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Taylor didn’t want to miss practice time and fall behind Jarrard Tarrant, Mario Edwards and Isaiah Johnson in the competition for two starting spots at safety.

“You could tell he was hungry to get back on the field,” said senior linebacker Brad Jefferson. “He’s been doing extra work to get his injury better. You saw a sense of urgency there.”

Coach Paul Johnson said Monday Taylor has made a strong return after missing most of last season.

“I don’t think it’s been hard for him,” Johnson said. “He looks good to me.”

Taylor looked like an emerging star as a lanky defensive back in 2008. He started only three games but ranked second on the team with 69 tackles. He forced two fumbles and had an interception. One of his highlights was a team-leading nine tackles in the Yellow Jackets’ win at Georgia.

Taylor added another interception while starting three games in 2009 before his diagnosis.

New defensive coordinator Al Groh, the former Virginia coach, said Taylor hasn’t backed down from the competition.

“He’s certainly not at any disadvantage,” Groh said.

There have been no limitations on Taylor following the surgery.

“Certainly all the outward indications, all the things that we see, he’s very comfortable with himself and his circumstances,” Groh said. “He definitely feels as if that’s behind him.”

Taylor said he is “very much” looking forward to having more force behind his hits this season as the defense adjusts to Groh’s 3-4 scheme.

“I’m just excited about our defense as a whole and watching guys develop,” said Taylor, who added he likes the new aggressive scheme.

“That’s what I like to do, just chase the ball,” he said. “As a defense that’s what coach Groh instills, to compete on every play and chase the ball until the whistle is blown. That’s our new mentality, just flying around and playing fast and physical football.”

NOTES: Jefferson and senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt have been named team captains. “I think they understand what the role is and what they need to do,” Johnson said. “The older guys need to be leaders. It’s always a work in progress.” … Johnson said running back Chris Jackson, who transferred from Alabama, will miss the season with a partially torn Achilles.