Hard work has UVA's Taylor in mix at OLB

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- After appearing in nine games as a true freshman at Virginia last football season, outside linebacker Noah Taylor returned to school ready to work.

"After he came back from the bowl game to start our off-season workouts, he was the best-conditioned player on the team," UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall recalled this week. "Jumped two strength levels and has never looked back, and nobody's caught him."

Taylor saw most of his time last year on special teams. This summer, the 6-5 Taylor is competing with junior Matt Gahm to fill the vacancy left by Chris Peace at outside linebacker on UVA's first-team defense.

"Usually I take about three things into practice a day that I can just work on better, so I can increase my role and help the team," Taylor said.

Taylor originally enrolled at UVA in January of 2018, giving him a head-start on his college career that spring. Taylor says he's gained 20 pounds since arriving at school, which has helped him become a better run defender this preseason.

"Coming in early helped a lot," he said. "I was ahead of everybody and I got an extra step in the weight room and learned the playbook faster."

Junior Charles Snowden is the incumbent starter at the other outside linebacker in UVA's base 3-4 defense. He smiled widely when asked this week about how much improvement he's seen from Taylor.

"Nobody on the team loves the game of football more than Noah. He comes in day-in, day-out just trying to be the best he can be," Snowden said. "In his free time he's in here watching film. It seems like every day he brings out a new pass rush move. I'm like, 'Where'd you learn that?' He's like, 'Oh, I saw it on film from so-and-so.'"

"His passion, he wears it on his sleeve," Snowden added. "And he's come a long way."

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