The 90 Illini #79: Coran Taylor
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See what I mean? A quarterback who started one game and played 95% of another game last season is 79th on this list? Who are the 78 players in front of him?
Well, the answer to that is found in the thing I've been writing about all spring. I don't know if there's "depth" in the sense of "some of the 3rd-string offensive guards could start", but there's certainly "if we have six running backs all injured at the same time, there's a 7th, 8th, and 9th guy ready to step in" depth. So Coran Taylor, despite being the quarterback for the Purdue and Minnesota games last season, is here at #79 on this list.
79. Coran Taylor
Uniform number: 7
Year in school: Redshirt Sophomore (2 years to play 2; with the Covid rule, technically 3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Peoria, Illinois
High School: Peoria HS
Best offers: Miami (OH), Illinois State
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in 2 games. 23-36 for 379 yards, 3 TD's and 2 INT's; 36 carries for 74 yards.
Taylor won a state title with Peoria HS in 2016 (with Kendrick Green in front of him). And then he was the first recruit added to the 2018 class (in early 2017), a seemingly perfect fit for the Garrick McGee offense (or, at least, what the Garrick McGee offense was supposed to be). Then, before he signed his LOI, Garrick McGee was fired and Rod Smith was hired. Smith quickly added Matt Robinson to the recruiting class (a player he had been recruiting at Arizona), and so Taylor joined the QB room alongside Robinson.
Robinson was then ahead of him on the depth chart under Rod Smith. Last year, going into the fall, the order of the QB room was Brandon Peters 1, Isaiah Williams 2, Matt Robinson 3, and Coran Taylor 4. Then, in the week leading up to the Purdue game, Peters contracted Covid-19 and Isaiah Williams had to be held out due to contact tracing. So Robinson got the start. And on maybe the 4th offensive play, Robinson was injured and Taylor was suddenly in the game, having gone from 4th-string to 1st-string in only a few days.
That scenario was one of the crazier "asks" in the last 10 years of Illini football. On Thursday, Taylor is basically the scout team QB, nowhere near the gameplanning side of practice. Peters is the starter, if anything happens to him, it's Williams, and if anything happens to him, it's Robinson. Coran Taylor is basically the emergency goalie at NHL games. Then, by Saturday afternoon, Taylor is in the game with the staff scrambling to which offensive packages he's ready to run. Because 4th-string QB's are not prepped for Saturday afternoon packages that will be utilized against a Big Ten opponent.
It's like you're some finance manager and you're just going along with your job and then you find out the CFO and the VP of Finance both have Covid and are in quarantine. So you're asked to come to the meeting in the big conference room with the Senior Director Of Finance who is stepping in to give the report for the CFO. She gets 2 minutes into her report, says she doesn't feel well, and leaves the room. They hand you the PowerPoint clicker and say "OK, you haven't seen this slide deck because the only people in the prep meeting were the CFO, the VP, and the Senior Director, but somebody has to do it so good luck."
I'd say Coran Taylor did very well, considering the circumstances.
Let's just trace through the offenses. Taylor is recruited to run the McGee offense. Before he signs his LOI, that changes to the Rod Smith offense - a similar offense that uses dual-threat QB's, but a little different from McGee's. Then, after two years with Rod Smith, Lovie Smith is fired and a brand new staff arrives. They put in an offense that emphasizes pocket QB's and, after a spring where Brandon Peters wins the job and Isaiah Williams switches to wide receiver, they add a transfer QB from Rutgers (who is in the Peters mold). The taller QB's with stronger arms (Brandon Peters, Artur Sitkowski, Deuce Spann) will likely move to the front of the line and the shorter, "run the read-option" quarterbacks (like Matt Robinson and Coran Taylor) will likely move to the back of the line. That's just the reality when you change offenses like this.
That's a fairly rough road for a guy like Taylor. Still technically just a sophomore this fall and on his third offense, this third one probably less focused on the things he brings to the table. Isaiah Williams saw the same thing and switched to wide receiver. Taylor, for now, is sticking it out at QB. Another QB (Samari Collier) arrives this summer, so this camp will be very interesting. I think Peters is the starter and I think Sitkowski is the backup. The third spot is a wide-open competition between Taylor, Spann, Robinson, and Collier.