March 26, 2009

Taylor eager to reach 100 percent

Jaycen Taylor remembers the date without hesitation - August 17, 2008.

It's the day Taylor tore his ACL in a fall practice, which in turn took the entire 2008 season from the running back.

As spring practice opened up on Wednesday, the fifth-year senior is not yet fully recovered from the injury, which is understandable, considering the process usually takes up to a year.

"I'm about 75 percent right now," Taylor said. "Just mostly it's mental and being able to do what I'm thinking. I'm running fine. I just can't cut without worrying about hurting myself again."

While not at full health, Taylor is just happy to be on the field.

"I got my ankles taped, put on my helmet and said, 'Man, it's been a while,'" Taylor said. "It feels good to be out here. It came fast. It was fun to put a helmet on and all this stuff, but it will be even more fun to get into all of the pads."

Taylor's progress in rehab caused some recent concern for Coach Danny Hope.

"A month ago, I was very, very concerned about him because he hadn't really tested the water, if you will," Purdue's first-year coach said. "During the latter part of pre-spring conditioning, our concourse work, he got a lot more involved in the drills and turned it loose.

"He started to develop some more confidence in it, but he's still a ways away."

Taylor will not go through contact drills this spring, instead choosing to wait until the fall.

"It's probably not that I can't do it, but I just choose not to do it," Taylor said. "Spring is more for learning, so I want to make sure I know the playbook and then come fall, I can do some hitting and show that I am OK
"When it comes to (fall) camp, I'll be full-go."

Taylor said he has received advice from senior safety Torri Williams, who has suffered three season-ending leg injuries in his career.

"He told me it's not going to feel the same really," Taylor said. "He said it's going to take time for me to mentally understand it's alright."

So, in the meantime, it's more repetitions for Taylor.

"I just need to keep doing it," Taylor said. "That's why I'm not going full, because I would be scared to make those cuts. Throughout camp I'll keep practicing it and doing it without thinking about it.

"Do more cuts and understand it's all right, and I can make the same cuts I used to make."

Taylor rushed for 677 yards in 2006 and 560 yards in 2007, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt over those two seasons, the fourth-highest average in school history. It's likely Taylor will split carries, much like he did the previous two seasons he played, if newcomers develop as expected.

"I think it's going to be split," Taylor said. "I'm not really too concerned about how much I get the ball.

"However many carries I get is fine, it's just about doing something with it once you have it."

Taylor said he went through 6 a.m. conditioning drills with the team, even if it's one aspect he did not miss while injured.

"Conditioning - I'm the type of kid when they say run, I run," Taylor said. "I hate it, but I do it anyway. I'm about back with my wind and breathing, so I'm fine with that."

With Taylor's participation limited, he plans to be a vocal leader during spring drills.

"I basically want to come out and support them," he said, "just like when I was hurt."

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