Chalk Talk w/ Troy Taylor

By Mikey Saltas

In each issue, Winners Utah will conduct a chalk talk session with coaches and figures from local sports programs.

For our inaugural issue, we caught up with new Ute offensive coordinator, Troy Taylor, who explains his quarterback-friendly spread offense.

“People may peg me as
an ‘air raid’ or up-tempo
coach. I wouldn’t say that
at all. If we can exploit
the defense for 500 yards
through the air, we’ll do it. If
we can get 300 yards on the
ground, why not?”
-Troy Taylor

Chalk Talk w/ Troy Taylor

By Mikey Saltas

In each issue, Winners Utah will conduct a chalk talk session with coaches and figures from local sports programs.

For our inaugural issue, we caught up with new Ute offensive coordinator, Troy Taylor, who explains his quarterback-friendly spread offense.

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the University of Utah football team has won four postseason bowl games, including the most recent 26-24 victory over Indiana in the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl. However, the Utes have yet to win the Pac-12 South division outright, in part due to a lackluster offense that has consistently ranked near the bottom of the conference.

Head Coach Kyle Whittingham thus decided to shake up his coaching staff and hire former Eastern Washington University offensive coordinator, Troy Taylor, for the same position at Utah. Last season, Troy Taylor’s offense produced astonishing numbers—his team averaged 401 passing yards and 42.36 points per game. Utah, on the other hand, averaged 216.7 yards and 29.8 points.
The secret? According to Troy Taylor, it’s as simple as turning a complex thing (an offense) and making it user friendly for his players.

“Humans are incredible creatures,” said Taylor. “The front of our brain, the frontal lobe, it allows us to think and make decisions. It allows us to determine right from wrong, it makes us who we are. But the ancient part of our brain, the cerebellum in the rear, that’s where we react and make split-second decisions without necessarily thinking about it, we just do it. So, I want my receivers to be able to act and my quarterback to react. If the receivers can find and create space and my quarterback knows where they’ll be before they get there, the only decision he needs to make is ‘open or not open’ and continue along his progressions. That’s it.

“Take the iPhone for example,” he continued. “The creators of the iPhone took this massively complex thing, filled with 0’s, 1’s and silicon, stuff not too many people understand, and made it so literally anyone in the world can use it. If you take that and apply it to football, I’m the creator of the offense. My job is to take this complex system and make it user friendly. That isn’t to say we only run three plays, but the easier it is for my players to run the system, the better our offense will be.”
Himself a former quarterback at Cal-Berkeley and briefly with the New York Jets, Taylor is considered a “quarterback guru” in coaching circles. Just three years ago, Taylor was the head coach of Folsom High School in California, where he primed and prepped the starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies, Jake Browning. Under Taylor’s tutelage, Browning set a state record with 16,775 passing yards and a national record 229 career touchdowns.

Last season, starting quarterback Troy Williams had a forgettable 53.1% completion percentage, though he did have the most yards by a Utah quarterback (2,757) since Brett Ratliff in 2006. In 2017, Taylor is giving the reigns to sophomore Tyler Huntley, who is known for maintaining accuracy while extending plays with his legs when scrambling out of the pocket.

Troy Taylor explains how he simplifies his offense for his quarterbacks

 

“In terms of passing concepts, I see the offense as finding and creating space. Most of my stuff is progression based—the quarterback will go from first receiver, to second, to third, to fourth, to possibly a fifth. Depending on the spot of the football, we call the larger part the ‘field’ and the smaller part the ‘boundary.’ In a simplified scenario, option 1 is on a go route, option 2 on a dig, option 3 on a curl, and option 4 on a swing. The defense will move to where the quarterback’s eyes go, so even if option 1 isn’t open, he’s still going to look there to draw the defense. Our quarterback isn’t looking at coverage, he’s looking at space on the field. Some coaches may say ‘if there’s a blitz, hit option 1 on the go route’ or hit the curl. Not for me. I ask my quarterbacks to look at option 1, then 2, then 3, then 4. If they are able to make it through all four progressions, we’ll find an open man 95% of the time.”

The reason for the QB change?

“In my offense, the attribute that trumps all others is accuracy,” Taylor explained. “If our quarterback isn’t accurate, then the whole foundation will crumble. But we absolutely need them to be accurate.”

Under Kyle Whittingham’s tenure as head coach, Utah’s identity could be described as having a hard-nosed, dominating defense while the offense has, for the most part, taken a backseat. Though Whittingham has proven with the hiring of Troy Taylor that he is serious about taking the next step to winning the Pac-12 South. Pairing Utah’s already infamously stout defense with a consistent and high-powered spread offense might be just what is needed for the Utes to tip the scales in their favor in the Pac-12.
“People may peg me as an ‘air raid’ or up-tempo coach. I wouldn’t say that at all. If we can exploit the defense for 500 yards through the air, we’ll do it. If we can get 300 yards on the ground, why not? My system is adaptable to personnel. My goal for our team this year is to take pressure off of our already fantastic defense, where we aren’t relying on getting stops to win, but rather controlling and dominating the game. The pace of the offense will be faster because our quarterbacks are going to work through their progressions faster and make cognizant decisions and make the right play.”

After years of lowered expectations on offense, Troy Taylor might just be what the Utes need to break the barrier holding them from competing in the Pac-12 Championship.