SALT LAKE CITY — The most popular man in the University of Utah football camp these days is Troy Taylor, the new offensive coordinator just two years removed from high school sidelines. When practice is finished, two dozen reporters run a zone blitz in his direction.
Maybe no one is on the spot more than the chronically cheerful and enthusiastic Taylor. He is the team’s eighth OC in nine years, but, this time, it’s different: Where his predecessors retained much of the previous year’s offense, including terminology, he has sacked much of the playbook. If Taylor does to the Ute offense what he did to Eastern Washington’s, the Utes will be almost unrecognizable this season. EWU threw 620 passes under Taylor last season — 210 more than Utah.
“There was a lot of carry-over in the run game and protection,” says Taylor. “But the pass game is a massive overhaul. For the skill guys, it’s a big change.”
It’s also a big change for Ute coaches, who are going to have to develop the stomach for a passing game. When LaVell Edwards converted BYU to a pass attack in the 1970s, he believed it was essential to commit to it wholly, meaning the Cougars would pass in any situation without hesitation — fourth down, fourth quarter, red zone, leading or trailing. Taylor has been told he has free reign, but what will happen when it’s white-knuckle time on a team that has leaned on a conservative run game for years?
“My job is to do what I do,” says Taylor. “You’ve got to be strong and have conviction. That’s the only chance I have to succeed. If I try to be someone else, I’ll be a second-best version of him.”
The Utes believe they need to try something dramatically different. Much to their credit, they have become a perennial challenger in the Pac-12…