CLEMSON, S.C. — There are not many freshmen Dabo Swinney will allow to return punts in a top 5 matchup on a neutral field.
But in last year’s season-opener against Georgia, that is exactly what Clemson’s head football coach did, as he had Will Taylor returning punts against the Bulldogs with 75,000 watching inside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and a few million more on television.
“There are not many freshmen I will run out there in that environment,” Swinney said. “He is just a baller, man.”
And not just on the football field.
He is also the Tigers’ starting centerfielder on the baseball team, where he hit .260 with 14 runs scored, a home run, four RBIs, .320 slugging percentage and .397 on-base percentage. Taylor did all of that in just 13 games after returning from an ACL tear in his right knee from last football season.
“He is Will Taylor. Shows up, has not played baseball, and the next thing you know, bam! What did he hit? Close to three hundred or so,” Swinney said. “I mean, he is probably faster than he has ever been. He has always been fast. He is strong. He is confident. He has enough experience now and went through camp last year.”
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Taylor was on his way to having a pretty good freshman campaign when he tore his ACL without contact in Game 5 against Boston College on October 2, 2021. Due to several injuries at wide receiver, Taylor had already moved over to the slot position and was to play a big role in the Tigers’ game plan against BC.
“We really brought him through as a quarterback, trained him up with the foundation and perspective of a quarterback, knowing we were going to move him, but really equip ourselves that way,” Swinney said. “Obviously, our quarterback room is in amazing shape, so we are excited about that, but we were transitioning him in Game (5) last year. We were kinda in that process and, whatever it was, fourth play of the game or third play of the game, he is out, so he was on his way.”
Taylor, the first football player at Clemson to play baseball since D.J. Reader did it in 2013, missed all of spring drills while rehabbing his knee. He finally was cleared to play baseball on May 6 against Georgia Tech.
The Irmo, S.C., native is expected to compete for the starting slot position with Brannon Spector, E.J. Williams, Troy Stellato and Antonio Williams. Swinney says he will also cross-train at the field position in camp.
“I can’t wait to get on the field and start coaching him as a wideout,” Swinney said. “He is fast. He is explosive. I have to kind of see where he is because, obviously, he could not really do anything this spring. So, I have not been able to coach him since last fall.
“But he has everything. He is going to be a great player. It will be fun to watch him develop.”
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