Gators’ Taylor commits to Southern Miss

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 23, 2004

[1/23/04]Vicksburg High is ready to send its first player from the 2004 recruiting class to a Division I-A school, while another will join the growing legion of former Gators in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Running back Maurice Taylor has verbally committed to Southern Mississippi, becoming the fourth VHS player this winter to commit to a school and the first to do so with a I-A program.

“I always wanted to go there, and then the scholarship was good,” Taylor said. “It’s not too far away from home.”

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Taylor was a versatile offensive weapon for Vicksburg this season. He rushed for 624 yards and six touchdowns, and caught 17 passes for 318 yards and three scores.

Over three seasons, Taylor split time at running back, wingback, and wide receiver and put up impressive numbers at all three positions. He rushed for 1,185 yards and 13 TDs in his high school career, and caught 58 passes for 948 yards and nine TDs.

He averaged 7.5 yards per carry, 16.3 yards per catch, and a lofty 9.9 yards per touch not including kickoff and punt returns.

Taylor’s speed he is the defending Class 5A state champion in the 100 meter dash could lead USM’s coaches to try him at several different positions, though. Taylor saw some playing time at cornerback this season, and had one interception.

Taylor said the USM coaching staff indicated he would be used on offense.

“He said he may play me a little bit at DB, but mostly at receiver and running back,” Taylor said.

Taylor was also being wooed by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Marshall, but settled on Southern Miss early in the recruiting process.

He said there weren’t any negative attributes about the other schools, just positive ones for USM.

While Taylor is burning up the turf in Hattiesburg, one of his linemen will be slogging away in the trenches of Lorman.

Fred Kelly, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound offensive lineman, verbally committed to Alcorn State on Thursday. He is the third Gator to commit to a SWAC school this month, joining Grambling-bound running back Michael Rainey and offensive lineman Mike Smith.

Several junior colleges had been recruiting Kelly, but Alcorn was the only four-year school to pursue him. That, as well as its proximity to Vicksburg, led to his commitment.

“Alcorn is close to home and it seemed like a good school to me,” Kelly said. “I think I’ll do pretty well once I work hard in the weight room and on the outside training.”

VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said Kelly needed to improve on his pass blocking on the next level, but compared his skills to Alcorn offensive line coach Michael Ellis. Ellis, who was coached at Alcorn by Stevens, helped former Braves quarterback Steve McNair set the NCAA’s all-time total yardage record and was selected to the Black College All-American team in 1994.

“Fred is built in that mold. He’s tall, he’s a wide-body, and he’s going to help them,” Stevens said. “Fred is a good run-blocker. He’s real aggressive. Michael Ellis is going to get him where he needs to be on pass-blocking.”