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September 20, 2006
Commentary: A wanted man
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If a brawl ever breaks out in the Boilermaker football offices, we know who to blame.
In short, Taylor's been so impressive in his eight months or so on campus that he's become a hotter commodity than cheap gas.
The offensive coaching staff has him, and doesn't want to give him up, and is firmly clutching on to one arm. The defensive staff wants him badly, to the point where it's tugging at the other.
"The offense doesn't want to see me even get tested over there," Taylor quipped, "in case I'm good at it."
The decisive vote goes to Joe Tiller, who's not ready to either A) give Taylor to Brock Spack or B) make him a part-time two-way player. At least for the time being.
"We may reach that point in the season," Tiller said Tuesday, "so I'm not going to say never."
And thus, the debate rages on.
"I haven't started any fights," joked Spack, Purdue's defensive coordinator and president of Jaycen Taylor for Defense 2006. "I'm just giving people (on the offensive staff) a hard time to play him 50 snaps a game.
"But he has to stay where he is and we all know that. We'd love to have about five or six of him, because he's such a hard worker, such a good athlete and such a tough kid."
He's done a tremendous job at running back since arriving as the ultimate wild card recruit, a player who chose Purdue over nowhere in the recruiting process.
He had a great spring, a great training camp and thus far is averaging a healthy 7.6 yards per carry - best among Purdue running backs - as the backup to star-in-the-making Kory Sheets. Oh, and he was Purdue's special teams MVP Saturday.
Taylor's overcome all the naysayers who've told him he's too small. He's established himself as a very good running back, despite the fact that he weighs less than your wife's suitcase and can just barely peek over most fire hydrants.
Yet all people want to talk about is his defense.
As well as Taylor's done on offense, he's viewed as a can't-miss prospect as a defensive back, because of his intelligence, toughness, quickness, temperament, etc.
"I'm dead certain," Spack said, "that he'd be a good player (defensively)."
Taylor's a key player as Purdue's No. 2 running back, a role that will become more important as the season wears on, but the Boilermaker secondary has been so depleted that he's become a wanted man there, as well.
"It's all up to the defense," Taylor said of the likelihood of a move to defense, even if it's on a part-time basis. "If they slip - and I'm saying if - or if they have another injury, it would probably be more likely."
Here's the catch, the fine line all coaches have to walk in situations like this: Taylor doesn't want to play defense.
In fact, getting the opportunity to play offense was the reason he went to junior college for one semester before moving on to Purdue. He didn't need JUCO, but if he wanted to stay a running back, his options were nil.
When asked about the possibility of moving to defense, Taylor said, "I hope they don't (move me)."
"Yeah, I came here for offense," he said. "Running back is where my heart is. But when you get in a situation like this, you always want to be a team player."
Should Taylor move to defense? With the secondary having played fairly competently in its last game and with a couple promising youngsters still getting phased in, it's debatable as to whether Taylor is needed on defense.
At the same time, he's a key player on offense and will likely become more of one in the next month or so.
Likewise, Taylor was told he'd play running back at Purdue, which helped bring him here. It's his preferred position.
As a coach, it can't be easy to go back on that sort of thing, especially with a player like Taylor, who's done everything right and become a valuable player at his initial position.
The comparison to Ray Williams is a flawed one. Purdue was far more desperate in the secondary a year ago, and Williams had gone his whole career without being terribly productive at his position of choice. For him, the move was one last chance to become a star, and he did.
Taylor's whole career - he's only a sophomore - is in front of him. Though the buzz grows louder every week, he hopes that career will be spent at his preferred position.
"It's all just talk right now," Taylor said. "If it becomes action, then I'll have to start thinking about it."
In past years, the defense has won such tussles over players like promising tight ends Shaun Phillips, Rob Ninkovich and Ryan Baker and would-be receivers Gilbert Gardner and Stuart Schweigert.
This time, the offense gets one.
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