Hall-of-Famer Taylor believes Florida got a baller in Sapp

Aug 13, 2021 | 0 comments

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It may have taken a little longer than expected, but four-star defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp, the third highest-rated Florida signee according to the 247 Sports Composite, finally made it to campus on Friday.

His delayed arrival may mean that he won't be able to contribute much this season, but his Saint Thomas Aquinas defensive coordinator Jason Taylor believes he is positioned to make a major impact in the not too distant future.

The Gators received the Class of 2021 defensive end’s commitment all the way back in December of 2018. Despite this, he kept his recruitment open and released a top-five list including Florida, Alabama, Miami, Georgia Tech, and Ohio State. He even stated he planned to sign in February 2021.

While Sapp possibly made the Gators sweat a little, it ended up in their favor as Sapp took people by surprise when he signed with Florida during the early signing period in December 2020. Three days later, Sapp and his teammates at STA won their second straight Florida Class 7A state title over Edgewater High School on the grass of Doak Campbell Stadium.

“Are there some dudes up at Florida? Absolutely. Did they just get another dude? You’re damn right.”
-NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor on Tyreak Sapp

He and Taylor shared a moment that night.

“We knew there wasn't going to be a national championship game afterward,” the NFL Hall of Famer said. “So, that was the final game. I looked at Sapp and he looked at me and, like two little kids, we just both busted out crying and hugging each other. He’s a guy I miss already every day.”

The former Miami Dolphins All-Pro and 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year gave some insight into the kind of player and person the Gators are getting in Sapp.

Jason Taylor described Tyreak Sapp the football player as a “big, heavy-handed kid” who loves contact. The young man was advanced coming in as a ninth-grader mostly because of his size at that age.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some room for improvement in other places. Taylor loved it as he watched Sapp develop into a leader.

“He was out front athletically and because of his size, but not leadership-wise and maturity,” Taylor said. “And [then] he really turned into an amazing leader for us. What he did for us through this COVID stuff, and being out front was huge. But the football stuff. It's a no-brainer, you look at him, you put on his tape and watch him play, it's a no-brainer. The kid can play anywhere in the country.”

Just like several other positions, STA is no stranger to producing defensive line talent.

Outside linebacker/defensive end Nik Bonitto was a Second Team AP All-American for Oklahoma last season and could hear his name called during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Former Raiders the Bosa brothers, Joey and Nick, tore up the college game at Ohio State and are considered some of the best front four players in the National Football League right now.

Not to mention Raider alumnus Geno Atkins was an All-SEC defensive tackle at Georgia in 2007 and 2009 plus a member of three NFL All-Pro teams over the last decade.

Taylor said he doesn’t like to make comparisons. However, he mentioned that while the Bosas are more polished when it comes to edge rushing, Sapp possesses the same level of physicality as those two. He later added that Sapp is better now than he himself was during his second or third year at Akron.

He’s a high-motor guy who always plays hard and will be where he’s supposed to. He can shoot those heavy hands of his into someone’s chest and knock him back. He plays with good pad level and will not only be in the right place but get off blocks and make plays.

“That was what he had to be pushed to do a little bit from his sophomore to junior year was (be) someone to dominate games and make plays,” Taylor said. “Making plays that are away from you, making plays that are obviously at you and on third down being a moneymaker and he can do that.”

Sapp lined up all over the Raider defensive front throughout his career. He played the three and one techniques, nose tackle in their Okie (3-4) package and saw time at what Taylor called the jack or “rush” spot.

“As a 260-pounder, it's pretty amazing to see him be able to hold up double teams at the one or the zero,” he said. “He’ll get in a three-technique and put pressure on guys on the edges. You hate to compare to the guys that are in the league, the Geno Atkinses of the world and the Nick Bosas. But he's got Sunday potential.”

Sapp isn’t just an outstanding player. In fact, the first thing Taylor mentioned about Sapp was his character. He called Sapp a hard worker and one of those 100-miles-an-hour guys. Someone a team might have to pull back on a little because he goes so hard so often. But there’s no denying the passion he exudes.

“I love the young man that he is; his big-ass heart,” Taylor said. “He sees my wife after games and he would go to the fence… and give her a big hug. And he would always pick her up over the fence like he would just grab her… and lift her over the fence and give her the biggest, sweatiest hug. Then she had to drive home three hours stinking like sweat, but he's just that kind of person. You love to be around him.”

Someone like Sapp is just further evidence of how the game of football has advanced from when Taylor played. It’s amazing that football is a way of life down in South Florida. Taylor sacrificing some work or business gave him an opportunity to coach and be around some great young athletes.

“It's worth every penny and every moment of time because you see guys like Derek [Wingo], Sapp and I have the chance to be around my own sons (Isaiah and Mason) and Jordan Battle at Alabama and Dallas Turner at Alabama,” he said. “It's so gratifying. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I got the best lowest-paid job in the world.”

Obviously playing for a program like St. Thomas Aquinas gives players experience being on a team loaded with talent and elite-level prospects. But college isn’t the same game.

Almost everyone is used to being a significant contributor when they come from high school and almost everyone is uber-talented. Sometimes that can make it hard for newcomers to find their niche or causes them to get lost on the depth chart.

Between returning players, key transfers and other recruits, Florida already has talented defensive linemen in its cupboard. Taylor, though, believes his guy fills that up a little more.

“Are there some dudes up at Florida? Absolutely,” he said. “Did they just get another dude? You’re damn right.”

Tags: Sport

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