When you return a player like Tatum Taylor, you at least know you have a good start. Taylor, a cornerback and running back at O’Dea, is a highly talented weapon with blazing speed and at least nine D-I offers.
He is also one of the few returning starters on second-ranked O’Dea, which didn’t change internal or external expectations for a program accustomed to winning.
“We’ve been successful for many years,” O’Dea coach Monte Kohler said. “Part of our goal system, we feel like we have an opportunity every year, and that’s the way the kids believe and that’s the way we coach it.”
Yet the reality is that the Irish are also a group light on experience. Gone are all five offensive linemen from last year’s team. Gone is the starting tight end. Only Taylor and quarterback Pierre LeDorze return as full-time starters.
Not that Kohler is bothered much by that. And neither was his team in week 1: The Irish beat Gig Harbor 37-10 on Root Sports on Thursday.
“They have to work hard,” Kohler said. “It’s fun because there are challenges, making sure they’re ready and things like that, but they’re an easy bunch to coach. It’s their time so they’re hungry and they know it’s their turn to perform.”
It also doesn’t hurt to return a player like Taylor, who Rivals.com lists as a three-star recruit with offers from WSU, Oregon State and Purdue. The site also puts Taylor’s 40-yard dash time at 4.21 seconds, a remarkable time if accurate. Taylor is a two-way force, although Kohler said he will limit Taylor’s offensive touches to 12 or 15 a game in order to keep him fresh.
“He kind of carried us last year through the regular season,” Kohler said. “And now it’s his senior year, so we’re excited about what he can do. Besides just being a player, he’s stepping up as a leader.
“He’s going to get his touches and we have to make sure we get him the ball in space. But we’re not just going to let them key on him and let him beat up. His touches will be pretty calculated.”
Jack Oman is back on defense after recording 153 tackles despite missing a couple games with a concussion. He will also play along the offensive line this year. LeDorze accounted for about 1,300 yards last season as a sophomore, and Bryan Carter is a solid option at defensive end and along the offensive line.
“Offensively, we have some weapons,” Kohler said. “That’s a big thing. The o-line is what hasn’t been tested at all, so that will be a key.”
Players to watch:
CB/RB Tatum Taylor, 5-10, 160
DE/OT Bryan Carter, 6-4, 240
MLB/OL Jack Oman, 6-1, 215
LB/FB Evan Banchero, 6-2, 195
OL/DL David Buchanan, 6-1, 250
DE/TE/P Will Schmidt, 6-3, 211