At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Jacori Taylor has been turning heads at every stadium he walks into — then he starts playing and just blows people away. Taylor, a senior, has thrown for 1,736 yards and 18 TDs this year and rushed for 823 yards and seven more scores, leading the Bobcats all the way to the Class AA Elite 8. (email@example.com)
Getting to know Jacori Taylor:
The Dynamite “Half-Dozen” Q and A
Here are a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: “Mac and cheese.”
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Friday Night Lights.’’
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: (Actor/comedian) “Mike Epps.”
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: ”Aaron Rodgers. I like the way he stays calm in the pocket, and he never gets down when things are going bad.”
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: (Actress/model) “Meagan Good.”
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: “My mom (Barbara Taylor) and my grandmother (Rosa Gilbert). They taught me everything and made me who I am.”
BLAKELY --- It’s there, just beyond the horizon, out of sight but not out of reach.
You can’t see it or touch it, but everyone who is around Jacori Taylor, knows it’s there — it’s Taylor’s future.
No one can even guess what the ceiling might be for Early County’s quarterback, a kid who is still learning the position one breathless play after another.
“It’s hard to believe that two years ago he led the team in tackles,’’ said Early’s offensive coordinator John Randolph, who has watched Taylor grow into the role. “He’s still a work in progress.’’
But, oh, what progress.
Taylor, who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 220 pounds, is a load whether he is playing linebacker or defensive end — or throwing bullets or running by defenses.
Or over them.
“He reminds me of Cam Newton,’’ said Early offensive lineman Shaq Powell, a senior who has played with Taylor for four years. “He can scramble and beat you or throw the ball and beat you. And he can run you over. He’s powerful. And he’s got that RGIII stuff in him.’’
Taylor was an easy choice to be a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection back in August and has more then lived up to the billing. He has helped lead Early County into the Class AA state quarterfinals, where the Bobcats face Greater Athletic Christian on Friday night.
He has completed 117 of 218 passes for 1,736 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he has rushed for 823 yards on 160 carries and seven more TDs. He’s the package, the whole package — and it hasn’t been fully opened yet.
Taylor might have had a future playing linebacker, but after his sophomore year, Early coach Trey Woolf moved his best defensive player to the quarterback spot.
“We had a kid move, the kid who was going to play quarterback,’’ Woolf said Wednesday at practice. “But it wasn’t like this was some revelation decision for the coaching staff. He can throw it. He can run it. He’s just a great kid.’’
Taylor had played quarterback in eighth grade, but Woolf loves his defense and wanted his best players on that side of the ball. It was the right decision at the time because Taylor was a monster at linebacker and defensive end.
But he relished the move to QB.
“I always wanted to play quarterback,’’ Taylor said. “Some of the other players had told the coaches I could play quarterback.’’
Still, there was so much to learn.
“We knew he could play quarterback,’’ Woolf said. “I knew once he got fundamentally sound he would be a good quarterback. It’s taken a while. He was pretty raw last year. He’s come a long way this year. He’s getting better and better every week. And also, our offensive line is getting better every week.’’
Taylor had his moments as a junior and admits he would get frustrated with “the mistakes,’’ he said.
“All the turnovers and bad passes I made, and making the wrong reads. I knew I had to do a better job,” he added.
When he got down, his older brother, Emmanuel was always there to help. Emmanuel was the quarterback on Early’s 2006 state semifinalist team, earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama at Birmingham before transferring and starting at QB at West Georgia last season.
Jacori’s oldest brother, Jonathan Gilbert, was an offensive lineman for Early’s 2001 state finalist team.
Not a bad family tree for the Bobcats (9-3), who are making another run at a state title this season.
Both brothers helped Jacori growing up, and Emmanuel was at almost every game the last two years, giving advice to his younger brother.
“He helped me a lot,’’ Jacori said. “He would put his arm around me and give me advice and talk to me and help me be a better quarterback.’’
Taylor was like most young quarterbacks: He simply tried to do too much at times.
“He had to learn that he doesn’t have to make the great play every play,’’ Woolf said. “He can throw the ball 60 yards, but he had to learn he doesn’t have to throw it 60 yards every play.’’
Taylor had success as a junior, completing 80 passes for 1,171 yards and rushing for 624 yards on 174 carries and a touchdown. But after feeling frustrated once the season ended — Early finished just 4-6 and missed the playoffs — he made up his mind to make the next step. And when he showed up in spring practice, everyone was pleased.
“The light came on during the last game of the season against Cook,’’ Randolph said. “He threw for 199 yards in the first half in that game. He made a play in that game. We were down 7-0 just before halftime, and he rolled out to his left, sprinted to his left and threw the ball into the left corner of the end zone across his body. It was a 50-yard rope — a rope! I’ve never seen a kid make that play in high school. A lot of college guys wish they could make that throw.’’
That was the beginning of the scramble uphill for Taylor, who took off and has just kept getting better.
“He showed up in spring looking like a million bucks,’’ Randolph said. “We took him to camps and everyone was saying, ‘Who is he?’ We took him to the camp at Troy. There were 12 quarterbacks there and it was like a man among boys. They were shocked. They had never heard of him.’’
Taylor sees the game differently now, and it has shown all season.
“It was a struggle for him and a struggle for me last year,’’ Randolph said. “His visceral capacity was very limited last year. He has learned so much. His trigger is a lot faster. Last year, I would see a guy wide open and scream, and Jacori would see him and it would be too late. This year, he throws it before I see it.
“He has such a strong arm that he can throw it through a window other kids can’t do, and he can run. He is about to go past 2,000 yards in passing and 1,000 in rushing. Not too many guys can do that. (Colleges) didn’t know who he was, but more and more are finding out. He has a bigger upside than Emmanuel, because Emmanuel was 5-10. If Emmanuel had been Jacori’s size (6-2), he could have gone to an SEC school.’’
Randolph said Alabama State, Georgia Southern, Troy, Southern Mississippi, Jacksonville State and others are showing interest in Taylor, and he believes Taylor will be redshirted and then just soar in college, adding that no one knows just what Taylor’s ceiling might be.
“There’s a huge upside on Jacori,’’ he said. “He’s got unbelievable talent. He was a tremendous player on defense and if he had stayed there would have been school interested in him at linebacker.’’
But he’s all quarterback today.
“He has come so far this year,’’ Randolph said. “I would stack him up against any quarterback in the state. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he is as good as any quarterback in Georgia.’’
The kids at Early sure believe in him.
“He’s like our hero,’’ said linebacker Brakari Isom, who leads the team with 163 tackles. “When we need a big play, he makes it.’’
Taylor has handled the change to QB, grown from it and is still growing.
“I have gained a lot of confidence this year,’’ he said. “The game does (seem different). I read defenses better. Before, I would just look at the linemen and think about running. Now I know how to make the short pass, how to move the ball. I know I don’t have to make the big play on every play.
“The thing that’s important is winning,’’ he added about Early’s playoff run. “It’s so much fun, and my teammates are like my brothers, and we’re winning together.’’