Bleeding Red: New OC Taylor may be exactly what Utes need

Ring out the old season, ring in the new
Ring, Utah bells, across new-fallen snow
Past defeats are going, yes, let them go
Ring out with new hope, ring loud for the U!

COMMENTARY – The Utes’ football season may be over, but other teams are still playing, including USC in the Rose Bowl today. A Rose Bowl berth has been a goal of Utah since it joined the Pac-12 conference. Some recent changes in the Utes’ coaching staff should help Utah in fulfilling that goal.

utesThe lack of a productive offense and inconsistent play from the quarterback have been the bane of Kyle Whittingham’s tenure as head coach of the Utes. That has resulted in a carousel at the offensive coordinator position, with what I believe will now be nine different offensive coordinators (Andy Ludwig, Dave Schramm, Norm Chow, Brian Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Dave Christensen, Jim Harding, Aaron Roderick, and Troy Taylor — and my apologies in advance if I have left out anyone) over the 12-plus years that Whittingham has been the head coach.

The head count above includes the most recent change. Last week it was announced that assistant head coach Dennis Erickson would retire and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick would not be retained. This morning it was announced that co-offensive coordinator Jim Harding will now serve as assistant head coach, and the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will be . . . (dramatic drum roll) … Troy Taylor (cymbal crash)!

Troy Taylor
Troy Taylor

All indications are that Taylor is just what the doctor ordered for an ailing offense. Taylor was a record-setting quarterback at Cal, played two seasons in the NFL, and has an established history of developing young quarterbacks in high school, at his private quarterback academy, and in college. He’s known for his ability to create explosive offenses.

Notably, Taylor coached 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jake Browning from the time he was in the fifth grade until he graduated as one of the most prolific passers in prep history. Most recently, Taylor was the quarterbacks coach and called the offense at Eastern Washington, which averaged an FCS-best 401.0 passing yards per game in 2016, was ranked No. 2 nationally in total offense (529.6 ypg), and No. 3 in scoring offense (42.4 ppg).

“I have watched Troy Taylor closely over the years when he was coaching innovative high school offenses in California and was eager to see how that translated to college coaching,” Whittingham said. “He achieved the same results at Eastern Washington and we are fortunate that Troy was interested in bringing that style of offense here to Utah. Troy has trained a prolific number of record-setting quarterbacks in high school, at his academy and now in college.”

Troy Taylor's offense at Eastern Washington averaged more than 400 yards passing a game last year.
Troy Taylor’s offense at Eastern Washington averaged more than 400 yards passing a game last year.

A confident Taylor was introduced to fans Monday.

“We will have an attacking style of offense that stretches the field and the defense in every way,” Taylor said. “Creating success for the quarterback will be our utmost priority. If your QB plays well, you have a great chance of winning. Therefore, the development of his fundamentals and skill set are vital. However, it is just as imperative to have an offensive system that is both dynamic and user friendly. That has been the driving force in my offensive philosophy and I am excited to bring this to the University of Utah.”

Ute fans everywhere should be excited about the late Christmas present they received with Taylor as the new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Combine that with what should be a spirited battle for the starting job at the helm between Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley, and I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about spring ball on The Hill.

Utah basketball: Speaking of ringing out the old and ringing in the new, football season is fast giving way to basketball season.

The simple reality is that the Runnin’ Utes are going to have a very tough row to hoe as they embark on their Pac-12 schedule. The good news is that Utah won its conference opener against Colorado at home yesterday, 76-60. That means that the Runnin’ Utes are currently in a four-way tie for first place in the conference standings (ahead of both nationally ranked UCLA and USC). That may be the last time Utah finds itself in that position all season long, so I wanted to make sure that I noted it now while I still can.

The Runnin’ Utes started slow against the Buffaloes as Colorado opened up a 10-2 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the game. Utah quickly caught up, tying the game at 12-12 less than five minutes into the game. The game see-sawed back and forth from there, with the Runnin’ Utes starting to take control near the end of the first half with a 36-29 lead at the break.

The Runnin' Utes owned the second half against Colorado.
The Runnin’ Utes owned the second half against Colorado.

Utah opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Lorenzo Bonham to push the lead to 10 points. The Runnin’ Utes never looked back, leading by double digits for the remainder of the game, with the biggest lead at 23 points, and finishing with a 16-point victory.

Utah had very balanced scoring, with Lorenzo Bonham leading the way with 15 points, while both David Collette and Kyle Kuzma were close behind with 14 points each.  JoJo Zamora was the fourth Runnin’ Ute in double digits with 10 points, and Sedrick Barefield had nine points off the bench.

Utah’s 18 assists against 10 turnovers in the Colorado game was a big improvement over their horrific assist-to-turnover ratio going into the game. After the game, coach Larry Krystkowiak explained the renewed emphasis on that particular aspect of play.

“Our assist-to-turnover ratio to back court is not the strength of our team,” he said. “Ironically, our best assist-turnover guys are our forwards. That was something that hit home to me in Hawaii a little bit. We had a horrible practice on Thursday, maybe the worst practice of the year. Then I went to do a little recruiting for the day and sat in the gym for 8-10 hours watching bad high school. It wasn’t all bad. But it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. I managed to get a few things clear in my own mind and get back into some simpler things. Guys have to play harder. Guys have to share.”

The Runnin’ Utes are on the road this week, playing at Arizona on Thursday, and at Arizona State on Saturday.

Here’s hoping Utah’s offense in football is on the upswing, and the Runnin’ Utes can find some firepower of their own to carry them through their Pac-12 schedule.

Bleeding Red is a sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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