By Gabriel Stovall
On Saturday evening, while still on his official visit to Colorado State, Jeff Taylor did as many highly recruited high school football players do when it’s time to announce their college choice.
He logged on to Twitter to let the world know he was going to be a Ram.
Thank you to everyone that has supported me stuck with me while I decided where I wanted to continue my football pic.twitter.com/gbbrADG7I5
— Jeff Taylor (@Im_therealJeff) July 25, 2015
But after he waxed grateful about the opportunity to play at the Mountain West Conference school, he put on his confidence and let Colorado State fans know that he was planning on bringing a touch of southern exposure to Fort Collins.
“I feel like I can bring some of that Georgia mentality up here,” Taylor said via cell phone. “That’s that mindset where you don’t care who lines up in front of you or who’s across from you, you’re gonna straight up dominate them in every aspect of the game — physically and mentally.”
Taylor said it was developing such an attitude that has helped transform him from a big, raw, “green” freshman into one of the more polished offensive tackles in Georgia.
“I definitely think that since my freshman year, I’ve improved in every aspect of the game,” Taylor said. I came in (to Jonesboro) very green and relying more on talent, and I quickly learned that that didn’t get it.”
And he can pinpoint the exact moment where he found that out.
It was the second game of his sophomore season against Westover and then-emerging five-star defensive tackle — and current Georgia Bulldog — Trent Thompson. Jonesboro battled the Patriots tough in a 7-0 loss, and Taylor learned a little bit about himself as a player.
“It was a real reality check for me,” Taylor said. “(Thompson) didn’t necessarily dominate me, but he just gave me a real, hard challenge. I knew at that point that there’s always someone bigger and stronger than you, and I had to hit the weights harder.”
Jonesboro head coach Tim Floyd is a witness to Taylor’s physique transformation, and the game that brought it about.
“I kind of remember that (Westover) game,” Floyd said. “I remember they were a lot more physical up front than we were, and (Jeff) was one of the guys who was getting a lot of time. But playing against a guy like Trent Thompson will make you raise your level of training. From there, I’ve seen Jeff grow into a weight room workaholic.”
The result: After his freshman season when he came to Jonesboro around 270 pounds, he bulked up to the 6-foot-3, 300 pound high 2-star tackle he is now — a guy who chose Colorado State over Arkansas State and Marshall, the teams who rounded out his top three, and a player that Jonesboro head coach Tim Floyd calls a beast in the weight room.
He also was receiving strong interest from Auburn and Georgia, among several others. In fact Colorado State’s new head coach Mike Bobo first connected with Taylor while Bobo was still running Mark Richt’s offense at Georgia.
“Back then he was more just putting me on the radar when he was there,” Taylor said. “But I just loved Coach Bobo when he was at Georgia. He was always up tempo and you could tell he just loves his players. I know I’m still on Georgia’s radar a little bit, but they haven’t pulled the trigger. But I’m glad Coach Bobo believed in the talent I’d already shown.”
Taylor said it wasn’t long after Bobo got settled in at Colorado State that he sent his offensive line coach Will Friend down to check out the Jonesboro product in person. Apparently Friend brought back a good report when he returned to Bobo.
“Coach Friend got back to Colorado State two days later, and they both watched my film and then offered,” Taylor said.
And while he said he felt pretty equally at home at both Arkansas State and Colorado State, the family atmosphere in Fort Collins was a cut above, and that, Taylor said, is what made the difference and prompted him to pledge right on the spot during this weekend’s visit.
“The family aspect is more what I was really looking for,” he said. “I didn’t want it to just be about, going line down and do this and do that on the football field. We can do that, but I want to know that at the same time they’re gonna love you. I just got that vibe. All the coaches on the coaching staff are like extended dads to me. If I’m gonna spend the next three or four years of my life somewhere, it’s got to be a place like that.”
As for Floyd, the Jonesboro coach said he wanted Colorado State fans to know what kind of player they were getting in Taylor.
“He’s just an excellent athlete and he understands the game,” Floyd said. “He gets excited to go out and play the game. I think he’s set up to have a really, really good career up there.”