By Tony Castricone
August 6, 2018
As this Auburn game gets closer and closer, it seems that are a couple of position match-ups that will be really interesting to watch develop and that may even determine the outcome of the game.
One would be the strength of Auburn’s defensive front against Washington’s offensive line. The other would be Auburn’s passing game against the Huskies’ extraordinarily deep and talented secondary.
According to Athlon preseason magazine, Washington has two first team All-Americans in their defensive backfield in cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp.
I had a chance to catch up with Rapp after Sunday’s third practice of the fall.
Tony Castricone: What it been like to see your name on All-American lists?
Taylor Rapp: It’s whatever. You know, I don’t really pay attention to that stuff. It doesn’t really mean anything. Especially in the preseason. I mean, it’s cool to have. But it really doesn’t mean anything because you haven’t done anything during the season. Coach Pete always talks about preseason rankings as a team, when you haven’t done anything. Last year, our preseason motto was “prove it.” It’s cool to have, but I try not to pay attention to it because it doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve still got a whole season to play. I still have to prove myself.
TC: How is this year different than previous years for you?
TR: The biggest thing is the game has slowed down so much for me. I just feel so comfortable out there. Whereas my freshman year, even last year, if I’m out there on defense, and if I have a coverage, I don’t feel as comfortable as I do now. The start of fall camp, I’m just out here feeling comfortable, playing fast, the game’s slowing down so much for me. I’m just trying to make plays as much as possible. And that different feeling I think is just the biggest thing for me coming into this year. It feels good, too.
TC: You were talking earlier (to other members of the media) about trying to get more takeaways. Is this a trick to it? Do you have to see the game slower in order to?
TR: Yeah. I think that’s one part of it. Like, you know our DB room is a lot of veterans. Third year guys. Fourth year guys. And so, just being able to have those guys in the secondary. The game being slowed down for them. They’re able to make sure they’re doing their assignment correctly, but also be ball aware. If a ball carrier is holding it loose, you know, take a punch at it. That’s something that we’re able to do, because the game is slowing down for us. Whereas, the game my freshman year, the game was going by so fast, all I was focusing on was my job. Just trying to make a tackle. But now the game has slowed down so much, you’re able to take it to the next level and try to be ball aware and try to create those turnovers. That’s a big emphasis for this defense, Coach Lake, all the defensive coaches have made this year. Try to be more ball aware, and try to create more turnovers. Because turnovers, as everyone knows, they change games.
TC: I know you have to take it one day at a time, one workout at a time. But I just wonder, does Auburn feel like a unique opportunity? Because it’s not every year that you get to play a big non-conference game.
TR: Especially for the first game. Since I’ve been here, our first games have been Rutgers and Rutgers. We were here, and then over there. So any time you can start the season playing a top, whatever, ten team… you know that’s just preseason, but they’re a special team, obviously. Anytime you can start a season playing an opponent like that, I think it’s very exciting. Especially Auburn. Playing an SEC school, I’ve dreamed, playing high school football, middle school football, youth football, watching SEC football on college football Saturdays, and so being able to play them the first game of my junior year, that’s amazing.
TC: When you’re out there next to JoJo and the cornerbacks and everything, who’s out there really impressing you by the way they’re dialed in?
TR: I mean, really, I think everyone in the DB room, they’ve been balling out. I can’t even name (just) one. Austin Joyner, he’s been having an amazing start to camp. Bryon Murphy, he’s been locking receivers down. Myles Bryant, he’s always a high IQ guy, quick twitch guy, smart guy, makes a lot of plays. Even JoJo, he’s just a smart, savvy veteran. J-Mill (Jordan Miller) has been looking good out there, too. Coming back from injury. That’s been exciting to get back on the field with him.
TC: What are you studying?
TR: Business. Finance. I just got into the business school last fall during the season.
TC: Why? Where’s your interest in that come from?
TR: Honestly, my parents both got their M.B.A.s, so they were pushing for it. As I got to college as a freshman, I didn’t really know what I wanted to take. So I just kind of started taking business pre-reqs, I took one of the pre-reqs and it really intrigued me. I really like working with money and finance. You know, it’s not just like algebra. y = mx + b. It’s actually numbers with money signs in front of it. (Laughs) I really like that. Investing has always kind of intrigued me. I like that kind of stuff.
TC: That’s a hard school to get into, isn’t it?
TR: Yeah, Foster is super hard. I didn’t think I was going to get in. It felt so good. I got the news, I got the email the night before… we were in the hotels about to play UCLA. And I almost didn’t even want to check, because I didn’t want to see that I didn’t get in and then (would have) to play the UCLA game. So, I was like… should I check? And I ended up checking that night. I got in. I was super happy. We played UCLA the next day. But I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t get in. (Laughs)