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Western Michigan hires Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor as new football head coach

Taylor was the offensive coordinator at Louisville this season, and has a reputation for being a talented recruiter who has coached multiple levels of football.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Oklahoma State at Notre Dame Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Western Michigan made reports official on Thursday afternoon, announcing the hire of Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor as their next head coach to replace the since-departed Tim Lester. The hire was first reported by Pete Thamel from ESPN.

The deal for Taylor is reportedly in the five-year range, also per Thamel.

“Coach Taylor is quite simply one of the most impressive individuals I have had the pleasure to spend time with,” Western Michigan athletic director Dan Bartholomae said via press release. “[Taylor] has won championships as an athlete and as a coach at all levels of our industry, including within two separate Power 5 Conferences. He has recruited and mentored Heisman finalists, and some of the NFL’s finest. He has coached in NFL Conference Championship games. He has coached in New Years Six Bowl Games and in the College Football Playoff.”

Bargtolomae expressed in the release WMU was looking for a coach with proved, demonstrated success, but also for leaders with “relentless energy” and “the capacity to lift everyone to aspirational heights” during the search process, eventually landing upon Taylor.

“... Coach Taylor is an inspirational leader with high integrity and shares my passion to lead the country in the holistic development of our student-athletes. Our vision aligned within minutes of conversation, and our future is in great hands.”

Rumors swirled for days about possible candidates, with Taylor listed consistently as a name to watch, eventually becoming the front-runner for the job. Other finalists for the job included Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Gino Guidugli and West Virginia offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, per FootballScoop.

Taylor brings a wide range of offensive coaching experience to Kalamazoo. He has coached in the ACC, SEC, SoCon, PAC-12 and Notre Dame, and also spent six seasons coaching in the NFL.

In his single season as the offensive coordinator at Louisville, he ran an explosive offense with quarterback Malik Cunningham regularly rushing for nearly 100 yards. Cunningham was plagued by injury at multiple points throughout the season, but the offense didn’t disappear when he couldn’t play.

The offense ran the ball more through their running backs and backup quarterback Brock Domann, who lead them to a 2-1 ACC record in games when he threw the ball more than eight times.

The offense used its star player effectively but found ways to win when he wasn’t available. That sounds like what the Broncos need in their offense.

Taylor was a walk-on wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide and eventually earned a scholarship, playing from 1999-2003. After graduating with a degree in management, he spent a handful of seasons playing in the Arena Football League.

His coaching career started with a return to his alma mater Alabama as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban’s first and second seasons in 2007 and 2008. The following season, he accepted the wide receivers coach position at Appalachian State under head coach Scott Satterfield. The Mountaineers were in the FCS at the time, two seasons removed from their historic upset of the #2 Michigan Wolverines, and won 11 games on their way to the semifinals.

After his single season in the FCS, he made the jump to the NFL to join Rex Ryan on the New York Jets (2010-2012) in multiple roles, starting as a coaching intern, then moving up to an offensive quality control position before finishing his tenure as a tight ends in his final season with the Jets. He would spend one more season with Carolina Panthers as the assistant wide receivers coach under Ron Rivera before returning to the college game.

Taylor coached the running backs job at Stanford for three seasons starting in 2014. While he was in Palo Alto he worked with Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey all three seasons and his backup, Bryce Love. Love would also finish second in the Heisman voting but after Taylor had moved back to the Carolina Panthers. That’s an impressive running back room to be associated with especially before McCaffrey exploded for 2,664 yards from scrimmage in 2015.

Taylor joined Brian Kelly’s staff in Notre Dame as the running backs coach in 2017, and later picked up the running game coordinator title. Kyren Williams was excellent at Notre Dame and rushed for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons with Taylor as his position coach. In 2021, the Fighting Irish made the College Football Playoffs.

He stayed in the Midwest and reunited with Scott Satterfield at Louisville after Kelly took the LSU job in November of 2021.

Taylor has built a reputation as a strong recruiter, John Brice of Football Scoop describes him as a force on the recruiting trail. Before the announcement of Scott Satterfield leaving Louisville to go to Cincinnati, the Cardinals had the 19th-best recruiting class in the nation and fourth-best in the ACC. Five-star running back Rueben Owens was verbally committed and would’ve been the second-highest-rated recruit in Louisville history.

That is a significant improvement from the previous two seasons under Satterfield, whose 2022 class was 51st in the nation and 2021 class was 40th.

The reported hire fits what the Broncos stated as their goals for their coaching search. They are getting a dynamic recruiter that has worked in the MAC footprint at multiple times throughout his career. He’s coached multiple levels of football from FCS to the NFL under many successful head coaches. He lacks head coaching experience, but so did PJ Fleck when he took the Broncos to heights the program has never seen before or since.

Taylor will start assembling his staff that supports his vision for the Bronco program and speak at a press conference likely Friday.

This is considered a developing story, and will be updated as necessary.