Will Taylor may not be the most well-known player in Clemson’s 2021 signing class. But Dabo Swinney believes the talented athlete from Dutch Fork High School will make a name for himself as a Tiger and show people what he can do on the field in the future.
“He’s just maybe a guy that everybody’s like OK, who is this guy,” Clemson’s head coach said of Taylor during the program’s National Signing Day show at the Reeves Football Complex in December. “But this guy is special with a capital S, and nobody really knows it.”
Taylor reminds Swinney of when the Tigers signed another under-the-radar prospect back in 2011 – Adam Humphries, the once little-known Dorman High School product who is now in his sixth year in the NFL and second with the Tennessee Titans after signing a four-year, $36 million contract with the franchise in March 2019.
“I would put him in that Adam Humphries category,” Swinney said of Taylor. “I remember when we signed Adam Humphries and everybody was like, ‘Why are we signing Adam Humphries? We’re signing Adam Humphries because we’re recruiting Charone Peake.’ That was the narrative that year, and Adam makes, I think, nine million dollars a year now. He’s turned out OK.”
Besides Clemson, Taylor – a three-star prospect – only had one football offer, from Gardner-Webb.
But Swinney and the Tigers don’t care about star ratings or offer lists, and the coaches trust their own eyes when it comes to evaluating talent in recruiting.
“Another one of the reasons I think we’ve been consistent is we do believe in our convictions,” Swinney said, “whether it’s a five-star guy that’s got 50 offers and we all go, ‘Eh, we don’t see it,’ or it’s a guy that has no offers, but we all look at him and we’re like, ‘Well he’s as good as any five-star we’ve seen.’”
Clemson signed Taylor in December as a quarterback, and according to Swinney, the Tigers intend to train him at that position during his freshman year before transitioning him to receiver.
Taylor shined at quarterback for Dutch Fork as a senior in 2020, throwing for 2,237 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four interceptions, and rushing for 448 yards and 11 touchdowns while leading his team to the 5A state title with a 28-6 win over T.L. Hanna.
Taylor played his first three years of high school at Ben Lippen, and as a junior in 2019, he passed for 1,647 yards and rushed 1,549 more.
“We’re going to install a quarterback foundation as far as our scheme, our philosophy, what we do, how we teach it,” Swinney said. “He’ll be in all the quarterback meetings, and he could win for us without a doubt. If he stayed at quarterback his whole career, he could one day be a starter for Clemson and could win for us. I don’t have any doubt about that.
“But our plan with him is to train him as a quarterback for a year and then move him to receiver, and I think that’s where his career will end up. I could be wrong. Heck, he may be Kyler Murray and win the Heisman at quarterback one day. I have no idea. But that’s our plan going in.”
Swinney said he first became sold on Taylor a couple of years ago when he saw Taylor work out as a slot receiver at one of Clemson’s summer high school football camps.
“He’s been a quarterback forever,” Swinney said. “That’s what he plays, but we weren’t necessarily going to sign him as a quarterback. And so, I guess it was going into his junior year, he came to camp, and I told Jeff (former Clemson wide receivers coach Jeff Scott) I wanted to look at him at the slot. So, we put him over there in the slot, and I saw him that day in my camp and I was like, ‘OK, this guy right here has got a chance to be really something special.’”
Taylor, a two-sport standout, originally committed to Clemson for baseball in July 2019 and will play both baseball and football for the Tigers.
On the diamond, Taylor batted .432 for Ben Lippen as a sophomore in the spring of 2019.
“A lot of people had him penciled in as a baseball-only guy,” Swinney said. “Then he goes over to Dutch Fork and leads them to state championships. And he is a legitimate quarterback, no doubt about it, and big-time baseball guy. He committed to the baseball team early as well. He probably will be the fastest kid they’ll have on the baseball team when he gets here. Can play anywhere in the outfield, but probably going to be a center fielder for them.”
Swinney says Taylor will give the Tigers peace of mind about their depth at quarterback moving forward, knowing he is more than capable of playing that position should Clemson need him to call signals for the offense instead of catch passes as a receiver.
“I’m telling you, this guy right here is a really special player,” Swinney said. “A great addition to this class, and again will give us a little bit of peace at the quarterback position knowing that when he transitions to receiver – it might be three years from now – if we got in a bind, he could go play the position and he wouldn’t have to start from scratch because we’re going to build that foundation right out of the get-go. And then obviously he’s going to play baseball as well. Great kid. Just a great kid, great student, and I think a great addition to this class.”