One big stat line, and Morrow wide receiver Sterling Taylor almost eclipsed his entire 2011 offensive production.
Seven catches, 112 yards and a touchdown —the Mustangs only score — in a 35-6 season opening loss to Campbell last Friday.
He had 10 catches and 132 yards all of last season.
Oh, and don’t forget to throw in the three pancake blocks, where Taylor laid flat several Campbell defenders, attempting to free up running room on the perimeter from his receiver position.
He told all of his social networking buddies, making known his first game numbers on a recent Facebook status.
And then came the disclaimer: “Still not good enough,” he said.
So far this season, his work ethic is backing up his rhetoric.
During Monday’s practice Taylor suffered a slight stinger to his shoulder. To be safe, head coach Larry Foster wanted to hold him back from contact on Tuesday.
On the far end of the practice field, away from the rest of his pads-and-helmet clad teammates, Taylor — drenched in sweat — worked alone on footwork and route running technique.
For Taylor, no contact was not the same as no practice.
“My sophomore season when I first found out I could play receiver, I was not all that serious about it,” Taylor said. “But my junior year I worked at it, and this year I’m working and working and working. I’m setting bigger goals for myself.”
Fifty catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. How’s that for high expectations?
And with the switch from triple option to what Taylor calls a more pass-oriented, pro-style offense, Foster believes those goals aren’t out of reach for his senior receiver if everything falls right.
“If we can get the ball to him,” Foster said, “I have no doubt he will do his part.”
At 6-feet, 173 pounds, Taylor is not the biggest receiver you’ll see. Speed wise, he won’t blaze past the fastest defensive backs — Foster calls him a “4.6 to 4.7-seconds guy” in the 40-yard dash.
But what you will get out of Taylor, Foster said, is something more important than a number you get from a stopwatch.
“He brings a lot of leadership,” said Foster who has won three football state championships as a head coach in talent-rich Florida before coming to Morrow.
“He shows these other kids out here what real work ethic does. From what I hear, he wasn’t the kind of player he is now when he was in the ninth grade. That’s just a testament to him diligently working on his craft.”
Foster said Taylor puts him in the mind of an Anquan Boldin-type player. The former Florida State wideout, whom Foster saw play personally, was not known as being particularly fleet-footed, yet he made his way to being a National Football League standout — now with the Baltimore Ravens — by maximizing his other gifts.
“Anquan could come hard and fast off of the ball,” Foster said. “He was strong, he had hands that could catch anything. To me, that’s the kind of player Sterling is and can be.”
Foster’s coaching experience indicates he has an eye for talent. In addition to his coaching tenure in Florida, he also spent time as a college recruiter in Michigan before taking the Morrow job.
After the first game of the Foster era last Friday, he said Taylor could be one of the best receivers in the Southern Crescent.
Taylor said it’s one thing for him to think that of himself. But it is something extra to hear such high praise from his coach.
“It really means a lot because I know where coach Foster has come from,” Taylor said. “He knows talent. In four years here I’ve had four different coaches, and he has helped me the most with the little things to get all of us better. I’ve never felt more close to winning on the field than I do now.”
One thing Foster said he is trying to do for his players is get them thinking about playing at the next level. He said he has made contacts with several schools about Taylor, including Wake Forest, Iowa State, Marshall, Akron and Georgia State.
He said Taylor has already lined up an official visit next week to Missouri, and all of the aforementioned schools have seen some of his footage.
It’s all a part of Foster’s plan to get the beleaguered Morrow program to start seeing itself as relevant in the extended world of football.
“I just try to get Sterling, and all of my players as much exposure as I can from who I know,” Foster said. “This program has been neglected for so long. I want to give folks here something to smile about again.”
After his one yard touchdown catch against Campbell, Taylor was all smiles. He said he is motivated, not just for himself, but also to make his dad — Sterling III — proud.
“My dad played high school football, but then he went to the Navy,” the younger Taylor said. “He wants to see me finish what he started by playing college, and I just want to make him proud. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”