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Can Lorenzo Taliaferro Be Gary Kubiak's Next Star?

Posted May 23, 2014

Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro could have a big role early on this season.

What do Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Steve Slaton and Arian Foster all have in common?

They played under Gary Kubiak, rushed for 1,000 yards in a season at least once and were all drafted (or undrafted) in the third round or later.

It didn't take them long either. Davis, Gary, Anderson and Slaton all topped 1,000 yards in their first NFL season.

Can Ravens fourth-round rookie running back Lorenzo Taliferro be the next name on that list?

“A lot of the guys [Kubiak] had didn’t really have big names. I think that says a lot,” Taliaferro said after his first rookie camp.

“I didn’t come from a big school. Even though I went fourth round, I still don’t have a big name at all. I’m not saying that those guys weren’t talented, because talent is hidden all around the NFL. But I think it shows that good coaching and players that are willing to work will get it done.”

Taliaferro hasn’t had an easy time reaching the NFL. Expecting offers from big-time football colleges, he went from a Virginia high school standout to a junior college, Lackawanna College, in Pennsylvania. He finally got a chance to showcase his talents as a senior at small-school Coastal Carolina.

Once there, he had a monster 2013 season, shattering school records. Taliaferro was the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Year with 1,729 rushing yards, 32 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns.

Now it’s a question of whether he can transfer that to the NFL, and how quickly.

Taliaferro stood out amongst his peers when faced with stiffer college competition at the Senior Bowl. He made a strong first impression in Saturday’s Ravens rookie camp practice, hauling in several short passes without any drops, and even one wheel route down the right sideline. He had good burst and ran hard through the line.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Taliaferro did a nice job of picking up the aiming points in the run scheme and then making the appropriate reads.

“I thought Lorenzo was very smooth running the ball,” Harbaugh said.

“He looks like he is a big guy, a downhill guy. I was very impressed with what kind of shape he is in. There is not an ounce of fat on him, and he is 230 pounds. [He is] very good at pass protection. I thought he showed excellent hands and get-away ability on his routes when he went against a linebacker. So [it was] all good that way.”

Taliaferro should fit right into Kubiak’s system, which went a long way in producing 1,000-yard rushers in years past. The rookie is versed in zone run concepts.

“I think I fit well,” Taliaferro said. “It’s a one-cut, downhill type of system for the running game. That’s what I like doing. I don’t like playing games at the line of scrimmage or trying to run outside. I like sticking my foot in the ground and going downhill.”

The Ravens may need Taliaferro to help on offense this season, which isn’t often asked of fourth-round picks. Last year’s fourth-round pick, fullback Kyle Juszczyk was targeted by just one pass all year and spent the season on special teams.

With running back Bernard Pierce coming off shoulder surgery that could limit him until training camp, Taliaferro will get plenty of reps this summer. And, considering starting running back Ray Rice may face a suspension at the start of the season, Taliaferro could be the No. 2 back.

Taliaferro didn’t put much stock in his increased opportunity, however.

“Nothing is given. I’m going to continue to work,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to get overwhelmed.”

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