I think most USC fans would automatically agree with our estimable Gamecock Man, who in his recent post on mock 2013 NFL drafts had this to say about USC Senior defensive end Devin Taylor:
Taylor was considered a potential early-departure first-rounder going into 2011, but a somewhat statistically underwhelming season caused his stock to drop a bit, and he decided to stay for his senior season. (Wise choice, Devin.) However, a lot of Devin's drop-off in production owed to him getting a lot of attention from opposing blocking schemes ...
Is Gamecock Man correct, however? Did Taylor have a statistically underwhelming season in 2011?
The answer may surprise you.
Keep reading after The Jump!
If you consult Devin Taylor's official USC player bio, you see that in 2010 "Mr. Don't Say Nothin'" started in all 14 games and was credited with:
- 46 tackles (33 solo) for an average of 3.3 tackles per game (and @ 2.4 solo tackles per game) - which led all USC DL.
- 14 tackles for loss (TFL) for 38 yards - which led the entire USC squad and was 8th in the SEC.
- 8 sacks for 39 total yards - second on the team and fourth in the SEC - which comes out to @ 0.6 sacks per game (rounding up).
Those stats 2010 were good enough to earn # 98 both AP and Rivals' 1st team All SEC honors. He was also a Coaches' 2nd team All-SEC selection, and named to CollegeFootball.com's national All Sophomore team.
Looking at the official bio stat line for 2011, it looks like Devin did have a drop-off last season. But the stat lines don't tell the whole tale of 2011, however, because they inexplicably omit the 13th game (the Capitol One Bowl). If you go to Devin's ESPN player page, however, you can see stats for all 13 games - and though they unfortunately are not totaled up for some strange reason, they reveal the following 2011 numbers for DT98:
- 42 tackles (31 solo) for an average of 3.2 tackles per game (and @ 2.4 solo tackles per game). Looking back at 2010, you see that his total tackle average is off just by a tenth of a % point, and statistically identical for solo tackles.
- 6 sacks which comes out to @ 0.5 sacks per game (rounding up). While that is two less than 2010, that is not that huge a drop-off; with another game, Devin might have come within one (or even equaled) his 2010 stats.
- while ESPN didn't track tackles for loss, the folks at CFBStats.com did - showing that Devin amounted 8.5 TFL for 47 yards in 2011 [which is 5.5 total TFL less than 2010, but for 11 more lost yards on 2011 TFL's than in 2010].
Breaking down the numbers even further, we see at College Football Stats that Devin had 1 TD each in 2011 and 2010. He had 1 INT each in 2011 and 2010. He had 51 running yards on two plays in 2011 versus 29 running yards on two plays in 2010. He had no forced fumbles either year.
In fact, Devin's only major statistical downgrade from 2010 to 2011 were in QB hurries (11:6 [-5]) and passes broken up (8:2 [-6]). That gives him something to work on for 2012! Otherwise, # 98's 2011 campaign was pretty much on par with 2010 from a statistical average standpoint.
So what happened? After all, Devin only received AP honorable mention All-SEC for 2011 despite logging numbers comparable to 2010 that earned him 1st/2nd team All-SEC recognition. Really parsing the numbers, Devin just had a poor showing against UK (0 tackles) and Vandy (1 tackle); had he performed up to his usual expectations, 2011 would have been that much closer to 2010.
My thought is not that Devin really dropped off, but (a) the two-headed monster of Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon "Doo Doo" Clowney exploded on the opposite end for a combined 18 sacks which Devin couldn't duplicate; and (b) LSU's Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, along with and Auburn's Corey Lemonier, all had better seasons - and thus filled up the balance of the AP's first and second All-SEC DE slots after Melvin Ingram.
Looking ahead for 2012, can we expect Devin to have a monster, break-out in his senior season like Melvin had in 2011 senior campaign? That may be too much to expect, but it's always a possibility - not to mention the fact that Devin started all of his sophomore and junior seasons, while Melvin only became a starter in his last year. If Devin can just increase his 2011 numbers marginally, he is likely back to All-SEC level.
And then it will be Katie-bar-the-door for the big guy from Beaufort in the 2013 NFL Draft.