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Senior instructor: Taylor growing as secondary leader

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Jason Taylor II vs. Kansas

Oklahoma State returns in the No. 1 spot for the second week in a row.

Amid whistles, Jason Taylor II witnessed a mistake.

During practice, a young OSU linebacker blew his assignment.

Taylor, a fifth-year safety, didn’t erupt. He didn’t abuse his seniority by belittling his teammate for the screw-up.

In a calm demonstration, Taylor displayed his tact and leadership skills, correcting the linebacker’s technique.

The impromptu teaching moment served as an example of his growth. The days of Taylor, a former special teams member cast in the shadows of his teammates, are over.

His career to this point is highlighted by game-changing blocked punts, lengthy returns for touchdowns and fumble recoveries.

Now, his abilities are no secret.

His starting backfield allies are gone. Safeties like Tre Sterling and Kolby Harvell-Peel are NFL-bound. The rest of the starters found new schools or exhausted eligibility.

Taylor is the only returning starter in OSU’s secondary. His teammates are looking for him to lead.

“It’s really a brand-new feel,” Taylor said. “This year, we’re already moving way further than I thought we would be.”

Taylor, from Oklahoma City, plans to use a leadership style focused on a vocal/leading by example hybrid.

“I’m vocal but I’m not as vocal as Kolby,” he said. “But I’m not as quiet as Malcolm (Rodriguez). So, it’s a mix.”

The simple gesture of assisting a young teammate didn’t go unnoticed. Defensive end Sione Asi has watched Taylor's progression.

“That just shows the experience that Jason has and the respect everyone has for him to just be able to come up,” Asi said. “The linebackers are willing to listen to him and tell him, ‘Alright, I’ll fix it next time.’ He’s a huge help and I’m glad he came back.”

Taylor learned from Rodriguez’s relentless work ethic. No matter his role, the work must show.

“I don’t really look at it differently,” Taylor said. “Even before I was starting, I came every day and tried to play like I was a starter.”

Years of experience led Taylor to this opportunity. He spent hundreds of hours observing his teammates. Through four years in Stillwater, he’s learned what it takes to excel.

Inserted into games because of injury, he earned his role.

“He’s played a lot so now he needs to grab the reins and give himself a chance to really perform at a high level and lead for the other guys in the secondary,” coach Mike Gundy said.

This spring, Taylor’s time is here.

“I think we’re pretty far,” he said. “I know we have a lot to work on. Things are just now getting a roll as fast as they should be. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com