It seems the early response to Utah’s new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor has been positive. The only real knock so far seems to be that his resume is a little light on experience, with one year as the quarterback coach at Eastern Washington University and six years as the head coach of Folsom (Calif.) High School in two separate tenures. In addition to coaching football, Taylor played quarterback at Cal and in the NFL for the New York Jets. Taylor differs from Utah’s prior offensive coordinator hires in the Pac-12 (outside of Brian Johnson), who all had FBS offensive coordinator experience before getting the position at Utah. This hire may seem a bit unconventional, but here are a few reasons to really like this hire.
This move screams Utah is getting serious about the passing game. In 2016, I think Utah wanted to emphasize the passing game more, but they were not always successful. With Taylor, Utah is getting a coach with a track record of developing quarterbacks and high-octane passing offenses. He has produced successful offenses and quarterbacks everywhere he has been. Getting a coach with a proven track record of quarterback development was a must for Utah’s offense to take the next step in the Pac-12. This quote really epitomizes Taylor’s offensive philosophy, and what the Utah offense has needed.
“We will have an attacking style of offense that stretches the field and the defense in every way,” Taylor said. “Creating success for the quarterback will be our utmost priority. If your QB plays well, you have a great chance of winning. Therefore, the development of his fundamentals and skill set are vital. However, it is just as imperative to have an offensive system that is both dynamic and user friendly. That has been the driving force in my offensive philosophy and I am excited to bring this to the University of Utah.”
Taylor’s “attacking style of offense” at Eastern Washington led to sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud setting an NCAA FCS single-season record by passing for 5,160 yards, in addition to tossing 48 touchdowns. After his record-setting season, Gubrud was named the 2016 FCS Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. EWU scored 45 points on the Washington State Cougars in Pullman. The only other team to score that many points on the Cougars was the Washington Huskies, who played in the College Football Playoff and had the top offense in the Pac-12. The Folsom High School offenses he coached also broke recorded for passing in each of Taylor’s final four seasons. His offense also broke the state record for points scored. In addition to coaching Folsom, Taylor founded The Passing Academy, a camp for elite high school quarterbacks.
Pac-12 Offensive Player of Year Washington quarterback Jake Browning is one of Taylor’s pupils from Folsom. Browning, the No. 5 pocket passer (247Sports Composite) in the 2015 recruiting class, was a record-setting quarterback in high school under Taylor before leading Washington to the College Football Playoff as a sophomore.
The offense Utah will be getting is a wide-open, hurry-up spread offense. Taylor told Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune that his offensive influences are “Bill Walsh and Mike Leach.” The Utah offense will look quite different next year. “When Kyle hired me, it was with the understanding that I'm going to do what I do, and teach the system I've evolved,” said Taylor. Do not expect to see a slow, grind it out offense; Utah will be running an offense in the vein of Eastern Washington, a high-octane spread offense. Taylor is being brought in because he knows how to develop quarterbacks and produce potent offenses that center around great quarterback play. Pairing a productive offense with Utah’s stellar defense is a recipe for success.
Watching film of Eastern Washington, it is clear Utah is getting a bright offensive mind. He will get the ball to playmakers in space. EWU attacked all parts of the field, the sides, the middle, deep, you name it. There will likely be more five wide receiver sets with Taylor calling the plays. I also expect to see screens and jet sweeps more. I would not be surprised if he mixes in more running at Utah because of the talent Utah has at running back and on the offensive line. In addition to talent at running backs, Taylor has a lot of talent to work with at wide receiver next year as well.
Colleges more and more are turning to the high school ranks for both coaching and recruiting. In this article by Paul Myerberg for USA Today Sports, Myerberg writes why high school coaches have become so popular with FBS programs. With their high school experience, they can be assets in recruiting, and private high school coaches have to begin recruiting players when they are still in junior high. The article quotes former Texas high school coach and current SMU head coach Chad Morris:
"High school coaches have to adapt each season to the personnel they have," Morris said. "Each year presents new challenges. But perhaps most importantly of all, they understand that it is more about relationships than Xs & Os."
Relationships with players and player development is important at every level of football, but even more so in high school than at other levels. Coaches also have to be more adaptable in high school, fitting their schemes to their players more so than at other levels. Coaches like Morris, Art Briles, and Gus Malzahn started coaching in high school before bringing their explosive offenses to the FBS level.
One other thing to like about Taylor is his connection to northern California. Utah has been recruiting more at high schools like Sacramento (Calif.) Grant Union, where former Utah running back Devontae Booker went. Utah also landed offensive tackle Darrin Paulo in the 2015 class, and they have 2017 offensive guard Orlando Umana committed. With his ties in California, Taylor will likely help Utah to continue their strong recruiting in the Golden State. Other Power 5 programs have brought in high school coaches specifically to help recruit specific areas, and it has worked. Michigan for example hired Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge to be the player personnel director. Michigan landed the 2016 No. 1 overall recruit in defensive tackle Rashan Gary, who played at Paramus Catholic. In 2017, Michigan has also secured a commitment from four-star linebacker Drew Singleton from Paramus Catholic. (Jabrill Peppers also played a Paramus Catholic.)
With no strong ties to any college programs, Utah could have a chance to hang onto Taylor for years to come if he proves to be successful. This move is bold, and fortune favors the bold. This is a move that could pay huge dividends for Utah in 2017 and beyond.