KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee defensive end Darrell Taylor will enter the 2017 season with a sense of familiarity.
Taylor won’t sneak up on any offenses this fall after an impressive spring, but the lack of national recognition Tennessee has received makes Taylor feel right at home.
Media members at SEC Media Days picked the Vols to finish third in the SEC East this season.
“I prefer to be the underdog,” Taylor said during media availability Tuesday. “I’ve been an underdog my whole life, so I’m ready to eat. We are all ready to eat.”
Tennessee has won nine games in back-to-back seasons and has won three straight bowl games. The national narrative this season: The Vols can’t replace the talent lost to the NFL in April.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound redshirt sophomore from Hopewell, Va., said Tennessee will be in a position to surprise this fall.
“I feel like we are laying in the grass, waiting to strike,” Taylor said. “Our team isn’t talked about as much now. We are just waiting for our opportunities, and do what we got to do to get there.”
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Taylor’s journey to the spotlight has been a long one. He came in as a 4-star recruit, but it took time to get onto the field. Taylor considers himself an underdog because of the time it took for him to earn his place.
“I came in small and redshirted,” Taylor said. “It took time to get bigger and all of those things. I waited my time to play.”
Taylor played in eight games last season and recorded 9 tackles with 1 tackle for loss. His athleticism sets him apart to possibly become a star on the defensive line.
Taylor did backflips after the first fall practice on Saturday.
Tennessee will try to catch some teams by surprise this season, and Taylor likely will have to play a big role for that to happen.