacks and the whole offense,” Taylor recalled, “and we didn’t have a leader that we could look to when things were tough. This year I feel totally different, and not just me but the whole offense. We know any of these quarterbacks can take us all the way down the field, in the toughest games, in the roughest conditions and know that they can get us the ball right where we need it so we can make a play and get back to winning.”
Naturally consecutive losing seasons have produced many skeptical fans among the Sun Devil nation. While Taylor understands that reality he also feels that those who are down on the team for its past should be very excited for its immediate future.
“We always had a great defense and we’ll have a great defense again this year,” Taylor remarked. “But this year on offense we’ll have a fun style of play that will be exciting, in your face all the time and one that puts up a lot of points. I’m expecting a lot more big plays from the offense. We have a lot of enthusiasm because of this offense and that’s because a lot of guys are buying into the system.
“I would tell fans to buy their tickets now, because when we start wining you don’t want to be part of the mad rush to buy tickets at the last moment.”
A sense of urgency exists for any player entering his senior campaign, and especially for a player such as Taylor who hasn’t tasted much success in his last couple of years in Tempe. This is why the wide receiver is exceedingly eager for the upcoming season and for a chance to reward not only himself and his team with a good performance, but also reward those who stood by him during the trying times of his career.
“Choosing to play in my home town these last three years has obviously been rough,” Taylor confessed. “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to do so far. But I benefit from being in my hometown because I have the same people cheering me every Saturday and making me feel good and confident even when things weren’t going well for me and the team. I know that they will always behind me, and it would be nice if they got to see me have a great senior year and see our team start winning.
“I feel this is the year that defines me. 20 years from now no one is going to remember the 4-8 season, they’ll remember this year when we went to a certain bowl game.
“That’s what I’m hoping for.”