Reese Taylor Looks to Bring Spark to Indiana's Special Teams

Indiana cornerback Reese Taylor said on Tuesday that he wants to be the best punt returner in the country.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana had just forced an incompletion on a third-and-long for Penn State, forcing the Nittany Lions to punt it away.

Back went Reese Taylor to field the punt.

It was a high kick as Taylor awaited it to come down. By the time he caught it, he was at the Indiana 17, but he had enough space to try to make something out of it.

Taylor cut up the field and then angled to the right, finding an opening in Penn State's return coverage. Taylor returned it for 21 yards, which was already a third of the amount of punt return yards Indiana had total in the 2019 season.

It gave the Hoosiers good starting field position, and it led to Indiana's first touchdown of the game in the second quarter, taking a 10-3 lead.

"It was a spectacular moment for me, really," Taylor said. "I saw the ball in the air, it was a high kick actually, I was just waiting for it to come down, and when I caught it, I just paused for a little second. I had to get north and south. After the ball is in my hands, it just felt natural to me." 

"It felt like I have to do what I have got to do to make the play. I have got to be the best that I can be in that moment."

Taylor, who played quarterback in high school, came to Indiana with an undefined role. Last season, they moved him specifically to defensive back and wanted to use him in the return game as well.

But Taylor injured his hand, which limited his role on special teams.

This season, Taylor is the starting cornerback alongside Tiawan Mullen, and now that he's healthy, the coaching staff still wants him to be used to return punts.

Special teams coordinator Kasey Teegardin said before the Penn State game that he planned to use both Taylor and receiver Whop Philyor to return punts this season.

"I think you've got two phenomenal, all-conference punt returners in Reese and Whop," Teegardin said. "I think they're both so skilled with the ball in their hands."

Philyor didn't go back to field any punts on Saturday. All the reps were for Taylor, and if he can continue to have impressive returns like he did in the second quarter, Teegardin might have to roll with him every time.

David Ellis is the team's kick returner, but he missed Saturday's game with a lower leg injury, so the Hoosiers put Taylor back there a few times for kickoffs as well.

As big of a piece as Taylor is in Indiana's secondary, he still has that offensive skill inside him, and he plans to use that to the best of his ability in special teams this season.

For a competitor like Taylor, that doesn't mean just fair catching the ball or being someone who just gets the job done, it means being the best.

"I am trying to be the best punt returner in the country," Taylor said. "That is what I am trying to be. I am not trying to be anything less. I am trying to be the number one guy in the country."

"I am going to be the best I can, make sure I do not drop any punts, make sure I do not make any mistakes as much as I should, make sure I do not fall the punt return team short, make sure I do what I have got to do to be the number one guy in the country."

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