It's difficult to project just how good the Colorado football team can be on defense next year without seeing all the different pieces of the puzzle come together in the fall.
One new piece to that puzzle is particularly intriguing, however.
Linebacker Davion Taylor was one of 20 players to sign letters of intent with the Buffaloes last month, and the former Coahoma (Miss.) Community College standout is now on campus in his first semester at CU.
Projected to play the "Buff back" position that Ryan Moeller excelled at over the past two years, Taylor could be a key to the entire defense.
"He's extremely fast and powerful, but he can cover," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "That's what we're excited about when we get him here: how much can he cover? He might be able to do all phases of it because he's so fast."
In addition to his size (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) and speed, Taylor is intriguing because nobody — even Taylor — really knows how good he can be.
"I feel like I haven't finished developing," he said. "I know I can get way better than I am. I can get better and better. I'm just now finding my skill set. Every game I played last year, I surprised myself."
Prior to playing the past two years at Coahoma, Taylor had not played football since he was in junior high. For religious reasons, he did not participate in sports from Friday nights until Sunday, and therefore didn't play football at South Pike (Miss.) High School.
Instead, Taylor played basketball and participated in track and field. The itch to play football was strong, however, and Taylor got his mother's blessing to play at Coahoma.
He flashed his potential as a freshman — while catching the eye of CU coaches - and then busted loose as a sophomore this past season, with 87 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.
By December, 247Sports.com had Taylor rated as a four-star prospect and one of the top JUCO linebackers in the country. He had several scholarship offers and chose CU, where he's got three years to play two seasons.
"I've always wanted to play D-I ball," he said. "It's like a dream. I know I've got great coaches there and they're going to be able to get me to the best of my ability."
At the Buff - which is a safety/outside linebacker hybrid position — Moeller, who graduated, racked up 44 tackles, five pass breakups and six third-down stops last season. He didn't have any sacks, but did provide some pressure on the quarterback.
"I saw him make a ton of plays (on film), and I feel I can come and do the same thing, if not better," Taylor said.
While Moeller excelled, Taylor brings a different level of speed to the position — and to the defense, in general.
"He's almost faster than anybody on our team," MacIntyre said. "He can fly."
Taylor, who plans to run sprints for the CU track team, utilized that speed quite a bit at Coahoma.
"I was the fastest person on defense," he said. "Even when a running back was thinking he was about to break, I would run and hold him down.
"Since I'm running track, I think I can even get faster."
Taylor has added 35 pounds to his frame since high school and said, "The bigger I get, the faster I get."
Taylor's ability to excel at the Buff would allow senior Evan Worthington to stay at safety, where he is most comfortable. Worthington played Buff for the final two games last season when Moeller went down with a leg injury, and did well, but the Buffs weren't as good without both on the field.
"Keeping Evan in one spot and roaming and flying around and making plays on the ball in the air would help us," MacIntyre said.
If Taylor is able to generate a pass rush and provide solid pass coverage, he will help CU's front seven, as well. Taylor is confident he can help the defense in a variety of ways and is eager to be a part of the group.
"It makes me very excited because I love being free and I like making plays," he said. "I'm very excited."
As is the case with all new players, Taylor still has to prove he can play at this level and CU may not know what they've really got in him until September. There is plenty of excitement about Taylor's potential, however.
"He's an exceptional kid and an exceptional player," MacIntyre said.