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Levonta Taylor the Next in Line

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Beyond the depth chart, Levonta Taylor appears to be the next-in-line on an even bigger, more prominent list.

For all of Florida State's history, success, in one spot in particular, is beyond compare. A number of the game's greatest and most dominant defensive backs ever played their careers in Tallahassee at the place many believe to be "DBU". From Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley to Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James, the path to prominence in the secondary is paved with garnet and gold.

While "Prime Time" continues to set the standard and many stars have come before, new Seminoles have stepped right into the spotlight; the two starting cornerbacks on the 2017 NFL All-Pro first-team were Ramsey and Xavier Rhodes. Safety Lamarcus Joyner was rated as the third highest-graded safety in the league last season. Corner Ronald Darby had four tackles and two pass deflections in winning Super Bowl LII. James was picked in the first round of the most recent draft. At least one Florida State defensive back has been selected in seven consecutive NFL Drafts.

This off-season, for the Seminoles, has been one of transition. With Willie Taggart replacing Jimbo Fisher, Florida State is being led by just its third head coach, Bobby Bowden, Fisher and now Taggart, since 1976. Growing up a fan, Taggart has been committed to intertwining the Seminoles' past with their future. He, this week, hired long-time defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews as a special assistant, a coach Sanders recently said was "responsible for my game" and "taught me everything at Fla. State" on his Twitter.

There is an old school feel on campus as fall practice settles in. Those sentiments, with Levonta Taylor developing into a star on the perimeter, are shared in the secondary. A former five-star recruit and number one prep cornerback in the country, Taylor is now one of the faces of Florida State, an upperclassman leader who is considered one of the top defenders in college football. He and the likes of end Brian Burns and tackle Demarcus Christmas will be the centerpieces in new defensive coordinator Harlan Barnett's aggressive, attacking scheme. 

Beyond the depth chart, Taylor appears to be the next-in-line on an even bigger, more prominent list.  

Taylor took the next step towards greatness in a unique place: The Swamp. With the Seminoles playing at archrival Florida, he intercepted two passes and was one of the stars of the game in a victory that helped Florida State move towards bowl eligibility. Notably, Taylor's first interception led to an offensive touchdown three plays later, while he scored on a key 18-yard pick-six on his second.  

Per Pro Football Focus, Taylor ranked first amongst ACC cornerbacks targeted in coverage with a passer rating of just 26.1. He, furthermore, led all power five corners with an average of 30.6 snaps in coverage per reception allowed. Taylor was just ranked 34th overall on ESPN.com's list of the best players in college football, the highest defensive back slotted. As a junior, he, confident and competitive, is expected to contend for All-American honors.   

Expectations are high for Taylor, a notion he well understands. When you come to Florida State to play in the secondary, that standard is something you embrace. With the Seminoles, you both stand out on your own and stand in the shadows of legends. 

Through coaching changes and personnel turnover, the status quo, here, doesn't change.

Ahead of what is poised to be a banner season for Taylor, he is talent and tradition alike.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports