South Carolina coach Will Muschamp dove right into the football-ese when a question came about Taylor Stallworth.
“Taylor plays square on the line of scrimmage, which, the good D-linemen I’ve been around do,” Muschamp said. “He plays square on blocks. He plays the guy he’s lined up across from, which seems to be really, really simple, but when you get a lot of moving parts, it’s hard sometimes.”
But what does that translate to?
“He plays blocks extremely well,” Muschamp said. “We need more guys like him inside.”
This is a skill the coach has lamented his team lacking at times, and when one looks closely on some plays, it becomes apparent what he means. Stallworth holds his ground, stands up opposing linemen and often tosses them aside to go after a ball carrier.
Muschamp pointed out that sometimes standing up to an SEC double team can involve getting hit by 700 pounds of humanity, but Stallworth doesn’t fold in those situations.
It’s been part of a big step forward for the 6-foot-2, 310-pound junior who played in nine games and made five starts a season prior. He felt a few elements of his offseason work helped on that front.
“More endurance,” Stallworth said. “Playing a lot faster than I was last year. Especially, I got my weight down, so that was a big thing for me.”
That hasn’t hurt his ability to muscle up against run blocking. He currently ranks second among defensive linemen in tackles with 23, with two for loss, a sack and a pass break-up. He’s been the most heavily played interior linemen in four of the team’s six games (a minor injury limited him against Georgia).
In his third year, he’s actually one of the more senior members of the defensive line room, as most of the other older players spent time in junior college before coming to Columbia. Stallworth sees himself as a leader of sorts, but it’s only in his way.
“I’m the type of leader that’s not going to go out there, rah-rah type,” Stallworth said. “I’m not that type of rah-rah guy. I’ll come to you, man to man, and tell you, ‘Hey, you need to step up,’ and all that. I feel like I’ve taken on a leadership role on the D-line.”