Willie Taggart was right.
When asked to predict Aaron Lynch's future with the San Francisco 49ers back in July, the University of South Florida coach called his shot, so to speak.
"If there's any team I wanted him to be drafted by, it was the 49ers," Lynch's college coach told 49ers.com. "It is a great place for Aaron to grow… He needed to be in a veteran locker room with a coach who understands the guys and a coach that is demanding the guys do it the right way. I just think the sky's the limit for him."
Fast forward to early October, and Lynch, a fifth-round draft pick, has earned a significant role as the team's nickel pass rusher.
"I've definitely matured," Lynch said on Wednesday. "I wouldn't say my character was bad like it was put out there to be, but the people that know me, know that."
Lynch credited his veteran teammates for helping him develop in his first season with the 49ers. The former USF defensive end was a transfer from Notre Dame. Lynch was always considered to be a gifted talent, he just needed the right environment to reach his untapped potential.
The outside linebacker has become one of the team's most disruptive defenders with limited playing time.
Though Lynch has recorded just two tackles, he has been credited with 14 quarterback pressures by the team's defensive coaches. This total ranks second on the 49ers behind defensive tackle Justin Smith.
Lynch, a 6-foot-5 pass-rusher, has used the last month to trim down his body fat while maintaining his muscle mass. Lynch said he's been working with the 49ers strength and conditioning staff, as well as the team's nutritionist.
Lynch has traded hearty steak dinners for lighter chicken options.
And when he's not watching his food intake, the rookie is studying the preparation habits of San Francisco's veteran-laden roster.
"I look at everybody," he said. "I think you take everything from everybody. You feed off everybody.
"You feed off guys who are doing well, and our defense is doing well."
Lynch rattled off practically every tenured player on the team as a source of inspiration.
Taggart, across the country in Tampa, Fla., is surely proud of his player for adapting to the pro game and finding his way in the NFL.
"I've got great role models around me," Lynch said. "When you come in as a rookie, you have no choice but to look up to these guys. You feed off what they do. You're not going to be running around here with your head chopped off. You're going to do the same things they're doing because you want to gain their trust and do the same things they're doing. They're successful. Everybody."