MUNCIE – Central football coach Brad Seiss admits there’s a conundrum in having a player in the mold of Mykal Taylor.
In one breath, he’s the building block of a defense, an end who can cause a mess of havoc on the line. In another, he can make life pretty difficult for the Bearcat offense in practice.
“He causes a lot of problems,” Seiss said with a slight sigh.
But those problems will be someone else’s once the season gets under way.
Taylor comes into 2014, his senior season, as one of the crucial pieces for Central’s defensive line and really the whole unit. His Bearcats look to build on last season, when they posted their first winning record since 2006 and the defense cut its points allowed by 10 per game.
Now the team is welcoming a cadre of former Southside players, trying to make good in a spotlight position, and Taylor finds himself trying to play a bedrock role.
“You hope that as a leader you can get them what they need,” Taylor said. “So if they need that boost you give them that boost.”
Two seasons ago, Taylor wasn’t in the middle of things, but standing up at linebacker, trying to find his place on the defense.
The staff started toying with the idea of having him put a hand on the ground. Seiss ran down a laundry list of attributes such as energy, toughness and quickness that seemed to make him a strong fit for a scheme that relies on linemen busting through gaps and disrupting things in the backfield.
The end result in 2013 was 22½ tackles for loss, plus five forced fumbles and three pass breakups.
“You have different techniques, different skills,” Taylor said. “When I became a lineman, they really wanted me for my explosiveness. So I was able to transfer that.”
He doesn’t exactly look like a traditional lineman, at only 5-foot-11, 210 pounds. But it’s a solid 210, all muscle, strength and burst. Watching him in a preseason scrimmage against Delta, one could see how he slipped between linemen and could still bring forceful tackles when he reached the backfield.
Some of that owes to a background in wrestling, a sport he’s done for six years. He credits certain elements of his game — conditioning, footwork, explosiveness — to his time spent on the mat.
Teammates have seen Taylor growing into his new position, and he’s not the only one. Fellow lineman Brent Sharp rolled up seven sacks and 11½ tackles for loss in his first season of varsity football.
Sharp said he and Taylor came into the position together, getting bigger, learning the finer points and picking up a different perspective with some of the ex-Southside coaches coming over. And the duo gives the Bearcats a base for a line that puts a premium on disruption and causing problems in the backfield.
“We have like a brotherhood thing on the line,” Sharp said. “We’re like real close on the line. Everything we do on the line, we talk, we let everybody know what’s going on from our point.”
Sharp has known Taylor since middle school, and describes him as a laid back guy. At least until the pads come on, then it’s a whole different thing.
Seiss said Taylor will likely never leave the field on defense, fitting in at different spots based on the opposition. And as he heads into a senior year with a reconstituted and evolving team, he’s kept his goals stripped down and simple.
“It’s kind of me trying to do my best as I can do,” Taylor said. “A lot of people are cheering me on, and I appreciate that. So it’s my job to be the best, train hard, practice how you play.”
• Pendleton Heights at Central, 7 p.m.
Fun fact: The Bearcats are looking for their first season-opening win since 2009.
• New Castle at Franklin, 7 p.m.
• Delta at Jay County, 7 p.m.
• Indianapolis Marshall at Yorktown, 7:30 p.m.
• Alexandria at Wes-Del, 7 p.m.
• Monroe Central at Centerville, 7 p.m.
• South Adams at Winchester, 7 p.m.
• Blackford at Fremont, 7 p.m.