Notre Dame makes it official, welcomes Lance Taylor as running backs coach
SOUTH BEND — The 16-day wait from handshake to official announcement is finally over.
Now Lance Taylor has to get to work on two fronts, and quickly.
Notre Dame’s newest running backs coach and fourth of the Brian Kelly Era inherits a position group teeming with question marks when Irish spring practice starts in a little less than three weeks.
“I’ve been blessed to work at some incredible places in my career, but Notre Dame is truly special,” Taylor said in a statement Tuesday, when his hiring was deemed complete. “I’m honored and humbled to represent this incredible University as its running backs coach.”
The 37-year-old succeeds new Charleston Southern head coach Autry Denson at ND, because it’s believed he can be elite at both recruiting and developing talent. His most recent coaching duty didn’t involve recruiting or coaching running backs.
He had been the wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers the past two seasons. His three-year stint as running backs coach at Stanford, though, helped define him in terms of fit for the Irish coaching job.
“I was primarily looking for two things,” ND 10th-year head coach Brian Kelly said. “The candidate had to have the right skill set. He needs to be a great teacher and communicator.
“He also needs to fit Notre Dame, culturally, and Lance, most certainly, possesses all of those qualities. He recruited at an extremely high level during his time at Stanford, and he worked with the very best in the NFL.
“His ability to bring both of those experiences together makes him a perfect fit on our staff.”
The last running back rated four stars or better by Rivals.com to start a game for the Irish, Dexter Williams, is preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine these days. He was recruited by Tony Alford, who is currently at Ohio State.
The only one Denson recruited during his four years back at his alma mater, C.J. Holmes, was dismissed from the team after his freshman season. He has since transferred to Penn State.
On the field, though, Denson did coax success — lots of it — particularly from converted safety C.J. Prosise, three-star prospect Josh Adams and finally Williams in a redemptive 2018 senior season.
Notre Dame’s leading returning rusher is senior-to-be Tony Jones Jr. (392 yards, 4.7 per carry, 3 TDs, but its potentially most explosive may be converted wide receiver Jafar Armstrong (383, 5.3, 7 TDs), its most intriguing a converted QB, Avery Davis (70 yards, 3.2), and its most versatile an early enrolled freshman, Kyren Williams.
Also returning are two players who redshirted as freshmen last season, Jahmir Smith and C’Bo Flemister.
Taylor, a former walk-on wide receiver under coach Mike Shula at Alabama and 2003 grad at least knows what a standout running back looks like. His father, James Taylor, was a running back under Bear Bryant on the Crimson Tide’s 1973 national championship team (coaches poll).
Taylor coached one Heisman Trophy runner-up at Stanford, in Christian McCaffrey, and recruited and coached another, Bryce Love.
“There’s a lot to like about Lance Taylor, but a lot of unknowns too,” said analyst Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting. “The reason I say that is that a lot of Stanford recruits were already Stanford leans when the school offered (scholarships to) them.
“But the coaches still have to identify who the players are. And there’s been a whole lot of good evaluating going into that, including when Taylor was at Stanford.
“I don’t know how that will translate at Notre Dame, but he did get Bryce Love, (linebacker) Curtis Robinson and other guys Notre Dame would have loved to have.”
Hometown: Mt. Vernon, Alabama
High School: Citronelle
College: Alabama (B.A., Business Management, 2003)
Children: Son - Jet; Daughter -Jemma
2007-08: Alabama - Graduate Assistant (Offense)
2009: Appalachian State - Wide Receivers
2010: New York Jets - Coaching Intern
2011: New York Jets - Offensive Quality Control
2012: New York Jets - Assistant Tight Ends/Quality Control
2013: Carolina Panthers - Assistant Wide Receivers
2014-16: Stanford - Running Backs
2017-18: Carolina Panthers - Wide Receivers
2019: Notre Dame - Running Backs