CHARLOTTESVILLE — The tweet was posted at 8:42 p.m. Friday during the first half of Virginia’s football game with Miami:
“Noah Taylor is easily one of the most improved players in the COUNTRY this year, the growth from last season to this season is amazing to see.”
It came from one of Taylor’s former UVa teammates, Chris Peace, an outside linebacker in his rookie season with the New York Giants.
Peace hasn’t been the only person to take notice.
Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound outside linebacker from Silver Spring, Maryland, got his second start of the season Friday night and finished with six tackles, including 2½ for loss and one sack.
His four sacks in six games rank second on the team behind senior Jordan Mack, who has six, and Taylor is the only UVa player who has blocked a kick
“Experience is the key; last year I didn’t get a lot of that,” said Taylor, who saw action in nine of 13 games in 2018 but did not register a tackle. “This year, I’ve been getting a lot more [snaps], which has definitely helped me a lot.
“I have a goal I’m trying to achieve as one of the best pass rushers in the ACC.”
After his early graduation at the Avalon School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he was coached by former Cavalier Tyree Spinner, Taylor enrolled at UVa in time to take part in spring practice in 2018. Listed at 200 pounds when he signed, he said he has gained 20 pounds since last year and eats “anything I see.”
Taylor’s decision to enroll at Virginia at mid-year may have limited a recruiting field that included Indiana, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Temple among the schools that had made offers. He was embraced quickly by another Silver Spring resident, Charles Snowden, who has a team-high seven quarterback hurries this year.
“When I first got here, he accepted me like I was his brother,” Taylor said. “He taught me everything I needed to know on the field, off the field, in the classroom and social life ever since Day One.”
Taylor said there might have been 20 people in his graduating class at Avalon.
He was upbeat after a 17-9 loss at Miami, the Cavaliers’ second straight defeat after going 4-0 to open the season.
“If anything, I’d like to say it’s encouraging,” he said. “I’d say it’s encouraging because now we know what we have to work on. If we’d have won those two games, we might have thought that we’d made it but now there’s so much more that needs to be done.”
Taylor’s home away from Charlottesville is with Spinner, a 2001 Virginia football signee out of Paul VI High School in Fairfax. Spinner is the younger brother of former UVa quarterback Bryson Spinner.
“I’ve known Noah since he was in the eighth grade,” said Tyree Spinner, who first coached Taylor in the ninth and 10th grade at a public school in Rockville. “When I left to come to Avalon School, he came with me.”
The Spinners were at Virginia during the coaching transition from George Welsh to Al Groh and both transferred to Richmond for reasons mostly pertaining to the football program, but there was no hesitation in acquainting Taylor with their old school.
“Noah was always the type of person who wanted a challenge,” Tyree Spinner said. “He wanted to be pushed hard. He wanted the hardest assignment on defense, so when I went to take him to camp in Bronco’s first year, the way that their one-day mini-camps were run, Noah embraced the challenge.
“Then, I had a chance to sit down with [Mendenhall,] and he was by far the smartest man I’ve ever spoken to as far as football. Noah and I looked at each other and we both agreed that Virginia was the best spot for him.”
At 6 foot 5 and 215 pounds, Taylor is the leanest of the six players listed at the three UVa linebacker spots.
“Every year he comes home, our goal is to put on 10 pounds before he goes back,” Spinner said. “Hopefully, by the time he leaves Virginia, he’ll be a good 235 or 240 so that he can really dominate. We’d be talking about a whole different kind of animal.”
Taylor’s success has helped the Spinner family reconnect with UVa after a lengthy split.
“It’s been a wonderful experience because when I was previously there under the Al Groh regime, things didn’t go so well,” Tyree said. “I loved Charlottesville as a city, I loved the University of Virginia as a school, so now, when I go back, I’ve got a completely different and more mature outlook.”