NCAA Football: Sacramento State at Arizona State

Stanford has hired Sacramento State's coach Troy Taylor to the same position, the university announced Saturday. Taylor leaves the Hornets following a wild 66-63 loss to Incarnate Word during the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, ending a successful three-year run. A news conference to introduce Taylor is scheduled for Monday. He replaces David Shaw, who resigned in late November following a second straight 3-9 effort, marking the team's least-successful run under his watch.

A former Cal player and assistant, Taylor has intimate knowledge of the Cardinal program and has spent practically his entire coaching career on the West Coast. Outside of a 14-year run at Folsom High School in California, Sacramento State marked Taylor's first gig as a head coach. The results were impressive: A 30-8 overall record with three Big Sky championships and playoff appearances. 

"I am thrilled to be the new head football coach at Stanford University," said Taylor in a statement. "The opportunity to lead the finest student-athletes in the country is truly a dream come true, and I would like to thank President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell and Bernard Muir. I believe that Stanford Football is perfectly positioned to become champions on the football field while maintaining our world-class reputation for academic excellence."

Jason Garrett, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was also a finalist for the Stanford job, but removed his name from consideration this week. 

Taylor has had multiple stints as an assistant for Pac-12 schools throughout his career, most recently serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Utah for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Following a trip with the Utes to the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2018, Taylor was hired by Sacramento State and quickly rose through the ranks as one of the top coaches at the FCS level. 

One of the best in the FCS 

Taylor made an immediate splash upon his arrival at Sacramento State, which signaled his return to the FCS after serving as co-offensive coordinator for a record-setting Eastern Washington offense in 2016. He guided the Hornets to the program's first-ever share of the Big Sky title in 2019, a feat that had not been accomplished in 23 years of conference membership. That coaching job not only earned him Big Sky Coach of the Year honors, but made Taylor the recipient of the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year at the FCS level. 

Sacramento State did not have a season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the disruption did not alter Taylor's, or the team's, trajectory. The Hornets returned to action in 2021 with another Big Sky title, this time winning the conference outright with an 8-0 league record. Once again, Taylor was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year. 

The 2022 season was Taylor's most notable, however, as it resulted in the first-ever undefeated regular season in school history. The team's quarterfinals appearance in the FCS playoffs also represented the deepest run for the Hornets since making the jump from Division II in 1993. In all, Taylor held a 23-1 record against conference opponents.

High offensive expectations

By hiring Taylor, Stanford hopes that he will field an explosive offense that can close the gap between the Cardinal and the rest of the Pac-12. His work with developing quarterbacks, calling plays and scheming up an offense led to records being shattered at both the high school and FCS levels. Now, the former Cal quarterback has his work cut out with an offense that ranked No. 95 nationally in yards per play (5.27) and No. 109 nationally in points per game (21.3) in 2022. The Cardinal ranked 11th among Pac-12 teams in both categories, finishing only ahead of Colorado. 

Shaw carried a great offensive reputation as well when he was promoted following Jim Harbaugh's departure to the NFL, but recent years saw the offense shift its identity and ultimately experience a major drop-off in production. The program has been impacted negatively by both the Early Signing Period and the transfer portal, meaning Taylor will have work to do in order to raise the level of talent at key offensive positions to unlock the potential of his schemes.