With a gilded upper row of teeth and hair that looks like a cross between the styles of Bob Marley and Sideshow Bob, Georgia Southern’s Quentin Taylor has an appearance that gets him noticed off the field. But even when wearing a helmet that mostly masks those features, Taylor still makes an impression.
The senior middle linebacker, who transferred from Ole Miss following his sophomore season, started six games for the Eagles last year and finished with 59 tackles. He made an immediate impact this season as a starter against Georgia in Athens.
Though only in his second year as an Eagle, Taylor has enough playing experience to make him a leader on the field, particularly when it comes to playing against teams like Georgia. To Taylor, who got accustomed to playing in front of SEC caliber crowds his first two collegiate seasons, performing in front of nearly 100,000 screaming fans was nothing new.
“I’ve already been there,” Taylor said. “It was just me trying to get the other guys to come along. They saw all those people, I guess they freaked out.”
Speaking up to his teammates is something Taylor said has been an aqcuired skill at Georgia Southern. It has been a necessity to a team with so many young players. Still, he prefers to lead by example, if possible.
Taylor has ostentatious, dreadlocked hair that coaches enjoy kidding him about. Though Taylor’s façade speaks volumes, his lips do not. Coaches mostly describe him as quiet and easy to get along with.
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s fun to be around, other than he needs a haircut, he’s a pretty good fella’,” said coach Chris Hatcher.
“I used to be the person that wouldn’t even talk,” Taylor said. “I still don’t talk that much, but now I’ll say something every now and then. But I’m not a talkative person, I just go out there and play.”
Taylor led the defense Saturday with five tackles (four solo and one assisted) and a sack. But as a whole, the defense yielded 535 yards to the Bulldogs. According to Hatcher, with some extra assistance from the defensive line, Taylor could have been even more productive.
“A lot of how he plays relies on that defensive front,” Hatcher said. “Our scheme’s kind of centered around that middle linebacker position and what hurt us last week is that we weren’t picking up all those blocks and letting him run free. This week, I hope it’s a different story.”
Hatcher hopes Taylor will be a little less busy picking up the slack this week with some additional players that weren’t available for the Georgia game. Fellow linebacker, junior Terrione Benefield and defensive lineman Damon Suggs, are available for the home opener against Austin Peay on Saturday. That could lighten Taylor’s load and give him the ability to focus his efforts elsewhere.
Benefield and Suggs were among five players suspended for the first game against Georgia on Saturday. Three other players were suspended for the first two games.
“When they’re both in there together, they’re a very good tandem,” said Hatcher of Taylor and Benefield’s duo. “So having Benefield come back, even though he won’t start, will be a big boost for our defense, along with [defensive lineman Damon] Suggs, I think we’re going to keep getting better there.”
But Benefield, a junior, will have to work his way back up to the top of the depth chart, Hatcher said. Until then, Taylor is slated to be sandwiched between a true freshman (J.B. Shippy) and a redshirt freshman (Matthew Rucker) on Saturday.
The understanding of the game that Taylor brings to the table gives his teammates a little more confidence on the field when standing beside him.
“He’s an exciting player,” Benefield said. “On the field, he’s going to bring the wood. He’s to hit you every play. It’s good to play alongside him. He’s in the middle, he’s anchoring the linebacker corps. So to have him out there, it makes us feel a lot better because we know that if we mess up, he’s going to have our back.”
While the first thing people notice about Taylor may be his choice of hairstyle, what they remember is a result of the way he plays.
“We definitely give him a hard time, like I’ve got to get a couple spiders out of his hair from time to time,” defensive coordinator Ashley Anders said, adding, “My son, that’s the one guy that he always asks about, about Quentin. Part of that is because he is such a good football player, people notice that on the field.”
Natalie Sayewich can be reached at (912) 489-9413.