No knock on UT, Trooper says

I doubt another football coach at Tennessee garnered as much positive publicity over the past four years as Trooper Taylor.

The energetic coach was a fan favorite with his chest bumping and towel waving enthusiasm.

He was a media darling because of his humorous sayings - ``you can't make the club if you're in the tub'' – accessibility, wit and openness.

When David Cutcliffe left to take the head coaching job at Duke, most Tennessee fans wanted Taylor promoted from receivers coach to offensive coordinator. Taylor had shown an ability to make his position players better – at running back and wide receivers – and he has an excellent recruiter.

He was so valuable to the staff, Cutcliffe urged head coach Phillip Fulmer to do what he could to keep Taylor.

Much to the fans' dismay, Taylor eventually left to become co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State with the promise that he will call plays.

Taylor stayed in good graces with UT by saying he would not recruit for Oklahoma State any players he had recruited for Tennessee. He also urged some UT players to stay at Tennessee and not transfer.

But recently an article came out in which Taylor appeared to take a shot at Tennessee.

At OSU, Taylor said it was fun getting back to the spread-option offense, the same one he was used to at Tulane – his coaching stint before going to Tennessee.

``It's like I'm speaking the same language again where before I went to Pluto and I had to learn 3 yards and a cloud of dust again,'' Taylor was quoted as saying.

Contacted Monday, Taylor said those remarks were taken out of context.

Taylor said the terminology between Tulane and UT was unfamiliar, like he was having to learn a different language, as if he were on Pluto. Or Mars. The point: It wasn't the same terminology.

What about the 3 yards and a cloud of dust?

Out of context, Taylor said.

``When I was at Tulane,'' Taylor said, ``I asked other coaches about the Tennessee program and that's what they said. You've got to run in the SEC. So, be ready for 3 yards and a cloud of dust. They like to play power football and stop the run on defense. That was the perception of the SEC.

``If you asked Coach Fulmer, he'd tell you he'd like to run the football and stop the run.''

Taylor said the thought of him being critical of UT's program is ``totally unfounded. I apologize to anyone who might be offended. My family still lives there. The best place I've ever worked was at Tennessee.

``It's ludicrous for anyone to think I was talking bad about Tennessee or Coach Fulmer.

``If anyone thinks I'd want to disrespect Tennessee, they're wrong. Tennessee gave me an opportunity to better my career and the players are like family to me. That's crazy,.

``When I retire, you can bet I'll be near Knoxville. Knoxville will always be like home to us. I loved it. My wife loved it. My kids loved it.

``Tell all the faithful it was not a negative comment being made.''

Often times, I've scoffed at coaches who said their comments were taken out of context, that they were misquoted.

In this case, I believe Taylor. I've known him for four years. I think he's honorable and sincere man.

Maybe he did say things that appeared to be taking a shot at UT. Maybe the words simply didn't come out the way he meant them. Or maybe he was misquoted.

Whatever the case, I don't think Taylor intentionally took a shot at Tennessee or Fulmer just because he wasn't promoted to offensive coordinator.

What purpose would it serve?

``I'm smart enough not to burn any bridges,'' Taylor said.

Indeed. Firing back at a coach won't help Taylor achieve his ultimate goal – to be a head coach.

After our initial conversation, Taylor called me back.

``I'm angry and upset that people would think I'd say something negative about Tennessee,'' Taylor said. ``They're wrong. They're really wrong.''

Taylor said he has talked to the newest members of UT's offensive staff and told them inside information about the offensive personnel and also about things UT did in special teams – all in an effort to assist UT's assistants.

``I doubt I'd be doing that if I was being negative about Tennessee,'' Taylor said.

Good point.

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