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Thursday, September 24,2009

Hot Ohio receiver gears up for Vols

By Athens NEWS Staff

Taylor Price has attracted plenty of attention this year.

He caught the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion against North Texas. He torched Cal Poly's defensive secondary for 143 yards and a touchdown. Whenever Ohio has needed a big play in a clutch situation, the senior wide receiver from Hilliard has been the guy.

Now Price will look to take his game to another level.

In Ohio's (2-1) game Saturday against Tennessee (1-2), Price will have the chance to test his abilities against a rare talent.

Price will line up against Tennessee's junior safety Eric Berry, who is widely regarded as the nation's top defensive back and a likely top-10 NFL Draft pick.

"Anytime you get a chance to go up against one of the best in the country at a position that's going to be guarding you, you want see what you got," Price said. You want to see how you stack up against them, and I'm looking forward to that challenge."

Although Berry plays safety and will likely not guard Price on every play, each time Ohio looks downfield or tries to throw across the middle, Price can count on Berry's presence.

The Volunteers' junior safety has 13 interceptions in his college career, the most of anybody over that three-year span, and he has also developed a reputation as one of the nation's hardest hitters.

Price has built a strong resume for himself, too. Already a known commodity around the Mid-American Conference, Price drew some national attention when he was selected to the pre-season watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver.

He has lived up to expectations through three games by putting up 247 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and now a strong showing against Tennessee could give Price some more looks from around the country.

"Naturally, when you hear about the caliber of players that Tennessee has, and the schemes they utilize, you're excited to see how you match up," Ohio wide-receivers coach Dwayne Dixon said.

In the Bobcats' 28-10 victory against Cal Poly last week, Price and the offense had the breakout game they wanted and needed. The offense consistently moved the ball down the field, and Price had a key role in that success as he hauled in a game-high nine receptions.

Price appeared to be on the same page with quarterback Theo Scott, who threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns in his first game as the clear starter.

"I was waiting for one of these games, kind of a breakout game, to get a lot of catches, get in the end zone, put up some yards," Price said. "Obviously we need that confidence to go to (Tennessee) and execute."

Things likely will not be so easy this week, as Price knows the Bobcats clearly have a much tougher opponent in Tennessee.

In addition to scheming for Berry in the secondary, Ohio has to deal with a strong defensive front, which can bring an aggressive pass rush. The Volunteers are ranked as the nation's fifth best defense, as Tennessee gives up an average of 197 yards per game - a total that includes last week's game against the explosive Florida offense.

"This could be the best defensive team that we've faced since I've been at Ohio," coach Frank Solich said.

If Price has an impressive performance against Tennessee, he could grab the attention of some NFL

scouts. He is not a definite pick for next year's draft; various scouting services have him predicted as a late round pick or free agent signing. But having a big day against Berry could get him on the draft board of some NFL teams.

Last year Ohio safety Mike Mitchell played well against Ohio State and ended up becoming the surprise of the draft when the Oakland Raiders took him in the second round. Just as the Ohio State game gave Mitchell a national audience, Saturday's contest against Tennessee has the potential to

significantly improve Price's draft stock.

As Price looks for a strong showing against Berry and the Volunteers' secondary, he will have to deal with playing in front of one of the most imposing crowds in college football; Tennessee's Neyland Stadium averages about 105,000 fans each game.

"It's just a whole other dimension," Price said. "It's just a different type of atmosphere, and you got to come ready... You got to live up, or you're going to get beat, and that's what we're faced against this week."

Price is no stranger to playing in front of big crowds. During his time with the Bobcats, He has played on the road against Ohio State and Virginia Tech. He led the team in receiving yards in last year's game against the Buckeyes.

With another chance to play on the national stage, probably for the final time of his college career (barring a bowl invitation for the Bobcats), Price knows he cannot afford to waste the opportunity.

"It is my last go-round," Price said. "Coming to Tennessee is a big-time opponent, and I want to put my stamp on it, and make all the plays I can, and go out of this thing on top."


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