KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Darrell Taylor showed flashes of NFL potential in 2018, recording a pair of three-sack games against ranked SEC opponents. He considered entering the NFL Draft, but opted to return to Rocky Top for his redshirt senior season.
His reasons were simple: earn his degree in communication studies and spend one more season with his brothers in an effort to improve the Volunteer football program.
“First thing, I came back to get my degree and make sure I graduate … doing those things to make sure that I am successful,” Taylor said. “I came back also to have another go-round with my teammates. These are the guys I love and who I have been with here for a few years. And to help this team become a better team in the future.”
The future is bright for the Vols and Taylor, Tennessee’s Team MVP in 2018.
Heading into Year 2 under head coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Vols return 18 starters on offense, defense and special teams from a squad that defeated a pair of ranked SEC opponents.
Taylor finished second in the SEC with eight sacks in league games, including a four-sack performance in the 24-7 win over No. 11 Kentucky and a three-sack game at No. 2 Georgia. Overall, Taylor finished the fall with eight sacks and 11.0 TFLs.
The eight sacks are more than any returning SEC player had last season.
The Waverly, Va., native submitted his name to the NFL Advisory Committee to see where his draft stock stood. However, he made his decision early on that he would return no matter where the experts thought he would be selected.
“I knew I needed to get better to be NFL-ready, and I knew I needed to help my teammates out to become better,” Taylor said.
He believes in Pruitt’s vision and said there are several parts of his game he needs to improve.
Taylor is focused on improving his hands and playing more physical as well as finding ways to have an impact in all facets of the game.
“Being able to be a force in stopping the run,” he said. “Being able to get in the backfield and creating more havoc. And getting better with my knowledge of the game.”
Taylor plans to play at 260 pounds in the fall, hoping to add five more pounds of muscle to his 6-4 frame, too.
“It’s about just getting faster and physical in my game, and just working on my craft, trying to get better each day,” Taylor said.
That’s his motto: getting better each day. Taylor and his teammates aren’t looking back on last season. They are focused on putting in the work this spring and summer to have a memorable fall.
“We really aren’t looking back on last season because you can’t get it back,” Taylor said. “We are focused on getting better this spring, getting better going through summer workouts and getting better going through camp, and following that into the season.”