Tennessee football: Preseason hype growing for Vols LB Darrell Taylor

Tennessee football outside linebacker Darrell Taylor continues racking up preseason love. So how was the Volunteers rising senior not preseason All-SEC?

It started last week when he was placed on the Bednarik Award Watch List. Now, the hype for Tennessee football outside linebacker Darrell Taylor continues to grow, as he has been added to two more list this week.

The rising Vols senior was placed on the Butkus Award Watch List on Monday, awarded to the nation’s best linebacker every year, and followed that up by having his name on the Bronko Nagurski Award Watch List on Tuesday, the Football Writers Association of America’s award for the nation’s best defensive player. Simply put, Taylor is getting lots of love.

There’s good reason for this as well. Taylor had the most sacks of any returning SEC player last year with eight and the most forced fumbles with three. Meanwhile, he tied for third with 11 tackles for a loss among returning SEC players.

Simply put, he is a playmaker who is poised to thrive this year with more experience in Tennessee football’s 3-4 system that Jeremy Pruitt runs. Now, it is true that Taylor needs to get more consistent, as all of his sacks came in three games against the Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores.

Pruitt and Taylor have said as much. But it was clear when Pruitt made the 3-4 switch last year that Taylor, among all Vols, was in the best position to thrive. And he began to do that as he picked up the system throughout the year.

Now, national media is picking it up. They see that if Taylor can do what he did at his best last year on a more consistent basis, he could become a superstar of epic proportions. It’s why he is on all these lists.

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Why, then, was he not a Preseason All-SEC selection by the media? This is where things make no sense. National media is giving way more love to Tennessee football than SEC media is right now. Perhaps it’s how the Vols have performed with expectations throughout the past decade. And that’s certainly a valid concern.

But a player like Taylor is one of the few guys more proven than the overwhelming majority of SEC players. And his production warranted him being Preseason All-SEC. Sure, you could point out the consistency issue to leave him off.

However, All-SEC has always been a combination of past production, consistency and potential. Shouldn’t Taylor have two-thirds of those covered? Past production dominates in terms of numbers. Potential should be through the roof when you combine that with his increased levels of experience in Pruitt’s system.

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So taking all that into account, consistency should not have been enough to leave him off the list. It certainly wasn’t enough to keep the national media from giving him love. The one proven edge rusher on the team has to be the heart of big plays for Tennessee football’s defense this year. As a result, if he doesn’t get postseason recognition, it could mean the Vols had a horrible year.