Alontae Taylor came to Tennessee from Coffee County as a promising Four-Star athlete ranked in the top 150 high school players in the country. Despite being listed as a probable wide receiver, Coach Pruitt saw Taylor as being on the defensive side of the ball and placed him at cornerback.
Taylor showed some success his first year, teaming up with fellow freshman, Bryce Thompson to form a formidable duo. Becoming the first true freshman to start a season opener since Cam Sutton, Alontae played in all 12 games, starting nine of them. He finished the year with 40 tackles (one for a loss), two forced fumbles, two pass breakups, and a blocked kick. Not bad for a kid coming in as potential receiver material. His impressive crusade in the defensive backfield set the stage for a sophomore year full of high expectations.
However, things don’t always go according to plan. In the first game of the 2019 season, Taylor and the Tennessee defense were unexpectedly abused and lost to a lesser opponent, Georgia State. To make things worse, the next week Tennessee was leading BYU with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game when Alontae gave up a heartbreaking completion. This ultimately allowed the Cougars to kick a tying field goal. BYU went on to win the game and many in Vol Nation felt Taylor was to blame. He would lose his starting position.
Despite the scrutiny he faced, Alontae refused to lose hope. With his faith in God, he was persistent in getting through this dark time and was rewarded with regaining his starting position. He would go on to become a catalyst in Tennessee’s six-game win streak to end the 2019 season.
Fast forward to 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SEC is now playing a truncated season of ten games with a conference-only schedule. The Vols faced South Carolina in the first game and Taylor was back in his CB position. After the Gamecocks marched down the field for a touchdown in their opening drive, Taylor helped his teammates battle back to tie the game at 7. After Henry To’oto’o intercepted the ball on SC’s next possession and was about to be forced out of bounds as he dove toward the goal line, he received two crucial blocks from none other than Alontae Taylor. This allowed Henry T. to make the go-ahead score. Taylor continued to make key plays as Tennessee went on to win 31-27. He finished with 5.5 tackles in possibly the most impressive performance thus far in his college career. With more challenges and successes ahead for Alontae, he could possibly see his name on an NFL roster one day and can take pride in knowing he pulled through that dark time in 2019.