Troy Taylor is an early riser.
He strolls into the Eastern Washington football coaches offices each Monday by 4 a.m., armed with coffee and a notepad. Taylor pores over film, game plans and any other data to feed his inner football beast and his never-ending quest to “get better.”
Taylor arrived in Cheney in the Pacific Northwest last spring after an accomplished run with Kris Richardson as co-head coach at Folsom High School. Taylor was eager for a new challenge with a program eager for new blood. Taylor has infused energy and a slew of ideas and formations to the Big Sky Conference and Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse.
It’s been some marriage. The Eagles are soaring with Taylor as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. Eastern Washington (8-1, 6-0) is ranked third in the nation in the FCS coaches poll, second in total offense and fourth in scoring.
“Apparently the Folsom offense works in college, too,” Taylor said amid laughter by phone. “No, seriously, it’s been great here, just awesome. Great coaches, great staff, great players, great culture with a lot of humility. We’re scoring a ton of points, having fun. Glad to be here.”
The feelings are mutual. Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin regularly credits Taylor for his vision and fearless calls. Those were on display in the season opener when the Eagles had Washington State gassed and guessing at what pass play was coming next. Eastern Washington prevailed 45-42, a major win considering Washington State now is ranked 23rd in The Associated Pres Top 25. The following week, the Eagles lost 50-44 in overtime to North Dakota State, the five-time defending FCS champion.
Eastern Washington plowed through UC Davis 63-30 in Cheney last month and took down Cal Poly 42-21 Saturday in San Luis Obispo, where Taylor ran into a former Folsom pupil, Dano Graves, the Mustangs’ starting quarterback. The Eagles target their fifth Big Sky championship since 2010.
On Saturday, Taylor called for two reverse-play passes that resulted in touchdowns, leading Baldwin to say later they were “pretty slick. Coach Taylor did a good job dialing those up at the right time.”
Taylor tried his hand in college coaching before, but he bowed out because of the vagabond lifestyle, wanting to raise a family in his Sacramento-area roots.
After starring at quarterback at Cordova High and Cal, Taylor spent two seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets, then became an assistant coach at Colorado and Cal. He was Folsom’s coach from 2002 to ’04, then returned as co-coach in 2012. The Bulldogs went 58-3 the next four years, winning four Sac-Joaquin Section championships and the 2014 CIF State title. The 2014 squad went 16-0 and is widely viewed as the best in regional history. The quarterback on that team was Jake Browning, who had six touchdown passes for Washington at Cal on Saturday and has the Huskies in the national title hunt.
Taylor chuckled at at the number of national interview requests he gets.
“I’m getting all these interview requests, and it’s not for what we’re doing at Eastern Washington, how we’re playing out of our minds – it’s all for Jake,” Taylor said. “I called Jake and told him, ‘Hey, just wanted to let you know that I should be watching red-zone game film, but no, I’m you’re publicist.’ ”
Said Browning, “I know Troy’s having fun this season. Look at what his offense is doing.”
Added Taylor: “Winning is always a great deodorant. I didn’t want to be the guy who brings things to a screeching halt here. I get in here early on Monday, and I’m pretty efficient and don’t waste time. But I balance my life. I get home and tuck the kids in bed. Coach Baldwin is good at letting us do that. I’m not here until midnight.”
Taylor, his wife, Tracey, and their three children have settled into Cheney. School is within walking distance of the house. And football is football, Taylor said, at any level.
“I really believe if you run your stuff, your system, and don’t try and re-create the game, it’ll work,” Taylor said. “We’re into simplicity, like at Folsom – attacking space and letting guys do their thing.”