The name of UB backup running back Anthone Taylor pops up everywhere in accounts detailing Wayne High School’s improbable run to the 2010 Ohio Division I state championship game.
One story talks of his emergence following a slow start, his five-game, 761-yard binge after managing just 59 yards in Wayne’s two season-opening losses. Then there’s the 26-carry, 182-yard game Taylor threw at defending state champ Hilliard Davidson in the state semifinals. And the week before that? How about the fourth-and-7 sideline pass Taylor caught in the waning minutes to set up his own winning touchdown against Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Division I Region 4 final.
The quarterback who threw that pass? That would be Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s leader and Heisman hopeful and the whirlwind that is UB’s challenge to contain.
UB’s season opener at Ohio State is more than a homecoming for Taylor, one of seven Ohio-bred Bulls expected to dress Saturday. He keeps in regular contact with his Wayne backfield mate and has told Miller the second-ranked Buckeyes should expect the wildly unexpected when the Bulls roll into Columbus.
“It’ll be the second time I beat him,” Taylor said this week. “Played against him once in eighth grade and won on a last-second desperation play. I hope it doesn’t have to end up that way. I hope we can beat them by a few touchdowns this time.”
UB coach Jeff Quinn knows all about Miller.
He was the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati when he began following Miller’s progress and making known the Bearcats’ interest in a player who was just a high school freshman at the time. Miller went on to become one of the top quarterback recruits in the country. Quinn kept Taylor among others on the radar.
“This high school has a number of players,” Quinn said. “They’ve sent players on to Michigan, Michigan State, West Virginia. When I first got the job at Cincinnati and I was responsible for Dayton and a little bit north and west I obviously went into the top schools that had placed players and certainly I ran into some great ones.
“Anthone was another player there so when I got a chance to come here I kind of knew a little bit about Anthone. So we went back down to that high school and said, ‘Hey, what’s he want to do?’ ”
Taylor signed with the Bulls, played sparingly as a freshman and redshirted last season (his true sophomore year) because of injury. He and Devin Campbell are listed as the co-backups to Branden Oliver and both are likely to see time on what’s forecast as a humid day with temperatures in the mid-80s. That would enable Taylor opportunity to back up the razzing he gives Miller at every turn.
“We’re pretty close,” Taylor said. “Every time I go home I talk to him just to connect with him. Being together in high school and just going through a lot of work we went through, our senior year we lost in the state championship and it was just like a magical season. And those are just the bonds you never lose.
“The last time I talked to him was probably about a week ago. You know, trash talking. I told him to be ready for an upset.”
Miller’s ascent as an elite dual-threat quarterback and early Heisman favorite surprised no one, least of all Taylor. Miller’s talents as a passer and a runner were evident going back to that freshman season when Quinn first started keeping tabs.
“Everybody’s always had high expectations for him,” Taylor said. “It started in our freshman year and he just took over from there and there’s been no turning back.”
This is the second time a Bull was high school teammates with an eventual Ohio State quarterback with Heisman hopes.
Safety Davonte Shannon played with former Buckeyes Terrelle Pryor at Jeannette (Pa.) High. Pryor’s now bidding for the starting job with the Oakland Raiders.