So, I finally got around to watching the Emerald Bowl (USC vs. Boston College), and one player really stood out — Taylor Mays. But for all the wrong reasons.
For those that didn't see it, BC senior WR Rich Gunnell turned a short slant over the middle at the 3:48 mark of the second quarter into a 61-yard catch and run for a TD. Mays was playing deep middle on the play, and should have been in position for the tackle, but as he has been prone to do this season, Mays overran the angle and left completely void the middle of the field through which Gunnell scampered for the score.
Why did Mays play the angle so poorly? Poor instincts is the first answer that comes to mind.
But this also begs the question — how many times in one season can a top-ranked safety screw up? Well, I don't have all the answers, but let us try to count the ways:
Exhibit 1: 9-12-09 vs. Ohio State (Q2 - 9:13 estimated; 2nd-and-10 at OSU 41)
Junior WR Dane Sanzenbacher nabbed a 56-yard catch and run on a seam route. Again, Mays ran himself completely out of the play and vacated the back end.
Exhibit 2: 10-17-09 vs. Notre Dame (Q3 - 5:18 estimated; 2nd-and-1 at USC 45)
Junior WR Golden Tate caught a bomb down the left sideline between Mays and senior CB Josh Pinkard. Rather than try to make a play on the ball, Mays tried to blow up Tate and failed. The result — touchdown Irish.
Exhibit 3: 10-17-09 vs. Notre Dame (Q4 - 0:23 estimated; 4th-and-10 at USC 29)
With Notre Dame attempting to close a 34-27 deficit in the final half-minute of the game, Mays crushed Irish senior WR Robby Paris well after Paris already had completed a catch. Mays incurred a personal-foul penalty and more importantly moved the Irish that much closer to the endzone. No two ways about it — a stupid, inexcusable play.
Exhibit 4: 10-24-09 vs. Oregon State (Q3 - 3:18 estimated; 2nd-and-5 at USC 15)
Beavers senior QB Sean Canfield dropped a 15-yard TD throw to senior WR Damola Adeniji in between Pinkard and Mays. I hope Mays enjoyed the attempted kill shot after the fact, but Adeniji got the last laugh — he scored. Way to get over late again. I'm sure Pete Carroll would have preferred a pass breakup instead.
Exhibit 5: 10-24-09 vs. Oregon State (Q4 - 12:07 estimated; 1st-and-goal at USC 3)
Beavers junior WR James Rodgers caught a slant for a score. Mays was again late to the party. I'll give him a break on this one — he can't make all the plays and plus, there was a lot of traffic in his area attracting his attention. What I can't stand though is the obnoxiously late clothesline he delivered to Rodgers' head. This ain't the WWE. You get penalized for things like that in football. Now, the officials inexplicably chose to not call a personal foul on the play, but Mays easily could have cost his team another 15 yards. The guy is a walking personal foul. Play with some discipline!
Exhibit 6: 11-14-09 vs. Stanford (Q4 - 13:20 estimated; 1st-and-10 at USC 24)
Cardinal sophomore TE Coby Fleener catches a TD pass down the seam. Mays was playing single high, and was not even held in the middle of the field by redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck. All Mays had to do was read his eyes, and Luck would have lead him to the football. Instead, Mays was late again, and tried for the kill shot instead of playing the ball. Guess what — touchdown, Stanford.
Now we've looked at just five games. I'm sure there's plenty more where that came from in the other eight games of the season. But let's brace ourselves — Mays is going to tear it up at the NFL Scouting Combine. The guy is going to walk across that stage in his shorts, and a good number of personnel people are going to fall in love. He's then going to blaze a lightning-quick, mid-to-low 4.4 40-yard dash time at almost 240 pounds and his stock will rise even higher. The guy does have skills — excellent size and straight-line speed, and a very physical, intimidating presence.
Just bear in mind — the tape does not lie. Taylor Mays — I know you're a physical freak and all, but damn, you're starting to look … dare I say it … overrated.