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Why Troy Taylor is the perfect fit as coach for sleeping-giant Sac State football

‘Our players are going to win on and off the field.’ Meet Sac State’s new football coach

Sacramento State introduces new head football coach Troy Taylor at the Broad Field house at Sacramento State on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Taylor is the university’s 11th head football coach and is a former coach at Folsom High School.
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Sacramento State introduces new head football coach Troy Taylor at the Broad Field house at Sacramento State on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Taylor is the university’s 11th head football coach and is a former coach at Folsom High School.

There is nothing normal to average about Troy Taylor. Except perhaps the Toyota Camry he drove into the ground and featured melted crayons in the back seat, thanks to three young children.

Taylor energizes a room not with forced booming good cheer but with a dry wit and big-picture view on all things football: how the sport can mold teams and young men, and how it can bind a campus and community. And shoot, how fun it is to shred defenses with an all-out assault on the end zone, too.

Taylor is indeed a fast-forward thinker when it comes to offense, his specialty and a staple of success for all levels of college football. He believes the most stressed defense is a stretched one.

On Tuesday morning, Taylor was introduced as the 11th head football coach at Sacramento State, tasked with the challenge of elevating a program that badly needs a boost. He’s a home-grown, home-run hire for a program that has flirted with potential and promise with eager coaches before but one that has mostly been mired in mediocrity or worse over the decades.

Sac State last competed in the playoffs in 1988, and it last won a conference championship in 1995. The Hornets have won four conference titles since starting the program in 1954.

It will take a leader of Taylor’s renown to inject new life and hope, and he vows to do it with an emphasis on local recruiting, prolific offenses, an attacking defense and a product “this city can be proud of,” he said.

“I’m not a status-quo kind of guy,” Taylor said. “I don’t have any desire to be average or normal.”

Taylor has come full circle. He burst onto the scene as a record-setting quarterback at Cordova High School in 1985, leading a 14-0 championship team, then set scores of passing records at Cal before a brief stint in the NFL. Taylor’s ability to design offenses and groom quarterbacks has been his trademark, and it will fit in the wide-open Big Sky Conference.

He elevated Folsom High football to a national level, going 58-3 as co-coach with Kris Richardson from 2012-15 with league, section and CIF State championships. Taylor took that spread scheme to Eastern Washington of the Big Sky as co-offensive coordinator in 2016, and the Eagles were national leaders offensively. He worked similar magic as offensive coordinator at Utah in the Pacific-12 Conference the past two seasons, reaching the Pac-12 title game this year against Washington, quarterbacked by a man Taylor groomed.

Jake Browning at Folsom set national touchdown passing marks and state passing marks, and in four years as the Washington quarterback set school records in passing while becoming the winningest signal caller in Pac-12 history.

Taylor was initially deemed a long shot to land at Sac State, primarily because he would take a pay cut from Utah. But Taylor has never been in this profession for paychecks and prestige. He’s in it for the challenges and competition.

That’s why he left Folsom for Eastern Washington, and why he left that program for Utah, and why he’s at Sac State now.

Hornets athletic director Mark Orr has known Taylor for 35 years. He watched Taylor compete at Cordova and Cal. While Orr was a member of the Cal team in the 1990s, Taylor was a Bears assistant coach.

When Orr relieved Jody Sears as coach last month after six seasons, including a 2-8 showing in 2018, he immediately set his sights on Taylor. He wanted a coach with local ties, a coach who was innovative, a coach who has worked in the Big Sky, and a coach to match his vision.

“When I took this job 18 months ago, I said we’d get this right, and we will,” Orr said. “Troy checked out on all the boxes. He’s the perfect fit. We’ve handed him the keys to get this thing going.

“Troy’s smooth here, but he’s a very competitive guy. I saw that when he played and coached.”

Sac State president Robert S. Nelsen also focused on Taylor in recent weeks. He and Orr were on the same page. Those two and Taylor are convinced Sac State can win Big Sky Conference titles and compete for FCS national championships.

The pieces are there to make a run of it, and now there’s a coach in place to take the wheel. And there’s a commitment. Taylor signed a 7-year contract.

“When I was in Salt Lake City (recently) for the Big Sky Conference meetings, we had a firm looking for a coach for us,” Nelsen said. “I was asked if I could pick a coach, who would it be? Troy Taylor. You can’t get him. Troy Taylor.

“Today, we have Troy Taylor. This is a monumental day for us.”

Taylor quickly realized Tuesday the Sac State roster does not include a single Folsom player. He said with a laugh, “That will change!”

Recruiting is the life blood for any college program, and Taylor’s strength includes knowing “every high school coach in this town.” He’ll get to know them better in the coming weeks, months and years, particularly after finishing his coaching commitment at Utah that includes the Dec. 31 Holiday Bowl.

His most pressing decisions are what to do with the assistant coaches left over from Sears’ staff. Who goes, who stays, and who comes aboard. And then it will be recruiting.

He spoke to Sears by phone this week and said Sears “is rooting for us.” That’s a classy transition that just doesn’t happen often.

“I’m familiar with Sacramento and what this city has to offer,” Taylor said. “There’s no better high school coaching in the country than right here. We have great coaches, great players, and Sacramento will be a priority recruiting wise for us. The biggest recruiting region in the Big Sky is right here.

“We want to give players a reason to be here. We don’t want to be a cookie-cutter program. We want to be unique. The vision will be based on love. We want players who love Sacramento, love each other, love to compete. Love is the most powerful force. We’ll be confident but we won’t be arrogant. The most humble people are those who wake up every day wanting to get better, and that’ll be us.”

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.

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