Reese's many pieces for Hoosiers

Chris Howell | Herald-TimesIndiana freshman cornerback Reese Taylor (2) and linebacker Dameon Willis Jr. take part in drills at the IU practice fields on Aug. 22. Taylor was moved to quarterback last week, but played running back, wide receiver and cornerback in the season-opener at Florida International.

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Reese Taylor's college career began with a question.

Which position do you want to play?

Taylor, looking for the quickest path to the playing field, told Indiana coach Tom Allen that he wished to play cornerback. This, despite having never played a snap of defense in his life.

Allen, who doubles as IU's defensive coordinator, was on board with the idea. But he also had a question of his own.

How about playing both ways?

"I'm not going to say no to a coach," Taylor said.

This fall, Taylor wants to be defined by his adaptability, whether that's through his willingness to try defense, or moonlight as IU's third-string quarterback, or fit in wherever Allen sees best.

Through his first few months on IU's campus, Taylor is living that oath in full.

"Wherever I hear my name called, that's where I go," Taylor said. "It depends wherever it's at. If it's on special teams, offense, defense, wherever it's at, that's where I go."

During Saturday's season-opening victory at Florida International, Taylor lined up at three positions — running back, slot and corner — finishing with three carries for 40 yards, two receptions for 12 yards and two tackles.

And during the practice week leading into the contest, Taylor also took snaps at quarterback, where he's replaced the now-departed Brandon Dawkins on the depth chart.

It's a lot to juggle for any player, let alone a true freshman. But even stretching back to his days as a standout quarterback at Ben Davis, where he earned last year's Indiana Mr. Football honor, Taylor has demonstrated that he plays the game with a unique and uncommon sense of purpose.

"He's a special player," Allen said.

Indeed, from the moment Taylor officially filed his National Letter of Intent with IU in December, Allen has dreamed of the options and scenarios where Taylor could thrive. While he welcomed Taylor's wish to begin his career on defense, Allen seemed to harbor visions of playing the heralded newcomer both ways.

With that level of athleticism and feel for the game, could Allen really keep the ball out of his hands?

Turns out, the answer was no.

And from here, Allen believes Taylor's role on offense will only expand.

"We'll see what he can handle each and every week," Allen said. "But I do know that he, the few times he touched the ball (on Saturday), he got a chance to make things happen."

That was especially evident on his first-quarter, 32-yard run through the defense, when he took a sweep, bounced off loud and forceful initial contact and spun his way through the FIU defense and into Panther territory.

"It was cool," quarterback Peyton Ramsey said. "He said that was the hardest he's ever been hit. Somehow, he stayed up still. He said he knows harder hits are coming, (but) he had fun out there and he showed what he's able to do with the ball in his hands."

At Ben Davis, Taylor set a list of records, including during last year's Class 6A state title game when he set IHSAA bests for most passing yards (340), passing touchdowns (six), longest passing touchdown (64 yards) and longest rushing touchdown (76 yards).

Now at Indiana, Taylor is once again getting the chance to highlight the versatility that could make him one of the most unique players in the Big Ten.

"I feel like I'm getting everything down, getting everything pat," Taylor said. "They're moving me around as much as they can, putting me wherever they need me at. Anything they say, that's what I'm gonna do."

This article originally ran on heraldtimesonline.com.

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