This system, this offense, it’s all about love. —Utah running backs coach Kiel McDonald
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coaches and players have effusively described first-year offensive coordinator Troy Taylor’s offense in a variety of ways, but the most creative description may come from the man who knows his work best.
“This system, this offense, it’s all about love,” said running backs coach Kiel McDonald, who coached with Taylor for a year at Eastern Washington. “It really is. I’m very excited. I’ve gotten the chance to work with him before, so I know this offense. He’s a very creative coach. He knows every detail of this offense, and so it’s going to be a lot of fun to be with coach Taylor this year.”
McDonald was referring to the trust required between players and coaches and how it adds depth and camaraderie to the already familial atmosphere for which Utah is known. Midway through fall camp, everybody seems to be gushing about Taylor's offensive schemes, strategy and synergy.
From quarterbacks to cornerbacks, asking about the new offense is the quickest way to turn any conversation in a positive direction. In fact, from day one of spring camp, the new offense has given Utah’s two returning quarterbacks visible confidence.
“It’s a lot more opportunities for multiple positions,” said quarterback Troy Williams who said Taylor's system gives him more freedom to react to what he sees developing on the field. “The ball is going to get spread around a lot more. I feel like I did OK last year, but I don’t feel like I played to the best of my ability. The new offense we put in will be a great opportunity to put some points on the board.” Sophomore running back Zack Moss said the new offense gives players multiple ways to be weapons in a quick, adaptable, high-octane attack.
“Everybody wants a chance to get in the end zone,” Moss said grinning. “And this gives everybody a chance to get in the end zone.”
And while everyone expects Taylor’s leadership to energize Utah’s offense, especially the perennially mediocre passing game, it may also make the vaunted Ute defense even tougher.
“Troy, his offense is fantastic, and I think it does prepare us in a way that we weren’t necessarily prepared for in the past,” said cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah. “So many of the things are not unfamiliar to us. The temp, we’ve seen in Oregon and Arizona. The concepts are really not unfamiliar, but it’s how he mixes them together, his creativity, his route structure, that’s what’s super creative.”
In fact, players and coaches say it’s everything about Taylor, from his energy to his expectations to his ability to counter anything and everything a defense throws at him.
Shah said Taylor’s creativity and adaptability make him so tough to counter as a defensive coach.
“Some of the things he does, his ingenuity in creating an offensive package is pretty sweet,” Shah said grinning. “His playing calling as we went through the spring, and even into this fall camp, is unbelievable. He just has wrinkles to things that we’ve seen, which is hard. You know, and he’s quick. He’s quick to make good adjustments. He’s a good chess player.”
Shah said it’s sharpened the technique of the team’s defensive athletes, while also forcing defensive coaches outside any comfort zone. He said there have been series where Taylor throws so much at the defense, so quickly, both players and coaches have learned not to make assumptions or rely on old habits.
“It keeps you on your toes,” he said. “That’s what makes it fun. It makes you think, watch film, coach your kids. Sometimes when you get into an offensive system that is familiar, you don’t push as hard, you don’t have to. So maybe you’re not as sharp, and, consequently, your kids aren’t as sharp because you’ve seen this all the time.”
Sophomore cornerback Julian Blackmon said battling Taylor’s offensive mind has improved everything from conditioning to strategy.
“It just sets us up for whoever we play in the Pac-12,” Blackmon said. “There are some fast-moving teams, but we’ll be ready for them because our offense moves that fast.”