PJ Fleck and staff have 2 kids from the state of Michigan in the 2023 recruiting class. They happen to be teammates Drew Viotto and Darius Taylor who are leading the Walled Lake Western Warriors to an undefeated season. Viotto is the quarterback of this 2023 class and Taylor is a running back.
Viotto is a former Eastern Michigan commit who Kirk Ciarrocca watched live, liked, offered and Viotto committed to the Gophers. This staff tends to bring in just 1 quarterback in each recruiting class and Viotto is your 2023 QB. He is a 6’4”, pro-style quarterback and is having a very good season leading the Warriors to a 5-0 start and are currently ranked #3 in Michigan’s division 3.
But this recruiting post isn’t intended to be about Viotto, this is about his backfield mate, Darius Taylor. It is Taylor who is absolutely exploding this season for Walled Lake Western. Through 5 games Taylor has 22 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,472 yards.
In week three the Warriors beat Lakeland 52-7 and their coach had this to say about his offense that day.
“Darius had a great game ... man it didn’t even feel like 284 (yards rushing), but that’s what you get when you get a kid that good,” Western coach Kory Cioroch said. “And Drew had a great game today, too. Really carried our offense. We were balanced and that’s where we want to be.”
Imagine just another ho-hum game by your running back who is averaging nearly 300 yards per game on the ground. He has 3 games this year where he rushed for 6 touchdowns in each game.
Darius Taylor (@dariustaylor_14) rushes for an UNREAL 438 yards and 6 touchdowns to lead Walled Lake Western past Milford 49-35 on homecoming. That’s the 3rd time Taylor has scored 6 TD in a game this season, not to mention a new single game rushing record. INSANE! @WLWAthletics pic.twitter.com/pLwEFFC8iM— Jason Lewis (@JasonLewis_TV) September 24, 2022
Taylor committed to Minnesota back in April. He had offers from Boston College, Iowa, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin. He is currently rated as the 10th best high school football prospect in the state of Michigan with 3-stars. But that star ranking is very likely to change.
A former slot receiver who switched to running back last season, Taylor seems to be thriving with his new position. The fear is that maybe he is thriving too much? Watching his highlight below you see a kid who is just playing at another level than his competition. His 2022 domination started in Week 1.
Facing South Lyon, a Division 2 semifinalist from last season, Taylor ran over, around, and through the Lions’ defense to the tune of 345 yards on 27 carries and six rushing touchdowns. Initially a back-and-forth battle, Western pulled comfortably away in the second half to earn a 47-26 Week 1 victory.
“(The offense) will definitely be more balanced, but my whole thing is that if you can’t stop something, we’re running it right at you,” Warriors coach Kory Cioroch said.
Picking up right where he left off a year ago, Taylor found the end zone on carries of 44, 2, 17, 82, 36, and 1 yards. He added 42 more on receptions to put him close to 400 yards from scrimmage for the game.
“They had no answer for him,” Cioroch said of Taylor, who has committed to the University of Minnesota for college ball. “(South Lyon) loaded the box, they pinched, and they jumped into gaps. There were one-on-one tackles and they couldn’t make them. If there is a better player than Darius Taylor in the state of Michigan, find me him.”
Is this a situation where he has such a fantastic senior year that the helmet schools come calling? Does Michigan get involved in Taylor’s recruitment and entice him with an offer and potentially NIL money? Or is this a Rashod Bateman type situation where Taylor is so excited to be a part of the PJ Fleck culture that even when the big, in-state school comes calling late in the recruiting game, he isn't interested? The continued recruitment of Taylor is absolutely going to be something worth watching.
Minnesota does have a lot going for it right now, especially as they feature one of the nation’s best running backs in Mohamed Ibrahim. There isn’t just speculation or empty promises of what a Gopher offense might look like with an elite feature back. They are showing it and Taylor will have every opportunity to be that next great Gopher running back. And being undefeated, dominating Michigan State on the road as they did, doesn’t hurt much either.
“I am very excited to see Minnesota having a successful season,” he said. “It feels really good to be going into college knowing the culture is producing great players and a winning atmosphere.”
Over the next few months it will be fun to watch Taylor and Viotto’s season play out for Walled Lake Western. Go Warriors and it will be fun to possibly see them both in the Gopher backfield down the road. They are facing a tough test tonight against 4-1 Davison.
Here are Taylor’s mid-season highlights for you to enjoy.