The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a roster full of players and coaches, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s player profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming 2020 season.
Lance Taylor, Running Backs Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Lance Taylor is set to enter his 2nd season on the Irish staff. Taylor played for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 1999-2003, beginning his career as a walk-on. By the end of his career, he had played in 38 consecutive games at wide receiver and served as the special teams captain. Taylor continued his playing career in the Arena Football League from 2004-2006.
Taylor’s coaching career commenced in 2007, serving as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2007-2008. Next, Taylor moved to Appalachian State to coach wide receivers during the 2009 season. During his lone season there, the receiver group set school records for both receptions and receiving yards. In 2010, Taylor made the jump to the NFL. He worked for the New York Jets from 2010-2012, serving as a coaching intern (2010), offensive quality control coach (2011), and assistant tight end coach/quality control coach (2012). After working his way up the ladder in New York, Taylor took a job as assistant wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers in 2013.
Following the 2013 season in Carolina, Lance Taylor took a position with the Stanford Cardinal as the running backs coach from 2014-2016. It was in Palo Alto where Taylor gained much of his fame while working with Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Taylor played an instrumental role in the skill development of both players. Off the field, Taylor developed into one of the best recruiters in college football. Taylor departed Stanford after the 2016 season and accepted a job as the wide receiver coach for the Carolina Panthers during the 2017 and 2018 season.
On February 12, 2019, Brian Kelly announced Taylor as the next running backs coach following the departure of Autry Denson. Taylor immediately made his impact felt on the recruiting trail through his successful recruitment of Chris Tyree. Taylor’s coaching skills were put to the test right off the bat when Jafar Armstrong went down with an injury in the opening half against Louisville. Taylor helped Tony Jones Jr. turn into a reliable option in the backfield as Jones Jr. amassed 857 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns on the season while starting 12 games.
On January 14, 2020, Brian Kelly made the announcement that he was promoting Taylor to Run Game Coordinator. Though the Irish lost out on the Will Shipley sweepstakes, Taylor should give Notre Dame a better chance at landing premier talent at the position in the coming years.
Hear me out on this one. James Bond is known for his charisma, courage, loyalty, and calmness under pressure. Lance Taylor possesses these same qualities. I have yet to hear of a strong recruiter who lacks a great personality. Taylor has displayed courage by getting Notre Dame involved with elite running back recruits, something previous coaches seemingly never did. As demonstrated last season, he adjusts to injuries on the fly and still gets production from his position group.
The running back room is filled with question marks heading into the 2020 season. Despite 7 backs in the room, there is no clear-cut starter and the depth chart is extremely murky. Chris Tyree possesses the speed and athleticism that top-tier programs have at the position. As a result, the staff needs to get him a handful of touches each game. Jafar Armstrong is the presumed starter, but he has had difficulty remaining healthy. Jahmir Smith, C’Bo Flemister, and Kyren Williams all have intriguing qualities, yet remain unproven. The addition of graduate transfer Trevor Speights in the spring is a bit puzzling though Taylor did recruit him to Stanford. Finally, Mick Assaf will provide valuable leadership but most likely will not have an impact on the field.
While Taylor certainly has his work cut out for him, there is a strong possibility that the Irish take a running-back-by-committee approach to the season. If Armstrong, Tyree, and a 3rd back emerge, Taylor can utilize each in certain situations to take advantage of their strengths, while not exposing their weaknesses. Taylor’s teaching ability, leadership, and personality should help draw the best out of his guys and lead to a productive season from the group.