By Rob Staton
Another day, another bone crunching hit from Taylor Mays (S, USC) - this time at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. This isn't necessarily a good thing though. Danny O'Neil reports the positive side of the story, stating that one particular hit "drew an audible reaction from the crowd after he prevented a Citadel receiver from coming down with a catch." Remember, the South team were practising in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. This wasn't the real thing.
Here's the other... less positive side of the story from D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Southern California safety Taylor Mays drew the ire of one general manager and a team's top pro personnel man when he leveled wide receiver Andre Roberts (The Citadel) on a deep route. Mays was covering over the top to help the cornerback on the play. In that drill, the NFL types just want to see Mays make a play on the ball. They can see how he hits on film or when everybody is in full pads."
For people who perhaps haven't watched a lot of Mays over the last two years, his spectacular hits are something to behold. He uses every inch of that 6'3" frame to drive into his opponents like a runaway train. However - this has often drawn criticism in some quarters. At times he will target the man instead of making a play for the ball. Here's what I wrote back in October having watched USC vs Notre Dame:
"With 5:25 left in the third quarter, Clausen throws a high floated deep pass from midfield to the left corner of the end zone for Golden Tate. He's in double coverage, but gets a yard on the corner back. Mays is in prime position to make a play for the ball, but instead he puts his head down and tries to take out the man. He never once looks for the ball, which he easily could've got a hand on to break it up. The result? A big touchdown.
It only got worse later on. Notre Dame are 4th and 10 with 37 seconds left. Clausen lays out a pass through the middle, which Mays is slow to react to. The cornerback makes the tackle, but because Mays is so late on the play he clumsily comes diving in after the receiver is on the turf, hitting him in the helmet and drawing a penalty. The home team couldn't take advantage, but it could easily have cost USC the game."
And here's what Chad Reuter at NFL Draft Scout said after the same game:
"Mays was often a step late to help his corners and multiple times he chose to lower a shoulder into a receiver instead of wrapping up and possibly forcing a fumble. The personal foul he picked up (his second of the half) for needlessly launching himself head-first into a receiver in the game's final series in regulation could have been a killer. Thankfully for Mays and his teammates, Clausen and his receivers couldn't connect in three throws to the end zone."
There's no doubting that the big hits will interest some. Mays won't change and we're seeing that at the Senior Bowl. But haven't we seen all this before? This is a chance for the SoCal product to prove the doubters wrong who question his read and react skills, the bad angles he consistently takes in coverage and the lack of playmaking production in a long career. Not many teams will pay top dollar for a guy who can't cover, is slow to react and is a liability to draw personal fouls. There's no such thing as a $30m big hit.