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Big Sky Kickoff Notebook: Ex-EWU assistant Troy Taylor takes charge at Sacramento State

UPDATED: Wed., July 17, 2019

Former EWU quarterbacks coach Troy Taylor watches action unfold during a scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Former EWU quarterbacks coach Troy Taylor watches action unfold during a scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Troy Taylor had tenure as an educator in Folsom, California, and was leading one of the state’s premier high school football programs. He was in a good spot.

But Taylor said he was ready for a new challenge following the 2015 season, and called his friend and fellow Sacramento native, Washington head coach Chris Petersen, voicing his interest in possibly taking his play-calling abilities to the college level.

Petersen put in a call to Beau Baldwin – then Eastern Washington’s highly successful head coach, now offensive coordinator at California – to see if he was interested in Taylor’s services.

Months later, Baldwin and Taylor meshed schemes that saw the Eagles lead the country in passing in 2016 (401 yards per game) and reach the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

Taylor’s single season at EWU vaulted him into the Pac-12, where he spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Utah.

He returned to the Big Sky Conference in December when he was named head coach at Sacramento State, replacing former EWU defensive coordinator Jody Sears.

Taylor took a major pay cut – about $250,000 less a year, according to reports – to leave Utah and lead Sacramento State, which has finished at bottom of the Big Sky standings three of the past four seasons.

It wasn’t the first time he chose career over cash.

“It’s obvious my career was never dictated by money,” Taylor said at the Big Sky Kickoff earlier this week at the Davenport Grand Hotel. “When (Baldwin) hired me at EWU, that was a big pay cut, too. We sold our home. It was a big leap of faith.”

It paid off for Taylor, 51, who lived on Spokane’s South Hill and made the commute to Cheney during his brief stint in the Inland Northwest.

He credits Baldwin and EWU for helping jump-start his recent success and is looking forward to leading the Hornets, picked to finish 12th in the Big Sky media preseason poll.

“It was a lot of fun,” Taylor said. “Beau was a great offensive mind and leader.”

Defending Big Sky champion and national runner-up EWU, the prohibitive preseason Big Sky favorite, visits Sacramento State on Oct. 5.

“My transition has been about as good as you’d want,” Taylor added. “There’s been a ton of support here, and our players are so hungry to get better.”

Eagles high on Washington transfer Warren

EWU head coach Aaron Best doesn’t yet know where he’ll use versatile graduate transfer Justiss Warren, a former Washington tight end and outside linebacker who appeared in 31 games for the Huskies.

It’ll be on defense, though.

Warren, who recently announced on Twitter that he joined the Eagles, was a three-star recruit at Tacoma’s Lincoln High School, where he played with with fellow fifth-year EWU seniors Dehonta Hayes (safety) and Jayson Williams (wide receiver).

At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, he gives the Eagles some options.

“We have Mitch Johnson and Jimmy Townsend at defensive end, and we have a lot of depth at linebacker, so we’re kind of torn if we’re going to use him standing up at linebacker or coming off the edge, using him at different angles,” Best said at the Big Sky Kickoff on Monday. “He has some position flexibility.”

“We have more depth at linebacker than we do at defensive line,” Best added. “ So on paper it makes more sense to put him (at defensive end). We’ll see.”

EWU tight end Jayce Gilder said he’s worked out with Warren this summer.

“He’s a stud. Very athletic and a hard worker. We’re excited to have him,” Gilder said.

CdA alum Amos in two-QB competition at Idaho State

Former Coeur d’Alene high standout quarterback Gunnar Amos – the son of longtime Coeur d’Alene head coach Shawn Amos – is competing for the starting job at Idaho State with Riverside (Calif.) Community College transfer Matt Struck.

Both quarterbacks split time with the first-team offense this past spring and look to replace record-setting Tanner Gueller, who led the Bengals to a 6-5 mark last season.

Amos, a fifth-year senior, gives the Bengals a dual threat.

“It’s always good to have a coach’s kid, because I love Shawn (Amos),” Idaho State coach Rob Phenecie said on Monday. “He’s mobile and a pretty tough guy. Our QB last year, Tanner Gueller, was deceptively fast and deceptively athletic. Gunnar is fast and athletic and pulls the ball, so we have to tailor our offense for what suits him.”

“And if we have to play two quarterbacks, we’ll play two quarterbacks,” Phenecie added.

Former Lake City quarterback Michael Goggin is behind Amos and Struck on the Bengals’ depth chart, but is the team’s placeholder.

Grizzlies, Eagles ready to resume rivalry

Due to the 13-team Big Sky Conference’s unbalanced schedule, Eastern Washington and Montana’s budding rivalry went on a one-year hiatus in 2018.

The Eagles didn’t get to experience the return of head coach Bobby Hauck, who returned to the Griz program he led to back-to-back FCS national title games in 2008 and 2009 before a rough stint in the Mountain West Conference at UNLV, ultimately bringing Hauck back to Missoula.

The rivalry resumes Oct. 26 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

EWU has won seven of its past nine meetings against Montana.

Hauck, who previously led Montana from 2003-09, was 6-1 against EWU.

EWU defensive lineman Dylan Ledbetter can’t wait to face Montana.

“It’s electric (at Montana). A fun place to play,” Ledbetter said.

Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson – a Buck Buchanan Award finalist and All-American – has yet to beat EWU, a trend he wants to change.

“(EWU has) been a huge rival these last few years, and it was weird not playing them. But we’ll get a chance this year,” Olson said. “The crowd gets into it, and EWU’s fans travel well. It’s a good time.”

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