Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor still has the touch

Folsom High School Bulldog's head coaches Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson, celebrate their 52-21 victory over Grant High School in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I football championship game at Sacramento State, Friday December 12, 2014.
Folsom High School Bulldog's head coaches Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson, celebrate their 52-21 victory over Grant High School in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I football championship game at Sacramento State, Friday December 12, 2014. Special to the Bee

Folsom High School co-coach Troy Taylor has felt poorly for a month. Colds, viruses, sore throats, laryngitis. His voice has been so absent at times, he sounds like a ghost behind the machine. But when it comes to producing exceptional high school quarterbacks, the Bulldogs are the region’s ear-splitting assembly line.

Cary Grossart. David Graves. Dano Graves. Tanner Trosin. Jake Browning. Jake Jeffrey, this year’s starter, will lead his undefeated squad (14-0) against visiting Bellarmine of San Jose (12-1) on Friday for the CIF Northern California Regional Division I-AA championship.

Much of this follows a tightly crafted script. Taylor and co-coach Kris Richardson – really, the men are more football soulmates than colleagues who share a cubicle – have developed a formula that exploits the area’s natural resources and keeps replenishing the soil.

All those quarterbacks? Once, they were just local kids who participated in junior programs and grew up wanting to be the next Grossart, Graves, Graves, Trosin, Browning and now Jeffrey, the strong-armed senior Taylor believes is underappreciated for all the conventional reasons, namely that he stands only 6 feet.

“Jake is special,” Taylor said earlier in the week. “Great arm. Accurate. Tough runner. Physical. Passionate. This is a kid who would strike out in Little League and throw his bat against the wall. We wondered if he would be able to control his emotions. But he has been an unbelievable, quality person, 4.0 student. He can absolutely play at the next level.”

Jake Jeffrey is special. Great arm. Accurate. Tough runner. Physical. Passionate. This is a kid who would strike out in Little League and throw his bat against the wall. We wondered if he would be able to control his emotions. But he has been an unbelievable, quality person, 4.0 student. He can absolutely play at the next level.

Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor

When the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach talks, it’s probably worth a listen. Grossart, the Graves brothers and Trosin received full scholarships. Browning, the most talented of the group, starts for Chris Petersen at Washington. Jeffrey, who shifted to wide receiver during Browning’s senior year, is entertaining offers. As for next in line? Stay tuned. Someone surely is.

The allure of the program is two-pronged. First, success is seductive. Since 2010, the Bulldogs are 83-6 with five Sac-Joaquin Section and two CIF state titles. Then there are the style points. Powerball has given way to aerial patterns; footballs crowd the overhead traffic patterns from the season’s beginning to end. And though the spread offense is routinely described as complex because of its emphasis on timing, efficiency and execution, Taylor quibbles with the semantics.

Football has become increasingly complex, he acknowledges, but the beauty of the spread offense is its simplicity.

“Quarterback is the most challenging position in sports,” he said. “You depend on your teammates, have weather elements to overcome, and football is a dynamic game. The default setting for most coaches is to put the pressure on the quarterback. But what does it really come down to? It’s about finding space, reacting to the space, getting a feel for where everybody is on the field. It’s all about repetition. You can’t simulate it; you just have to keep doing it. The cadence, getting the ball, going through the progressions. I want my quarterback to not have to think.”

To stress his point, Taylor leaps out of his seat in a Bulldogs locker room cluttered with tape, cleats, pads and jerseys, grabs a Sharpie and diagrams schemes on a whiteboard, erasing and revising with a rhythmic ease all his own.

Admittedly, he loves to tinker, to experiment, and attributes an innate curiosity – a restlessness – to an early childhood living in different regions of the country and attending 12 schools before quarterbacking Cordova to a section title in 1985 and earning a scholarship to Cal.

It’s like a tea bag. Until you put it in water, you never quite know what you have. They’re all different. Dano (Graves), David (Graves), Tanner (Trosin), Jake Browning, now this Jake (Jeffrey). But you try to work with their strengths and minimize what they don’t do so well. And we’ve been very fortunate. They’re all different, but they are all incredibly committed and fearless.

Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor

In four seasons at Berkeley, Taylor set a record for career passing yards (8,126) only eclipsed this year by junior Jared Goff. After he lasted two seasons (1990-91) with the New York Jets, his career path continued as an offensive coordinator at Casa Roble, positions on the coaching staffs at Folsom, Colorado and Cal, an athletic directorship at Christian Brothers, and seven years as color analyst for Cal’s radio broadcast.

Love, marriage and a touch of homesickness led him back to the Bulldogs, where his life and football philosophies continue to evolve. Early in his coaching career, he says, with a grin, he tried to emulate legendary Grant coach Mike Alberghini.

“But I learned that you have to be who you are,” Taylor said. “You have to be authentic, or kids see right through you.”

Other influences include the late Bill Walsh, Petersen, Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer, and here comes a strange one: A voracious reader of nonfiction, he confesses to an infatuation with the marketing acumen of the late Steve Jobs, while appreciating the compassion and philanthropy of Jobs’ innovative former Apple partner Steve Wozniak.

It gets back to simplicity, Taylor explains. Apple products only appear complex.

“It’s like a tea bag,” Taylor said. “Until you put it in water, you never quite know what you have. They’re all different. Dano, David, Tanner, Jake Browning, now this Jake. But you try to work with their strengths and minimize what they don’t do so well. And we’ve been very fortunate. They’re all different, but they are all incredibly committed and fearless.”

As he got up from the bench in the spacious locker room, preparing for practice on a state-of-the-art field, he smiled again, unable to resist one more plug for Jeffrey. “Very smart. People say, ‘I wish he was bigger.’ So that means he can’t play? How tall is Russell Wilson? What, 5-foot-11?”

Point taken.

Then-Folsom High School football coach Troy Taylor diagrams and explains how a spread offense play works before a playoff game in 2015. Taylor was named Sacramento State's head coach on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

CIF NorCal football championships

All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.

▪ Division I-AA: Bellarmine-San Jose (12-1) at Folsom (14-0), CSNCA

▪ Division II-AA: Del Oro (8-6) at Liberty-Bakersfield (9-3)

▪ Division V-AA: Bradshaw Christian (12-1) at Immanuel-Reedley (10-2) at Reedley High School

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