LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In college football, there's no denying Notre Dame's status as a blue blood. With 929 all-time wins, 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners, the Fighting Irish are historically one of the top programs in the sport.
For a coach to willingly leave South Bend for another gig elsewhere, it has to be an extremely enticing opportunity. And no, I'm not talking about Brian Kelly.
This was exactly what was posed to Irish running backs coach Lance Taylor. After going without a true offensive coordinator for the 2021 season following Dwayne Ledford's departure for the NFL, Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield approached Taylor about potentially joining his staff to be the OC for the Cardinals.
This was far from the first time Taylor and Satterfield had ever communicated. Taylor has ties to Satterfield's alma mater of Appalachian State, serving as the Mountaineers' wide receiver coach in 2009, and had frequently been in contact with him at places such as combines.
But the connection to App State is far from what piqued Satterfield's interest in Taylor. Between the college ranks as well as the NFL, the Mt. Vernon, Ala. native is well versed in the game of football.
He helped guide Kyren Williams to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Notre Dame, and played a large role in developing both Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love during his time at Stanford - two guys who each has Heisman Trophy runner up finishes.
In the NFL, he had a hand in molding players such as D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel with the Carolina Panthers as their wide receivers coach. He also had a stint with the New York Jets early in his coaching career working with both the quarterbacks and tight ends.
But again, to willingly leave Notre Dame, it had to be a near perfect opportunity for Taylor.
"For me, it had to be the right job, the right opportunity, for me to leave a special place like Notre Dame. I had a great job, love working for coach (Marcus) Freeman, loved the kids that we were coaching, and we felt like we could be really good next year. I was not just going to take just any job," he said during his introductory press conference.
"I really wanted to do my homework, due diligence. Make sure that this was the right job, that the pieces were in place to support - from (interim AD) Josh (Heird), administration - was going to give us the opportunity and ability to show that we can win next year."
Taylor had his conversation with Satterfield, during which he fully expressed his trust and belief in what Satterfield was doing, then sat down with Heird two days later. Taylor says he connected with Heird early on, and that they expressed very similar thoughts on how he could "help the offense" and "help coach Satt on a day-to-day basis."
"I really felt comfortable after talking to Josh that there was alignment there, and that we would be supported in what we're trying to do - to go win football games," Taylor said.
Soon afterwards, he put pen to paper, and became the Cardinals' next offensive coordinator.
Taylor has not been yet assigned a position to oversee, but expect that to be done soon. What is likely to happen is some slight shuffling of the responsibilities amongst the offensive assistants, like what happened when Wesley McGriff was brought on to be the Cardinals' co-defensive coordinator.
But where Taylor's addition really benefits the Cardinals, is that he will create one centralized voice for the offense, and allow Satterfield to focus more so on the duties that come specifically with being a head coach.
"He really wants me to be the leader, the communicator, the organizer for the offensive staff," he said. "It was an opportunity to lead a group, lead a staff, help him, but we're going to do it together. That's the way that they've always done it, and I really think we have a dynamic offensive staff."
Of course, Satterfield will still have his hands on the offense as well. Taylor revealed that Satterfield will still remain the play caller for the Cardinals, and that it's going to "continue to same terminology, same offense."
In the same breath, Taylor said that they are going to "enhance and elevate" the offense in certain situations. While Louisville finished 21st in the nation in total offense with 446.2 yards per game in 2021, their red zone offense was 39th at 86.7 percent, and their third down conversation percentage was only 40.0 percent - good for just 63rd in FBS.
"I've seen areas that we can improve, and I think that that's hopefully what I can help do is that situational aspect of it," Taylor said. "Then I'll bring - he wants me to help bring ideas from what we did at the Carolina Panthers, what we did at Notre Dame. I've had multiple experiences and backgrounds."
No matter what specific roles Taylor will play on this staff, he is excited about what Satterfield is building at Louisville. Between the other additions that Satterfield has made to the staff and the returning production - specifically Malik Cunningham - Taylor has high hopes for 2022.
"I really became excited about, not the what ifs or what happened in previous seasons, let's go this year and win it," he said. "Let's take this thing to the next level and next step. They're probably three plays away from last year winning nine games, and possibly representing for the ACC Championship, and then going and playing a New Year's Six bowl. It's really close, and the foundation has been built."
(Photo of Lance Taylor: Matt Cashore - USA TODAY Sports)
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