Troy Taylor is just another in a long line of Utah offensive coordinators, but he will have the distinction of helping the Utes save the season that produced the school's first Pac-12 South championship.
Taylor became Sacramento State’s head coach Monday, returning to his hometown and the area where he was a highly successful high school coach. Ute coach Kyle Whittingham will be hiring (or promoting) a ninth play-caller in 11 seasons since Andy Ludwig’s departure after the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
After a difficult mid-September stretch, Taylor was credited with reviving Utah’s offense in October and then helping steer the Utes to the Pac-12 South championship in November after losing quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss to injuries. “He prepared me really well,” said quarterback Jason Shelley, who led the Utes to conference wins over Oregon and Colorado, plus a defeat of BYU and a loss to Washington in the Pac-12 title game. “He got me right. Practice was really smooth; he adjusted the offense for me and we made the most of it.”
Offensive line coach Jim Harding, who worked as co-coordinator with Aaron Roderick in 2015-16, is considered a candidate to succeed Taylor in what Whittingham said would be “a thorough search.”
Whittingham named Harding the interim coordinator, but said he hopes Taylor can direct the offense in the Dec. 31 Holiday Bowl vs. Northwestern – “if he can get things ironed out and get back here in a reasonable amount of time.”
The Utes also have uncertainty about their quarterbacking in San Diego, with Whittingham sounding less confident Monday about Huntley's being medically cleared to prepare for the game.
Utah paid Taylor a $525,000 salary in 2018, plus an $87,500 bonus, according to USA Today. The average income for FCS is considerably lower. Sacramento State is not among the Big Sky Conference’s top-funded programs. Yet Whittingham said, “From my understanding, they put together a very attractive, long-term contract.”
The Hornets will open the season Sept. 6 at Arizona State; they will host Weber State in a Big Sky game Nov. 2.
“My family and I are excited to move back home and take on the challenge of building the Hornet football program into something the city can be very proud of,” Taylor said in a statement. He will be introduced at a news conference in Sacramento later this week.
Utah lost two assistants last week, with defensive line coach Gary Andersen becoming Utah State’s head coach and taking linebackers coach Justin Ena with him as the Aggies' defensive coordinator. Whittingham hired former Ute star Sione Po’uha as Andersen’s replacement and has one defensive vacancy.
As for the continual turnover, Whittingham said, “Coaches come and go for a lot of different reasons, and we've had a lot of stability on our staff except for that one spot, obviously.”
Whittingham praised Taylor for upgrading Utah's passing game and receivers coach Guy Holliday credited the offensive staff for a good job utilizing the team's personnel. If Taylor is unable to coach in the bowl game, though, “I'm more about the group versus any single coach,” Holliday said. “In this business, it's not about one person.”
Even after posting only 188 yards in a 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game, the Utes rank sixth in the conference in total offense, averaging 413.2 yards. In regular-season league games, they tied for fourth in scoring (30.8 points).
Taylor worked at Eastern Washington in 2016 before coming to Utah. Prior to that, he was a highly successful co-head coach at Folsom High School, near Sacramento.
Sacramento State fired coach Jody Sears following a 2-8 season, a year after the former Weber State coach went 7-4 and received a contract extension as the Big Sky’s co-coach of the year.
Tuttle transfers to Indiana
Indiana announced the signing of former Ute quarterback Jack Tuttle, who left the program in mid-October of his freshman season. It is unclear whether Tuttle will be eligible to play in 2019, the Indianapolis Star said, but he'll enroll in January.
Tuttle was the most decorated quarterback recruit in Ute history, but was beaten out by Shelley for the No. 2 job in August and never appeared in a game. He left two weeks before Huntley was injured and Shelley became the starter, with Drew Lisk playing in one game as the only other QB in the program.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s offensive-play callers:
Andy Ludwig (2005-08) – Moved to Power Five level at Kansas State.
Dave Schramm (2009) – Removed from play-calling role after seven games.
Aaron Roderick (2009-10) – Demoted because Norm Chow became available.
Norm Chow (2011) – Became Hawaii's head coach.
Brian Johnson (2012) – Demoted after a 5-7 season.
Dennis Erickson (2013) – Demoted after a 5-7 season.
Dave Christensen (2014) – Moved to Texas A&M as offensive line coach.
Roderick (2015-16) – Fired after the 2016 season.
Troy Taylor (2017-18) – Named the Sacramento State head coach Monday.