On July 29, 2013, the ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that former Buccaneer player and assistant coach Billy Taylor will be coming home to Johnson City to help launch the university’s reinstated football program.
Taylor returned to the role of defensive coordinator at ETSU – the same position he held for the Buccaneers during the 2002 and 2003 seasons – while also coaching the new program’s linebackers.
Last season ETSU’s defense was one of the tops in the Southern Conference as the Blue and Gold ranked third in total defense (345.8). The Bucs also ranked third in the league in pass defense (172.5) and fourth in pass defense efficiency (131.9). ETSU’s defense recorded two touchdowns in 2017 – interception returns by defensive back Domenique Williams (at No. 1 James Madison) and defensive end Nasir Player (vs. VMI) – which ranked 33rd among FCS teams. As a unit, the Bucs held the opposition to 10 points or less four times, while holding Robert Morris (three points) and VMI (six points) without a touchdown. In the win over Robert Morris, the Blue and Gold totaled eight sacks and three forced turnovers, marking single-game highs since the program was reinstated in 2015.
Individually, Player earned first team all-SoCon honors, while linebacker Blake Bockrath was placed on the SoCon All-Freshman Team and earned Freshman All-American Honorable Mention by Hero Sports. Player led the team in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (7), while ranking third in tackles (67). Player’s seven sacks ranked fourth in Buccaneer single-season history, while his three-sack performance in the win over Robert Morris were tied for the 11th-most by an FCS player, and were the fourth-most in ETSU single-game history. Bockrath ranked second on the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (9.0) and fourth in tackles (57). Meanwhile, under Taylor’s watch, three-year starting linebacker Dylan Weigel led the team in tackles for a third consecutive season with 92. Weigel – who was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Week after totaling 18 tackles against The Citadel – ranked eighth in the SoCon in tackles per game (8.4) and fourth in fumbles recovered (0.18). Weigel moved his career tackles number to 325, which is tied for seventh-most entering the 2018 campaign.
In 2016, the Buccaneer defense played a key role in moving their win total from two in 2015 to five in 2016, including wins over Kennesaw State, Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway and against No. 18 Samford to end the season. ETSU's defense ranked second in the SoCon in red zone defense, fifth in total defense and fourth in pass defense and third down defense. As a unit, the Bucs also ranked among the FCS leaders in several defensive categories as the Blue and Gold ranked 17th in fumbles recovered (11) and 25th in red zone defense (76.1). A trio of Buccaneers earned all-conference honors as Dylan Weigel was named second team all-SoCon, while defensive ends Nasir Player and Jason Maduafokwa both laned on the SoCon All-Freshman Team. Junior defensive back Paul Hunter also earned the Bucs' first SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honor as he totaled a career-high 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries against The Citadel on Oct. 29.
In the 20-17 double-overtime season-opening win at Kennesaw State, ETSU's defense forced two turnovers and held a potent Owl rushing attack to 166 yards (2.9 yards per carry). Just as they began the season with a walk-off field goal, the Bucs ended the season in the same thrilling fashion as ETSU knocked off No. 18 Samford, 15-14, in the season finale. Again, the Blue and Gold defense stepped up as they held the Bulldogs to 265 yard, marking their second-lowest output of the season (257 at Central Arkansas), while it was the lowest total yards allowed by the Buccaneer defense. In addition, Samford’s 122 yards passing marked a season-low.
In the Bucs' first season back in 2015, the Buccaneer defense was built majority around freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Overall, the top seven tackle leaders were either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Taylor saw redshirt freshman linebacker Dylan Weigel lead all FCS players in solo tackles (79) en route to becoming a finalist for the FCS Freshman of the Year award. In the Bucs' first win since reinstating the program in the 42-9 victory over Warner on Oct. 31, 2015, ETSU's defense held the Royals without a point as Warner scored on a safety and fumble recovery. The Blue and Gold limited the Royals to 172 total yards on offense, including 71 yards on the ground. Three weeks later in the Bucs' 42-27 season-ending win over Kentucky Wesleyan, ETSU's defense forced two turnovers along with holding KWC to negative-13 rushing yards.
Prior to coming back to Johnson City, Taylor spent five seasons at Tennessee Tech. During his five seasons at Tech, Taylor and his coaching staff installed the 3-4 system and had a huge impact on the team’s championship fortunes in 2011. On the way to the OVC title, Taylor’s Golden Eagle defense ranked first in the league in total defense and rushing defense, and second in scoring defense. Last year’s team also ranked second in pass efficiency defense, third in interceptions and fourth in pass defense.
While at Tech, he also served as associate head coach, while directing the team’s inside linebackers. He joined the staff in Cookeville back on Jan. 29, 2008. Three years ago, the Golden Eagles were first in the Ohio Valley Conference in turnover margin and, two years ago, the Tech defense ranked second in the OVC in interceptions and turnover margin.
Taylor came to Tech from Chattanooga, where he was the Mocs’ defensive coordinator for three seasons. Taylor joined the UTC staff following the 2004 season, filling the role of defensive coordinator while also coaching the inside linebackers. Prior to his arrival at UTC, Taylor served as Elon’s defensive coordinator and also coached inside linebackers for one year in 2004.
Nearly all of Taylor’s collegiate coaching career prior to Tech was within the Southern Conference – working at both ETSU and Wofford. Taylor worked at ETSU from 1997 to 2003, coaching linebackers. He served five years as the recruiting coordinator and the final two as the defensive coordinator.
Taylor-coached defenses at ETSU and Elon forced an incredible 92 takeaways in three years from 2002 to 2004. His Buccaneer defensive unit led the SoCon in 2002 and 2003, and the Phoenix ranked second in the league in takeaways in 2004 with 25. His 2003 ETSU defense ranked among the top 30 in the nation in eight different defensive categories.
The Morristown, Tenn., native was an assistant coach at Wofford from 1991-96, working as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Southern Mississippi in 1989 and 1990.
Taylor earned a degree in Mass Communications from ETSU in 1988. He was a three-year starter as an outside linebacker for the Bucs and was voted team captain his senior year in 1987.
He is married to the former Kristine Renz of Easley, S.C., and the couple has two children, Mikaelah Jean, and McKenzie.