Defensive lineman Darrell Taylor has noticed a different mindset in preseason camp this year.
"I feel like we're lying in the grass, waiting to strike," Taylor said Tuesday. "Our team is not talked about as much now. So I feel like we're waiting for our opportunity to shine, and do what we've got to do to get there."
That's exactly how the redshirt sophomore wants outsiders to see the program entering the season.
"Yeah, I prefer to be the underdog," Taylor said. "I've always been an underdog my whole life, so I'm ready to eat. We're all ready to eat."
Taylor said the defensive line has a number of "energy guys" that have impressed him during fall camp, including freshman Deandre Johnson. He also said new defensive line coach Brady Hoke and strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson have given the d-line rigorous training, which has paid dividends early in camp.
"Everybody's flying around, making plays," Taylor said. "I think with [Gullickson's] background, it brings a lot of credibility, just being in the NFL and making guys that are already at the next level, making them great. That helps us a lot in that we trust him because of his background."
Coach Butch Jones touted Taylor in the spring as a rising leader on the team. Offensive lineman Marcus Tatum said at times Taylor reminded him of program sacks leader Derek Barnett. Several coaches remarked on Taylor's athleticism, which has allowed him to do handstands and back flips during practice.
All this comes in the middle of an underdog story - of one who came to UT small, redshirted, took the time to get bigger, and is still waiting for his time to play. Expect Taylor to compete for playing time at one of the defensive end slots as fall camp continues.
"I'm not even thinking about myself," Taylor said. "I'm just ready to play with my team and have a great season."