It's been a very successful and productive summer for Coffee County (Tenn.) standout Alontae Taylor.
After a good run at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and a trip to Knoxville for 'Orange Carpet Day,' Taylor made his way to Oregon for The Opening. That's where he got to work with established NFL wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr.
"OBJ helped me with my releases, and then Calvin Ridley helped me get in and out of my breaks," Taylor said. "I've been putting a lot of work into those two things since I got back. They said my drop fades as far as running my routes is good. I'm slower getting in and out of my breaks. The tip they gave me has really helped. I'm hard on myself, and I normally get better when I'm hard and go to work."
Taylor has been an athletic quarterback at the high school level. His time at wide receiver has been limited to summer camps. The chance to focus on that position gave him a great opportunity to see where he stands.
"I'd say it was a humbling experience for me," Taylor said. "I got to compete against the best and I learned a lot about the receiver position and I feel like I came out a better receiver and not as much of an athlete."
Before his trip to the West Coast, Taylor spent the 17th of June in Knoxville with his fellow Vol commits as they continue to build a bond.
"It was great and really fun," Taylor said. "When we went to the golf course it brought back a lot of memories because that's where I committed. The home run derby was new and winning that was fun. I hit five for five in the semi-final round. Then in the finals against Anthony Grant, I hit four out of five and our team won."
That day was another opportunity to spend time with new wide receivers coach Kevin Beard. Taylor was very fond of former Vol assistant Zach Azzanni and when he departed for the NFL, it gave him pause. In stepped the former Miami Hurricanes player and coach to deliver his own brand of relationship building.
"It's going great," Taylor said. "He's goofy. I know that if I got to Tennessee and were to get hurt in the spring and couldn't play football my freshman year, I know I will learn more about life and football without even playing. There is no other coach that I have that relationship with. Coach Z and I had that relationship about family. KB and I have that relationship where we talk about life and preparation and less about playing time and football. I think that is one of the biggest reasons I love Tennessee. Since he came in my love for Tennessee has grown even more."
Throw in veteran recruiter Walt Wells, who is in charge of Taylor's recruitment, and the staff has him covered pretty well.
"I told him when he took over my recruitment to keep it real with me and not just tell me what they tell other recruits," Taylor said. "He's done that and he sends me motivational stuff every day. He's a Tennessee guy and if anyone asked who my favorite coach is besides my position coach, it would be him."
Coffee County will begin practice next week. They will go into shells on the 19th and full pads on the 24th. It's his final go-around and he can't wait.
"Everyone says you will remember your last first play and your last first practice from your senior year," Taylor said. "I'm ready to get it started because I miss football so much. I'm so ready to get to play receiver in a high school football game because I haven't."
And the more he plays his future position, the more he falls in love with it.
"I camped the day before 'Orange Carpet Day' and I got to work with coach Beard. Quinten (Dormady) and Jarrett Guarantano both texted me after camp and said I did really well when they were watching and that it's over when I get to campus and that all the db's are going to get burnt. That made me feel good because I was worried about playing receiver since I'm new to it."