The Kentucky Wildcats are fresh off their first 10-win season in over 40 years.
However, losing two of the best players in program history — Benny Snell, Jr., and Josh Allen — makes it difficult for a program like UK to continue its upward trajectory.
Luckily for the Cats, Mark Stoops has recruited SEC-caliber players that are two-to-three deep at every single position. And the giant hole being left behind by Allen is no different.
Calvin Taylor Jr. will help boast one of the best defensive lines in the SEC next season, and try to make sure the loss of Allen doesn’t hurt too badly while following a path similar to what Allen traveled.
Calvin Taylor, Jr.
- Position: Defensive End
- Class: Redshirt Senior
- Measurements: 6-9, 310 lbs.
- Hometown: Augusta, Georgia
- School: Augusta Christian
- Recruit Rankings: Not ranked by any of the major recruiting services
Taylor was a quiet and seemingly forgotten pickup for the Cats in late 2015. He was unranked by all the major recruiting services and was actually considered playing college basketball instead. He had recruiting interest in basketball from Bowling Green and others.
Temple was the only school really interested in him as a football recruit, but contact dropped after turnover in their coaching staff.
So when signing day rolled around in Taylor’s senior year, there was no commitable Division I offer on the table, and it appeared junior college would be his route if he wanted to continue his football career.
That didn’t deter Stoops, though, because he saw some potential in the 6-9, 260-pound offensive tackle, namely, a switch to the defensive side of the football. Along with help from former defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, Kentucky made a late offer to Taylor, who committed shortly thereafter.
You probably remember some guy named Josh Allen, who was unheralded recruit set to go to Monmouth before a late offer led to him picking the Wildcats. Taylor may not be the level of player Allen is, but their paths to stardom are very similar.
Taylor redshirted in 2015 before seeing limited action in four games in 2016. Despite not playing much, this time allowed the behemoth to fill out his 6-9 frame and make the needed switch to defense.
Finally, Taylor got to see some real action in his redshirt sophomore season, playing in 11 games and making his first career start against the Northwestern Wildcats in the Music City Bowl.
“Calvin is Mr. Coachable,” current defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc said of Taylor in the spring of 2017. “He does everything right, he’s where he’s supposed to be, he’s in his gap, he can get off blocks. He’s just so long every now and then he bats a ball or two down, so he’s right where he needs to be. He’s right on pace as a young sophomore of being a really good player for us. I’m excited about him.”
On the season, he totaled 22 tackles, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hurry. However, the big man really started turning heads in the bowl game, recording three tackles and a sack.
The solid postseason performance put Taylor on the map going into his junior year, during which he played in all 13 games. Despite Kentucky having one of the best defenses in the country last season, Taylor still managed to leave his mark. He finished with 26 tackles, one sack, one pass break-up, and one fumble recovery.
Now, Taylor has the opportunity to become a dominant force for a very good defensive line. Kentucky’s front seven as a whole will probably be stronger than last season, but they’ll need the senior to continue to progress to help fill the void left behind by Allen.
Taylor has a real chance to become an All-SEC caliber player this season. The expectations will be high. But I fully expect him to meet them.