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February 24, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - NatiConal Signing Day has come and gone, but that doesn't mean recruiting has slowed down for Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor.
And it's not just the hottest high school and junior college prospects for the class of 2010 that Taylor is recruiting. There are plenty of players already on campus he's working his magic on.
"It's time to get our guys on board with us," Taylor said. "Everybody cooks their dinner a different way. We can't control what happened in the past, but we can control what happens in the future. We need those guys to buy in. We've set the standards high and the expectations and we want those guys to get on board.
"But in order to do that, you have to build relationships. I can't come in and say I love you and we ain't been through nothing. That's something that's earned and we want those guys to understand that."
Taylor had to start from scratch with his wide receivers. It started shortly after he arrived when he had one of Auburn's graduate assistants cut a picture of each receiver out of the media guide and paste it on a piece of paper.
The players added their goals to the page, and he stayed in touch with them throughout a hectic recruiting process through text messages.
"I went back and read through their goals and put the name with the face along with the jersey number," Taylor said. "I took a cut-up of every play that every kid made and every play that they were in the game and I watched it.
"But the most important thing was to build those relationships with those guys and that was huge. And for me, I try to include it into a family deal and that's kind of where we start."
Auburn will return seven scholarship receivers and it appears they'll have to adjust to some changes when spring drills get under way March 24.
"I've seen those guys on tape, but I can't hold them accountable for something where I didn't coach them," Taylor said. "They're going to find out really quick what my expectations are.
"To me, as a coach, if you tolerate something or you accept something, then you encourage it. I'm not going to tolerate them being late to class. I'm not going to tolerate them not playing hard. I'm not going to tolerate them not making plays. Their uniform will be as clean as mine. They'll be standing right over there right next to me."
Senior Montez Billings return as Auburn's most experienced wideout after catching 24 passes for 277 yards last season.
"I think Montez is a kid who can make some plays. He was impressive on tape," Taylor said. "I was pretty tough on them because if you set their standards low, they'll stay with that low standard. I tried to raise the bar a little bit for them. He was a kid who stood out."
Junior Tim Hawthorne had eight receptions for 203 yards last fall while sophomore Quindarius Carr added six catches for 63 yards.
"I though Q stood out. And Hawthorne has some ability and talent. He's just got to be a kid who is consistent," Taylor said.
"I think all of them are going to be a little more excited about what we're doing. My deal is, one that won't is no better than that one who can't. They'll both get you beat. That's a bad combination for a coach. I'm not going to let that happen.
"Just watching them on tape, I think they're raw, I think they've got some ability. We've just got to get them coached up."
Auburn also returns junior Terrell Zachery, sophomores Derek Winter and Darvin Adams, and redshirt freshman Philip Pierre-Louis, who is returning from knee surgery.
"From watching [Pierre-Louis] work and doing his weights, he looks like he's fine," Taylor said. "He's got that big brace on that weighs as much as he does.
"He'll be another kid who will find out what he can handle. It's different when it's an injury because it's not all his fault."
Taylor said his goal is for Auburn to have a productive offense. And that production is not necessarily based on how many points are scored or yards are gained.
"I don't get caught up in numbers and stats, because I don't think that wins championships," he said. "I think what wins championships is 11 guys on the same page without having wasted plays.
"When you drop the ball or you had a stupid penalty or you set yourself back, those are wasted plays because you lost an opportunity to either score or get a first down and move the chains."
Of course, racking up plenty of yards and points were a staple of Gus Malzahn's offenses at Tulsa, and Taylor is expecting the same excitement at Auburn.
"I know offense has to be fun," Taylor said. "I think kids want to play in an offense that they enjoy getting the ball to the playmakers, guys that can make plays. I think you'll see, that's kind of the philosophy we're all going to take.
"You hear me talk about family all the time, but a divided house won't stand. You've got to have everyone on the same page, pulling the same direction. Sometimes that might mean getting another first down to give the defense time to rest."