On July 29, 2013, the ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that former Buccaneer player and assistant coach Billy Taylor would come home to Johnson City to help launch the university’s reinstated football program.
Taylor will begin his eighth consecutive season in the fall of 2022, this time serving as both the Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. Taylor concluded his seventh consecutive season with the Bucs following the 2021 fall season. Taylor also served as the defensive coordinator during the 2002 and 2003 seasons before the sport was discontinued until 2015.
The 2021 fall campaign was no different than the usual Taylor-led defense as the Bucs finished second in the SoCon in scoring defense (22.7), sacks (22), third-down conversion defense (38.0) and opponent fourth-down conversion defense (46.4). The Bucs led the league in interceptions with 15 and finished third in total defense. The defense always came up clutch at the right time, including in the de facto league championship game when Alijah Huzzie picked off a pass from Mercer and took it deep into enemy territory – eventually setting up the game-winning touchdown.
The spring season in 2021 saw the Bucs lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 18.8 points per game, ranking sixth all-time in program history. The Bucs also guided the conference in rushing defense, yielding only 114.5 yards on the ground per outing. The rush defense from the 2021 season ranks third in program history for fewest yards allowed per game.
Individually, the 2021 spring season saw a lot of success as well as the emergence of several young talents. Jared Folks earned SoCon Defensive Player of the Year honors, becoming the first Buccaneer to earn either offensive or defensive player of the year honors since Mario Hankerson in 1997. In his seven seasons thus far, Taylor has coached 26 All-SoCon honorees and 15 All-American winners.
Through the seven seasons in the Taylor Era, the Bucs have accounted for 5,550 tackles, 429 tackles for loss, 143 sacks, 54 interceptions, 50 fumble recoveries and 47 forced fumbles.
The 2018 defense still stands as one of the integral parts in the Bucs appearing in the FCS playoffs, allowing just 351.2 yards per game. The Bucs also yielded just 132.3 rushing yards per game, ranking fifth-fewest rushing yards allowed in a single season in ETSU history. The 2018 squad also picked off 15 passes, ranking 18th in FCS football. The charge was led by Tyree Robinson with six interceptions, while one of the top all-time defenders in Dylan Weigel led the team in tackles with 95. The team also led the conference in defensive touchdowns (3), ranking 15th in all of FCS football.
Taylor has coached players such as Weigel who ranks third all-time in ETSU history for career tackles with 420. Weigel was a two-time All-SoCon honoree as well as a HERO Sports All-American in 2018. Weigel led all FCS players in solo tackles in 2015 with 79, becoming a finalist for the FCS Freshman of the Year award. Weigel also ranks eighth in school history in tackles for loss with 32.5. In addition to Weigel, Taylor has coached Nasir Player who finished his career with 40 tackles for loss (fifth-most in ETSU history) as well as 182 career tackles. Player is a three-time All-SoCon winner and was named the 2019 Preseason SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. Player was also named to three All-American teams. In 2017, Player recorded the fourth-most sacks in a single season with seven.
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. The 2012 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. In 2010 the Golden Eagles were first in the Ohio Valley Conference in turnover margin and in 2011 the Tech defense ranked second in the OVC in interceptions and turnover margin.
Taylor arrived at Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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.