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The Fairly Boring Taylor Mays

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Mays made his reputation on hype, a hit list and half-true measurables. That spawned a robust backlash. Between his rep and the hate, it's almost impossible to see Taylor Mays the player. Scouting him is difficult. It's not just that he is a safety, or that he plays a ton of deep center. Most high-definition broadcasts include enough wide-angle shots to see every player on enough plays to develop an understanding. The problem is Mays' assignment itself. Pete Carroll played him true to his position. Mays was removed from the action. He was a 6'3"/230 pound safety net arriving in time to cap a play, but rarely make a play. It then becomes difficult to separate schematic caution from lack of instincts.

USC played at Notre Dame October 17, 2009. The Irish would finish with the 25th ranked offense by S&P. USC ranked 42nd in defense. I have watched this game multiple times. I have watched Jimmy Clausen. I have watched Everson Griffen tear through Clausen's protection. I have watched Charles Brown, Golden Tate and Damian Williams. Now I will do my best to give an accurate depiction of Mays: What he did, what he could do and what might have been asked of him.

1. 1st and 10 at ND 35 Jimmy Clausen pass complete to Kyle Rudolph for 5 yards to the NDame 40.

Mays is ten yards back, outside right tackle. USC is in a 4-3. Notre Dame motions the left split back into the left flat. Snap. Mays backpedals into deep cover. The Irish set up a screen on the right. Mays flies to Rudolph after five and splits a tackle with Jurrell Casey.

2. 2nd and 5 at ND 40 John Goodman rush for 13 yards to the USC 47 for a 1ST down.

Irish set in wildcat. Goodman receives the snap and runs a read option. Griffen storms the interior and sets a short edge on the offensive right. At the mesh point, Goodman pulls it back and breaks free off right end. Mays runs from cover 1 to cap Goodman's rush after 13.

3. 1st and 10 at USC 47 Golden Tate rush for 3 yards to the USC 44.

Mays is in deep cover. He does not factor on the run.

4. 2nd and 7 at USC 44 Jimmy Clausen pass incomplete.

Deep cover. Botched screen attempt; Clausen intentionally throws it into the dirt. Mays does not factor.

5. 3rd and 7 at USC 44 Jimmy Clausen pass incomplete to Armando Allen Jr.

Mays is deep. Will Harris is underneath, so that the two are stacked about five yards apart. Mays breaks to his right. Clausen passes incomplete. Mays does not factor.

(USC drives 88 yards in two minutes for a touchdown.)

1. 1st and 10 at ND 26 Robert Hughes rush for no gain to the NDame 26.

Mays is over the left hash mark and 13 then 14 yards away from the line of scrimmage. He closes within six yards of Hughes before Hughes is tackled.

2. 2nd and 10 at ND 26 Robert Hughes rush for 7 yards to the NDame 33.

Notre Dame is a running a stretch left. Mays is again in deep cover. He sees the action and runs towards Hughes. Hughes is at the 25 when Mays is at the 34. Hughes breaks in. Mays lowers his shoulder, attempts a jarring hit, glances off and slips the tackle. Hughes continues forward for another two, but is wrapped and tackled. Mays jumps on the standing but stopped Hughes to topple the pile.

3. 3rd and 3 at ND 33 Jimmy Clausen pass complete to Robby Parris for 5 yards to the NDame 38 for a 1ST down.

Clausen scrambles from pressure and finds Parris improvising an out route. Mays, deep, does not factor.

4. 1st and 10 at ND 38 Jimmy Clausen pass incomplete.

Mays is on the left the hashmark, 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. SC blitzes off left tackle, dropping Griffen into cover in the right flat, confusing pass protection and forcing an incomplete. Mays does not factor.

5. 2nd and 10 at ND 38 Jimmy Clausen pass incomplete.

Right hash mark, 52 yard line. Mays does not factor.

6. 3rd and 10 at ND 38 Jimmy Clausen sacked by Everson Griffen for a loss of 8 yards to the NDame 30.

Right hash mark, 53 yard line. Mays does not factor.