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"You Can See It"

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"It's all about business, no joking around." - Terrance Taylor

After spending an afternoon sprinting around the practice field in 90 degree heat, Terrance Taylor should have been exhausted. Tipping the scales at well over 320 pounds a season prior, Taylor isn't the type of guy you'd expect to be doing windsprints over and over again. Strike that. He's not the type of guy you'd expect to do wind sprints. Ever. But after a morning and afternoon running place to place, completing one drill after the next, sweating away a good 35 pounds in water weight and replacing it just as quickly, Taylor looked and talked like a man who had just come from a warm up. As if the exhausting hours he'd spent on the practice field had been spent on a stair master watching Yu-Gi-Oh! From all the quotes, all the pictures, all the observations, this one struck me the most.

Fair or not, Taylor has been cast as the poster child for Michigan's transition from the Schembechler/Carr era into the 21st Century Rodriguez regime. Just like his team, Taylor is somewhat of a wild card heading into 2008. Insanely talented. Maddeningly inconsistent. Alternating brilliant, bone crushing stops with long periods of total irrelevance. Had Carr or his staff remained at Michigan you could rightfully expect a similar, brilliant/indifferent performance this year. But they did not, and the transformation of Taylor from pudgy, athletic-curiosity to slender(er), speedy, bulldozer has been well documented over this summer.

Addressing the media on August 4, 2008, 320 pound inconsistency from 2007 was notably absent.  In its place stood a 301 pound defensive tackle with a chip on his shoulder. When a man with Taylor's history talks to you about intensity, speed, and conditioning, people should take notice. Especially when the look in his eyes tells you, tired or not, he'd do another set of Schafer's drills in Hell itself if it meant proving you wrong or erasing the personal disappointment of 2007.

Taylor's transformation over this summer mirrors the change of the entire Michigan team. From talented and disinterested to talented and intense. From Sloth to Speed. In perusing the newspapers and online media's descriptions of the first day of the New Michigan Football program, one word was repeated over and over again.

"Fast."

Fast is a word never associated with Defensive Tackles. Frankly, with the exception of Charles, Mario and Braylon, it's hasn't been a word associated with Michigan in general over the years.

But now it is. Speed. Quickness. Athleticism pushed to its extremes. All words and phrases you will hear over and over again this year and the ones that follow it. While Rodriguez' offense may grab the attention, it will be that same aggressiveness and explosiveness he's instilled in the defense, and in Terrance Taylor, that will make the difference this year. With an talented defense that returns 8 starters and an experienced two deep, Michigan's defense will be the determining factor between 9-3 or 5-7, and all points in between.

Rodriguez' charge to DC Scott Schafer is simple, make this defense a mirror of the offense. Out fast the other team. Bring more people than the other team can deal with. And get them to the ball carrier or quarterback before they can react. No breaks. No knees. No let up. And how quickly Taylor, Will Johnson, Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison can get to the quarterback will define both this season and this team.

Now, a day into fall practice and months into the Barwis training regime, Taylor is not just a foot soldier, but a leader. Now a svelt 301 Taylor talks about the intensity required of himself and his teammates to make their system work. He compares the differences between the regimes bluntly. Put simply, "No breaks." He runs like a man half his size but maintains the strength and balance that made him such a sought after recruit.

As Taylor spoke you were left with the impression that he welcomes the coming challenge. He knows the drills, the practices, the weight room sessions are all going to become more intense as the season approaches and finally begins. It doesn't seem to phase him. Gone are the days where Michigan defenses rest their arms on their knees in the fourth quarter. Banished is the soft underbelly of comfort and complacency. Now is the time of speed, discipline and challenge. All these thing were apparent to the assembled media as practice began. As Taylor put it, with a smile on his face, "You can see it."