By Joe Schad, GateHouse Florida
INDIANAPOLIS — Florida’s Jawaan Taylor has more than a few things in common with the Miami Dolphins’ Ja’Wuan James.
They’re both enormous, athletic right tackles. And both constantly have their first names misspelled.
“It’s been all my life,” Taylor said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “They spell it wrong all the time.”
Does he correct them?
“Usually I don’t,” Taylor said. “I’m easy-going so it don’t matter to me.”
James had a similar response when a first-year Miami beat reporter once apologized for misspelling, “Ja’Wuan.”
Here’s the thing. These two will never be teammates. If the Dolphins draft Taylor at 13, it will be because they were unable to sign James, who they want to bring back, at the start of NFL Free Agency later this month.
That James was a first-round pick as a right tackle and Taylor should be a first-round pick as a right tackle tells you about their talent.
“I feel like both sides of the position hold a lot of value these days,” Taylor said.
Taylor once blocked for left-handed Gators quarterback Malik Zaire. The Dolphins would love to have James or Taylor protecting the blind side of left-handed Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2020, but we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
Taylor is 6-foot-6 and weighed in at 312 this week. This is a big deal considering in high school he once weighed 380 pounds.
A Florida coach told Taylor he needed to lose weight to receive a scholarship offer, so he lost 50 pounds in two months. How? Eat healthy. Work out more. Go figure.
“Just been a dream of mine since I was four years, old, just running around, talking about playing in the NFL,” Taylor said. “I knew that I had the opportunity to go to Florida. I knew going from Florida, I had a chance to play in the NFL. I had to do what I had to do just to do it.”
Taylor has quickness for his size and is a powerful run blocker.
“He strikes his hands and you can kind of feel it in your teeth,” former Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers once told the Gainesville Sun.
The Dolphins are intrigued. On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, they put him through a film session that required he explain both good plays and bad.
“You can’t make any excuses,” Taylor said. “Just say, ‘Coach, this is my bad, my fault.’ Nobody’s perfect. Everybody has a bad play here and there.”
Taylor seems like a friendly fellow. But on the field, he’s well, surly.
“Whoever’s in front of me, I just want to attack them,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s favorite tackle is La’el Collins of the Cowboys because, well, he’s mean.
“Just the aggression he plays with,” Taylor said. “The nasty, physical, toughness he plays with.”
If the Dolphins can’t get a deal done with James, they may very well turn to Taylor, who is represented by South Florida’s Drew Rosenhaus. Taylor once committed to the University of Miami but switched to Florida after Al Golden and staff were let go.
Taylor said it was a thrill when he saw his name scroll across on ESPN and NFL Network ahead of the draft. Surely it would be a thrill to stay in his home state of Florida and play in the NFL
“I play very nasty,” Taylor said. “I play aggressive, so I feel like I could bring that to the offensive line room. Just a great guy who loves to work.”
The University of Florida will be well-represented, once again, at the NFL Scouting Combine, as eight players will be in Indianapolis.
In addition to Taylor, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Martez Ivey, Cece Jefferson, Fred Johnson, Vosean Joseph, Jachai Polite and Jordan Scarlett will display their skills in front of NFL personnel.
Overall, the Gators have had 230 players invited to the combine, which is the top number in the SEC and tied for second in the country.