Reese Taylor is redefining what it means to be “Mr. Football.”
As a senior in high school, he won that honor as a state championship winning quarterback at Ben Davis in Indianapolis.
As a true freshman at Indiana, he hasn’t played a snap at quarterback — but that is just about the only position on the field that has eluded him to this point. And now that too is just one step away from changing.
In connection with breaking the news on Monday that quarterback Michael Penix was out for the season with an ACL injury, IU head coach Tom Allen indicated that Taylor would be the new backup to Peyton Ramsey.
Just a few months ago, quarterback wasn’t in the cards for Taylor. You know, he was too short, or didn’t have the arm for this level, or whatever they were saying at the time. After he completed 215-of-296 passes (72.6 percent) for 3,150 yards and a program record 40 touchdowns at Ben Davis, it’s fair to say that we should have known better.
Back in the summer, each player on the team chose their “one word” for the season, and Taylor chose “Adapt” to signify his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team, and do so with the understanding that he probably wouldn’t ever play quarterback in college.
No, instead Taylor was learning the ropes at cornerback in the summer and into fall camp, because, well, the conventional wisdom was that playing defensive back was the only way he could see the field. And seeing the field has always been his goal. Taylor said this in an IU video back in June —
“My goal is just to work as hard as I can in the weight room, build as much weight as I can, so I can get on the field as early as I can.”
It didn’t take long for him to catch the eye of the IU coaching staff.
More than just learning a new position, you know, because he is Mr. Football and all, Taylor was excelling. Early on at fall camp Allen said “You notice him. He has a different gear than everybody else.”
— Brian Eckstein (@BrianEckstein) September 1, 2018
Taylor has more than just a different gear, he’s a quick study too. So much so that despite never working on the corner position in high school, he actually earned some playing time there in week one with IU. The kid can adapt.
When the news broke that Brandon Dawkins was leaving the IU program in the week leading up to the first game, Tom Allen announced that Taylor would be moving to the quarterback room and said this about the Indianapolis native —
“I think you know how I feel about that young man, and how special he is. Our staff has had a lot of conversations about that young man, he’s really special. Not just as a player but as a person. He’s a guy that I view as a playmaker and you want to get him touching the football.”
He may have moved to the quarterback room during the week preparing for games, but since then Taylor has appeared everywhere but behind center, including — running back, wide receiver, cornerback and kickoff coverage. I’m sure there’s more that we’ve missed — but that is Mr. Football.
He’s been used on reverses, wheel routes, jet sweeps, bubble screens — you get the idea.
He even stepped in and held the ball for the kickoffs when the wind was blowing it off the tee on Saturday. It probably wasn’t even his job. You know, the whole adapt thing.
Peyton Ramsey said earlier this week that playing all of those positions has helped Taylor, well, adapt, to the quarterback position enough that he is ready to go if duty calls.
The news that Taylor would be the new backup likely surprised some, and even spawned a micro”Free Johnny Pabst” movement on Twitter. Pabst was presumed by some to be the third string quarterback before Penix went down. The Illinois native flashed some talent in the spring, but that was before Taylor arrived.
What some might be missing about Taylor being named the backup is the statement that Allen is making about his jack-of-all-trades freshman. Many had accused Allen of being too conservative in choosing Ramsey as the starter over the big-armed Penix. Many have said that Penix is the quarterback of the future, so just get on with it, even if he had to learn on the job.
Now Allen is effectively saying that a true freshman that didn’t even work with the quarterbacks during fall camp is ready to step in at a moments notice.
So has Taylor engendered that much confidence that Allen is still being conservative here, or has the 2nd year head coach decided to roll the dice now?
Maybe it’s neither. Maybe Taylor has taught his coach something. A word that should sound familiar to him. As Taylor knows, when you are presented with a new issue or challenge, there is only one thing to do…
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier