Deception is based in repetition, Louisiana Tech slot receiver Trent Taylor said. And that begins the moment the ball is snapped and he starts downfield, toward some unsuspecting linebacker or defensive back.
“You’ve got to make every route look like the same thing, up to a certain point,” he said as he looked ahead to Saturday’s game on ASN at Middle Tennessee. “That’s something that you’ve got to think about — try and make every route that you run down the field look like the same route, and then be able to cut out of it as quick as possible.”
Certainly things always seem to turn out the same for Taylor. The 5-8, 178-pound senior had 99 catches last year, and with 26 through three games is on pace for 104 this fall — more if the Bulldogs, 1-2 at present, play in their third straight bowl game.
Nor would he mind another sort of duplication, the kind that sees his career mirror that of a guy like Cole Beasley, the Dallas Cowboys’ identically sized slot guy.
But for right now, Taylor is concerned only that every day looks the same. Every game day, and every day on the practice field.
“You can never be satisfied,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied, until I’m done here, play about 20 years in the NFL. Then maybe I’ll be satisfied by that point. It won’t be any time soon.”
His catch total last season was the second-highest in Conference USA, the fifth-highest in FBS and the fifth-highest in school history, while his yardage total (1,282) ranked sixth all-time. He also scored nine touchdowns and earned all-conference first-team honors, not to mention the undying respect of everyone he faced.
Western Kentucky safety Marcus Ward told the Shreveport Times before this season that Taylor was not just one of the better receivers in C-USA, but “one of the better players.” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill told the same outlet Taylor was “as good as anybody” the Blue Raiders faced in 2015.
And Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder, who according to the Times had watched all of Louisiana Tech’s games on video the last three years and had seen Taylor in person his sophomore season, summed him up as well as anyone.
“He’s like the kid down the street trying to get in the big-boy game,” Wilder told the Times. “That’s what he looks like physically. Then when he gets in the big-boy game, he stars.”
Taylor recalled this week how things looked to him his freshman year, when he caught 28 balls for a 4-8 team. How enormous the field seemed. How fast everyone appeared to be moving.
“My eyes were wide the whole season,” he said.
Now, not so much. Not after making 64 grabs as a sophomore, setting the stage for all that has happened since.
“The game’s definitely slowed down,” he said. “I’m a lot more comfortable out there, and I feel good with what I’m doing.”
That has afforded him the opportunity to look around — to appreciate, for instance, the abilities of NFL receivers like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and New England’s Julian Edelman. Every read those guys make is on point, he said. Every movement has a purpose. Everything is done with confidence, with certainty.
It’s the same with Beasley.
“He’s definitely somebody I pay attention to,” Taylor said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t do anything too flashy. He’s just out there, getting open, doing his job. That’s what it takes to be a successful slot receiver.”
Taylor’s success this season has come despite the fact that he is playing with his third quarterback in as many years; Ryan Higgins has followed Jeff Driskel, who had followed Cody Sokol. And it is coming in concert with Carlos Henderson, a swift outside receiver who has 20 catches to date.
“It’s kind of like, pick your poison,” Taylor said.
This week they will see a Raiders defense that has limited opponents to 98.7 yards a game through the air, the fewest in Conference USA and the fourth-fewest in the FBS. MTSU also leads the conference in pass-efficiency defense and is fourth in the nation in that category.
No matter. Taylor will keep plugging, keep trying to make everything look the same.
Especially the results.
Photo courtesy Tom Morris/LaTechSportsPix.com