‘I feel stronger:’ How a new mentality and a private chef are helping Hurricanes’ Leonard Taylor III for his junior year

CORAL GABLES — When Leonard Taylor III visits the offices of his agency, First Round Management, he leaves with a smorgasbord.
The third-year Hurricanes defensive lineman hired a private chef to prepare meals for him, and he’s quickly reaping the benefits.
“I feel stronger,” Taylor said. “It got me bigger.”
Taylor said he has three or four daily meals prepared for him. Previously, he said he would eat what was served in the players’ lounge before practice like bagels, eggs and tater tots. Now he has portioned, prepared meals with eggs, sausage and orange juice.
The meals have been helping so far. Taylor said he currently weighs 310 pounds after playing at between 275 and 295 pounds last season. After missing spring practice with a shoulder injury, he said he is close to being in the playing shape he would like.
“I’ve just got to get back in a little bit more shape, but it’s been great,” Taylor said. “My weight’s been doing good. I feel a lot stronger. I feel a lot faster.”
Taylor was a five-star prospect coming out of Miami Palmetto High, and he has shown that talent in bursts at UM. Last year, he had 24 tackles and three sacks. He tied for the team lead with 10.5 tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus gave him high marks for his performance last season: a 87.3 defensive grade (second-best on the team) with a team-leading 85.5 pass-rushing grade. He also had a 79.5 run-defense grade.
Although he was successful on the field, Taylor needed some guidance off the field last season. He said last year he had a meeting with Mario Cristobal, assistant coaches and his mother. Taylor said he learned he needed to “grow up.”
This year, defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said Taylor’s mentality has been great.
“His mentality’s different,” Salave’a said. “He’s also coming in, he’s one of the guys the last few months that has really turned it on, as far as the extra work, the extra film. Those are things we’ve been trying to get … going. He’s really, truly taken ownership of the next step in his preparation.”
He is also making an impression on his teammates. Branson Deen, a defensive tackle who transferred from Purdue to Miami, said Taylor is “really seasoned” for a player entering his third year of college football.
“He plays like a vet,” Deen said. “I think a lot of the time, he kind of looks at me for the lead, and he just goes out there and balls. But it’s been great playing with him and working together with him.”
With Taylor at the center of the defensive line, the talented tackle said he thinks he and his teammates can lead UM’s defensive line to great things.
“I feel we can be great,” Taylor said. “We can be the best D-line in the ACC, basically. We’ve just got to keep working, put our head down every snap and just dominate.”

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