IU’s Taylor bounces back from injury

Reese Taylor had just thrown all of his energy into a long sprint down the football field, launching his shoulders through the legs of a Rutgers return man.

It was a solid 70 yards of effort for the sophomore quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-corner, who was trying to move on from the fits and starts of his young Hoosier career. He had just returned from an injury, ending his second prolonged absence of the 2019 season.

Only that kickoff — like his season to that point — included a restart. An official called Taylor offside on his run down the field. Indiana would have to kick, again.

“One of my teammates, Raheem Layne, was like ‘Reese, you want me to go?’ I was like ‘Nah, I got it, I’ll just do it again,’” Taylor said. “I just have to make a play. That’s what I like to do, just make plays, help the team out, do anything I can for the team.”

IU’s coaches would later review the game film and question the call. Taylor didn’t think he was offside at the time, either.

But he’s been mindful to turn the page from frustrations. So the second 70-yard sprint down the field read exactly like the first.

Taylor, again, cut down the Rutgers returner. He came off the field with even more bounce to his step — remarkable considering he’d just traveled 140 yards in under a minute.

“I was geeked,” Taylor said.

It’s now been two weeks in a row where Taylor has been a source of exuberance. Just as Taylor found himself in the right place at the right time on that double-kickoff sequence, he nabbed a game-sealing interception versus Maryland.

There is some catharsis in these moments. Taylor missed most of fall camp and the season-opener with a hand injury. Then, he got “banged up” on the Thursday leading into the Michigan State game. Following a debut season where Taylor bounced from defense to offense — even serving as an emergency quarterback for a time — this was a less-than-ideal start to his sophomore campaign.

Indiana’s 2017 Mr. Football was a star behind center for Ben Davis in Indianapolis, but cornerback is where coaches saw the brightest future for the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder. He’s a quick-twitch athlete. He’s not afraid of contact.

Taylor just needed a chance to establish himself.

“The great thing is his mindset was right,” IU cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby said. “I felt kinda bad for him because that first game was in Indy, he doesn’t get to play in front of his family. We’re about to go out and play another game and on Thursday he gets nicked up and scratched.

“He’s had a couple of times where he had to fight through adversity. The main thing is he’s kept focused.”

Shelby was struck by Taylor’s reaction to the offsides call, something along the lines of “That’s my fault, I’m going to get it back.” Before the Maryland game, Shelby checked in again and Taylor said, simply, “I’m locked in today.”

In the fourth quarter of a tight game, that mental focus can easily be lost. But the Hoosiers were right where they needed to be on a game-sealing interception. Senior Andre Brown had coverage underneath the vertical route. Taylor was over the top, between the hash marks and the numbers, in perfect position for Tyrrell Pigrome’s overthrow.

IU could have put Maryland away earlier if the offense crossed the goal line on its last possession and didn’t settle for three. But IU coach Tom Allen said after a 34-28 win that a closer call may have been advantageous for a young defense. They had to learn to excel in the clutch.

Taylor and his counterparts passed the test.

“A lot of times in the game, you’re tired, your mind is racing, and you’re not where you are supposed to be,” Shelby said. “I was glad, in that moment, he knew how they were going to attack us.”

Taylor’s recent highlights put him right in the middle of a youth movement in the IU secondary. Freshman Tiawan Mullen and sophomore Jaylin Williams have eclipsed Brown and junior Raheem Layne on the depth chart as starters.

Those are more symbolic titles. All five corners, including Taylor, rotate reps throughout a game. But there is undoubtedly more competition for those reps.

“We let the ball over our head, you’re getting pulled. Your reps are going to get cut,” Shelby said. “This is the first time at Indiana since I’ve been here that we can do that. In the past, we only had a couple guys and we had to stick with them. Now, you got five guys in there that can run and are great athletes and can compete.

“When you get your opportunity, don’t raise up, you’ll get Wally Pipp-ed.”

Taylor knows that. He’s not going to get overconfident.

But he’s in a better place now than he was a few weeks ago, on the sideline and out of the mix. He credits a range of people for keeping his head straight during that time.

“I hate missing games, I hate missing practice. It was frustrating at first,” Taylor said. “But all the coaches, family, friends, told me to stay positive. If you stay positive, it’s going to be better than if you wasn’t, if you stayed negative.

“They all came and put a hand on my shoulder and just make sure you’re positive. It’s going to be alright.”

9 comments

  1. Agreed. The sky is the limit for those two.

    Tiawan looks like he could develop into an absolute shut down corner.

  2. RT will be excellent because of his ability along with his love for the game.
    Nebraska is about 1 point favorite. Not sure if that takes into account MP situation.
    Unless week off really turns Nebraska IU should beat Nebraska if MP is ready to go. If not I don’t know. If MP is not available PR will start and play but it could possibly be a debut for Tuttle with combination of PR and Tuttle.

  3. Taylor, Williams, and Mullen give IU corners to build their pass defense upon. Mullen and Taylor have the confidence and attitude to lead IU’s defense to new levels over the next few years. They are very good examples of the young talent on the defense. Add in Elliot, Cam Jones, Head, and many others points to IU becoming much better in the next few years.

    With the young talent on the offense to go along with the defensive young talent and we could be looking at an IU team that can move up in the B1G in the next couple of years.

  4. V13, you are spot on. If this year’s team can get an upset or two under its belt and finish this season in style (1 more win at least; hopefully 2 or more!), it will instill the talented youngsters on both sides of the ball with a lot of confidence. I’m sounding like a broken record (for those of us who can remember what one of those is….) but I sincerely believe IU football under Tom Allen is poised for success the likes that have not been seen since the Mallory good years. Along with young players, we have relatively young/inexperienced head coordinators (especially at the Big10 level) who I believe, like their boss, are learning from their mistakes and will only get better. After years and years of drudgery, IU football looks like it’s turning the corner! GO HOOSIERS!

  5. I couldn’t have been happier to see RT get the game winning INT. Great kid with a tremendous attitude.

  6. Unless there is another QB injury we won’t be seeing Tuttle inserted to make plays with that crowd/fan environment to win the game. What little we’ve seen of him in games he displayed the classic signs of inexperience, ‘thinking to much’.

    1. I agree. While I have no doubt the talent is there, in the limited sampling we have seen, he looked like he had the yips out there. Nothing looked smooth or crisp.

      He is young, though. I’m glad he is on the roster.

  7. I agree with HC’s assessment of Tuttle’s performance and what’s affecting it, but that’s exactly why TA and DeBoer should have given him more playing time earlier this year, when the outcome of several games were no longer in question. The way you get a young quarterback to stop thinking too much and to accelerate through his learning curve is let him get experience in real games.

    Last week, when PR made that gutsy 13-yard run and got IU that critical first down, he took two big hits on the play. And those hits shook him up! I held my breath for a few seconds and was thinking, “O.K. Mr. Tuttle, you’re about ready to get thrown into the fire.” Fortunately, PR is a really tough young man and he got up and finished the game. But if Tuttle is not ready to play because he lacks experience, that’s on TA and DeBoer. They should have given him more garbage-time minutes in the games against OSU, Eastern IL, U-Conn and Rutgers. And they should have had him showing passes when he was in the game instead of handing it off on every play.

    Let’s hope we don’t need Tuttle to play this year, but chances are, and as history suggests, we probably will.

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