Utah football: Troy Taylor took a chance on himself, paving path to Utes

First Published      Last Updated Mar 22 2017 09:51 pm

Utah football » New coordinator has taken the long road to Pac-12.

For five months, the offensive coordinator of the Eastern Washington football team lived alone, sleeping on a mattress in the dining room of a mostly empty house.

The set-up was about convenience: Troy Taylor could reach the light switch and the thermostat from his bed, then walk into the kitchen when he was hungry. Other aspects of life in Cheney, Wash., were more complicated.

"I was trying to steal my neighbor's Wi-Fi, but that didn't work out," he said. "That was pretty depressing."

Eight hundred miles away, his wife and three children were living in a house that wasn't selling — a problem, since Taylor had taken less money to move back into the college coaching ranks after 13 years building a Sacramento high school powerhouse.

This year, Taylor, 48, will overhaul Utah's offense with an up-tempo scheme and fearless play calls. But no play he's drawn on his volumes of legal pads will be bolder than the gamble he took on himself and the offensive system he believes in.

"I'm just going to try to be me, because that's the only chance I really have to be successful," he said. "I'm going to bring my energy, positive enthusiasm, cutting it loose, trying to build quarterbacks' confidence and being dynamic. Hopefully it's good enough."

Building a philosophy

Here are a few things others observe about Troy Taylor: He's a doodler, constantly scribbling and drawing up plays on legal pads. He'll talk football with anyone; 20 minutes into this interview, he is showing play diagrams in his office, drawing on his TV with erasable marker. He's not one to rip players in practice: He prefers the positive, build-you-up aspect of coaching.

"At the end of the day, we're all coaches, and we have a bit of fire to us," said Utah running backs coach Kiel McDonald, who coached with Taylor at Eastern Washington last year. "But he's positive. He wants everything to be positive. He's not one of those coaches who goes old school, dog cussing you a little bit."

These were all characteristics Taylor developed over a career that spans more than two decades, finding the best version of himself.

As Taylor explains his offense, it's apparent that everything in it has a purpose. The quarterback progressions are designed to allow the passer to look at every receiver in one sweep of the head, and motion to one side of the field helps shift defenses away from where the progression is going. The tempo is designed to wear defenses out. The option routes are designed to give receivers the ability to find open spaces.

Taylor didn't learn that at Cal or Colorado, where he says he copied plays he liked and tried to emulate others. It wasn't until he was at Folsom High in Sacramento, after he and his wife decided to settle down, that he started putting thought into what he wanted in his own system.

That isn't to say he didn't borrow concepts: He visited schools across the West to observe practices of coaches he admired — Chris Petersen at Washington, Chip Kelly at Oregon, Mike Leach at Washington State. He incorporated their schemes but built a cohesive offense that was his own.

"I had to figure out a way to be successful with not necessarily the most talented guys," he said. "I think it drew out my best ability to coach. Then we started getting better talent, and that changed. I believed things when I was younger that I take a completely different view now. That's experience."

Under his guidance and along with his co-head coach, Kris Richardson, Folsom became known for its dynamic passing attack, shattering state and national records with plays called in 13 seconds or less. Between 2012 and 2015, Folsom went 58-3.

His success was noticed in the college ranks.

"Even before he came to Eastern Washington, I had known Troy for two or three years and knew the mind he has," McDonald said. "I believe his confidence comes from years of learning and years of seeing his scheme work. He's in that one place for years and years, and it just allowed him to continue to work and process through what he wanted to do."

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