No one could have anticipated this, but sophomore Raymon Taylor now is Michigan's most experienced cornerback heading into the Outback Bowl.
With senior J.T. Floyd set to miss his final college game because of a one-game suspension for violating team rules, and with Blake Countess still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the opener, Taylor's role has significantly increased throughout the season — but particularly now as bowl preparation continues.
Michigan is preparing to face South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
"He's done a great job," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of Taylor. "Ray has improved every game from the knowledge of the game to what we're asking him to do."
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But Taylor hasn't yet evolved into the most vocal of leaders.
"He's a young guy, still," Hoke said. "That's not an excuse for him, but he's just young."
The 5-foot-10, 183-pound Taylor, from Highland Park High, made 10 starts at cornerback this season. He had 42 tackles and two interceptions during the regular season.
Taylor said the chemistry among the cornerbacks has not been altered now that Floyd, a fifth-year senior, is gone.
"Nothing changed for us since J.T.'s gone," Taylor said. "Everything is the same — the next guy is going to have to step up and make a play. Everything is still the same. Same game plan. Someone is going to have to step up like I did. We all miss J.T. He was a great guy, but we have to keep moving. He's not here with us, but we have to keep moving as a team.
"Everyone knows the situation, so everyone knows their job, and everyone just has to step up and make a play, do something different since J.T. is not here. We're just helping each other. No matter who's in there, we're going to help each other. That's the biggest thing is helping each other and keeping the team together."
Michigan enters the bowl game with the nation's No. 2-ranked pass defense.
But depth at cornerback is an issue. The Wolverines moved running back Dennis Norfleet, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound freshman, to cornerback earlier this month. Courtney Avery, used primarily as a nickel back, likely will start in place of Floyd.
"The next guy is going to have to step up and make a play," Taylor said.
That's what Taylor had to do earlier in the season when he became a starter three weeks into the season, against UMass.
Taylor, 20, said he now feels more in tune with his position.
"Now I'm on the field, I play a lot more," he said. "I'm a starter now, it's different. It's a lot better. It's a better feeling."
Against Michigan State, Taylor tied a career-high with seven tackles, including six solo. And at Minnesota, he had six tackles, including five solo.
As his game has continued to improve, Taylor said nothing has changed about his approach, but he has listened to Hoke's advice.
"(To) just go out there and play your game and have fun, relax and do your job," he said.
Taylor was a standout in high school, where he was a four-year letter-winner playing receiver, tailback, kick/punt returner and defensive back. He had five interceptions as a senior, and seven as a junior.
But making the jump from high school to college took time.
He played in 11 games last season for Michigan, mostly on special teams. He was a backup cornerback for three games.
"Just catching on to the college game speed from high school," Taylor said, when asked Thursday following practice the one thing he has learned. "And being out there with the first string is different than being out there with the second string and third string.
"The biggest thing for me was game speed. That was the biggest thing I had to adapt to."
And now he will have to adapt to being Michigan's most experienced cornerback.