Hopewell's Darrell Taylor Is Four-Star
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 17, 2014, 10:03
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — After earning their first back-to-back winning seasons since the 2003 and 2004 campaigns, the Blue Devils football program has continued to make news three months after the season concluded.
Early last week, 247 sports, a college football recruiting website, named Hopewell outside linebacker Darrell Taylor a four-star recruit recruit while ranking him both No. 13 in the state and at his position in the nation.
The four-star ranking Taylor received is the first such accolade for a Hopewell player in program history. In comparison, Virginia Tech University commit Tabyus Taylor received a three-star ranking. The amount of stars a player receives is based on the categories of academics, potential and physical attributes.
And after seeing two players from this year's football team receive full scholarship offers to play at Virginia Tech and Campbell University respectively, head coach Ricky Irby said the addition of Taylor's four-star ranking shows the strength of the Hopewell program.
"It means that our kids are getting noticed here for their hard work and it's possible to go Division I from Hopewell High School," Irby said. "That's what we want for them and it's great to see."
In the past two weeks, Taylor has picked up three offers to play at the Division I level. They include offers from Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and UNC-Charlotte with all schools looking at the two-way athlete on the defensive side of the ball.
In fact, it was on the defensive side of the ball where Irby knew he had a special talent in his 6-foot-4 junior linebacker and wide receiver.
With eight minutes remaining in a close game against Hanover High School, Taylor anticipated a screen play before it happened. The Hawks drove down the entire field using screens and draws and were on the verge of taking the lead and delivering another heart-breaking loss to Hopewell.
However, Taylor eyed the quarterback the whole way, zeroed in on the pass, jumped the route, hauled in the interception and ran 67 yards into the end zone to help clinch a 21-19 victory.
"Against Hanover in the third game of the year, we really needed that win and were clinging to a small lead," Irby said of the moment. "I don't remember the exact situation, but when he intercepted that pass and he took it back for a touchdown to seal the game, right then I saw how much of a difference-maker the kid was. Not only is he 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, but the way he ran away from that wide receiver was impressive."
And that is just the beginning of the talent Taylor possesses.
The 2013 season was not one that he envisioned having for himself as injuries plagued his entire season. Whether it was a high ankle problem or a knee issue, Taylor was limited in his ability to be on the field.
However, in the times he was fully healthy, the impact on the field was immeasurably. Taylor helped improve a Hopewell front seven which struggled to control the line of scrimmage with his sure tackling skills. Offensively, Taylor's big-body and good speed allowed the Blue Devils to use screen passes to their benefit.
Yet, often unnoticed was Taylor's importance to the dominating Hopewell rushing attack with his seal blocks off the edge which allowed big gains on the ground.
"The experience he gained really made a lot of difference," Irby said of Taylor's 48.5-tackle, 15.5 tackle for a loss and nine-sack season. "He hadn't really played that position before and I also think he's the best at rushing the passer off the edge. He uses his hands really well."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Added Taylor, "I'm going to be in the weight room all summer working on agility, speed and strength. That's all I can do to get better."
And it's Taylor's hard-working demeanor which sets him apart and all but assures an improvement heading into next season as his focus switches from basketball to football. Up until he received his first offer, Taylor's main focus had been basketball.
It's the sport he grew up watching and playing while envisioning himself being able to suit up for a college team at the next level. However, Taylor is realizing how many 6-foot-4 forwards there are in the high school basketball game and in turn how rare they are to find at the linebacking position in football.
"You get on the football field at the linebacker or defensive end position and if you are 6-foot-4, you pretty much overmatch everybody out there on the field," Irby said. "I really think from Day 1, he realized that he could be pretty good at this game."
With three offers already in his possession and a full six months to work in the weight room and improve his game before his senior season, Taylor's 2014 campaign is sure to be one to keep an eye on come September.